You've probably already noticed that whether you're opening your own tattoo shop, dental office or a full-fledged medical facility you're going to need an autoclave. It's not a matter of whether you think you really need one. The fact is it's a law. You have to have one in order to open your doors. So before you get all steamed up about it, let's take a look at exactly what an autoclave is and why it's so important that you have one.
An autoclave is a piece of equipment that uses pressurized steam to sterilize medical equipment. It may be a surgeon's scalpel or a tattoo artist's needles. It might even be your dentists drill or your optometrist's lenses. Any equipment used to touch or pierce the skin needs to be sterilized to prevent the spread of bacteria and germs.
But why do you need something as fancy as an autoclave to sterilize your equipment? Back in the old days the cowboys simply held their knives in the fire for a few seconds before they cut the bullet out of their buddy's leg. Those old-time docs just poured a bit of whiskey on their scalpel - after they took a few swigs themselves. And what about stuff like rubbing alcohol, or good old-fashioned soap and water?
Soap and hot tap water are good for removing soil but they won't kill bacteria. The typical water heater heats your water to around 105 to 110 degrees. But bacteria can survive in temperatures exceeding 170 degrees. Rubbing alcohol will work to some degree to disinfect an object but it won't kill bacteria. And that trick with the fire? Fires are dirty. You have to burn something to create fire. And you'd have to hold your scalpel in that dirty fire for at least 20 minutes.
An autoclave uses pressurized steam at 134 degrees to sterilize your equipment. This moist heat can sterilize your equipment in as little as 3 minutes, whereas it would take more than 2 hours using hot water at 160 degrees. Note that an autoclave uses pressurized steam to ensure there are no air pockets that might harbor bacteria and the steam is forced down to cover all surfaces of your equipment.
An autoclave isn't simply a machine that produces pressurized steam, though. If that were the case you could just get a hot plate and use your granny's old pressure canner that she uses every year when she cans tomatoes and makes jelly. For starters, though, ask your granny how many times she's had to scrape green beans off her kitchen ceiling.
When you're sterilizing medical equipment you don't want to take any chances. It doesn't take much for bacteria and germs to run rampant over your instruments and with just one little pinch you could infect someone with a potentially deadly disease.
Today's viruses are much more resistant than the viruses the cowboys had to deal with. But we also have the tools to kill those viruses and prevent the spread of infection. Skip the fire and the rubbing alcohol, and get an autoclave for your new office. And leave the whiskey at home.
Wally Ashbaugh is an expert in autoclave repair and maintenance. Visit his blog at http://www.autoclaverepairtips.com/ for helpful tips that will save you thousands of dollars in repair costs and lost billings, and visit his website AllClaveParts.com to learn about your specific brand and model autoclave.