Autoclave Safety


If an autoclave is not operated correctly, your research or clinical materials could be compromised, the unit can become damaged and taken out of service, or worse, you could be badly injured. Autoclave training is given by the EH&S Biological Safety Office upon request. The training is conducted at the autoclave and is geared for research staff. The proper use and maintenance of autoclaves as well as safety training is covered. Please contact the Biosafety Office at 392-1591 to schedule a training session.

Standard Procedures

  • Collect biohazardous waste in autoclave bags. Close the bags and place them in a sturdy, leak-proof tray or container for transport to the autoclave. The tray or container is used as secondary containment; do not overload these. Use a wheeled cart to transport bags/trays to and from autoclave. ALWAYS bring autoclave gloves with you to the unit.
  • Autoclave bags or must be closed, yet vented, to allow proper sterilization. Loosen the closure on the bags as you load the autoclave; sealed bags will not allow penetration of steam and may explode during exhaust step.
  • The inner contents of tightly sealed or covered containers will not be adequately sterilized. Sealed containers may also explode in the autoclave or when you attempt to remove them.
  • Do not place items directly on racks. Use autoclave trays for all sterilization of biohazardous waste. Trays must be designated for use at 250ºF (e.g. polypropylene or polycarbonate).
  • Autoclave trays, Sharps boxes & biohazardous waste bags must be labeled with PI name and laboratory room number.
  • Do not leave biohazardous waste unattended. If the sterilizer is in use, please return the biohazardous waste to your laboratory.
  • DO NOT change autoclave temperature to >250ºF.
  • DO NOT turn off the autoclave at the end of your cycle.
  • DO NOT adjust water/steam settings or valves.
  • DO NOT autoclave liquids containing bleach, formalin or glutaraldehyde.
  • Do NOT autoclave flammable or volatile liquids.
  • Do NOT autoclave radioactive materials.
  • Do NOT autoclave items containing corrosives (acids, bases, phenol).
  • Warning! Burn Hazard – clogged lines, equipment malfunction or a failure in the steam supply may cause the autoclave chamber to fill with scalding water. If water leaks from front of the autoclave, DO NOT OPEN the chamber door. Failure to heed this warning may result in second- or third-degree burns from scalding water!
  • Training is essential to use the autoclave and minimize the risk of injury. Training is given by EH&S Biological Safety Office at the autoclave. Please contact the Biosafety Office at 392-1591 to schedule a training session.
  • EMERGENCIES/PROBLEMS: During work hours, call EH&S at 353-392-1591 & speak with Idania Alvarez regarding any mechanical problems/failures. EH&S will notify the approved vendor for service. Please contact Physical Plant after hours or weekends.
  • Autoclaves must be tested periodically with a kit that uses bacterial spores (Geobacillus stearothermophilus) to demonstrate the autoclave is actually sterilizing the materials being processed. Inadequate sterilization can compromise clinical and research outcomes and poses a risk to employee, patient, and environmental health.