Are You Risking Unnecessary Autoclave Downtime?

Arthur Trapotsis
Written by: Arthur Trapotsis

MS Biochemical Engineering, MBA, Consultant

Just like a car, your autoclave should receive routine maintenance to ensure that it works properly today, tomorrow, and for years to come.  So, let’s investigate what this really means for laboratories looking to get the most out of their autoclaves.


Three Reasons Why Autoclave Maintenance Is a Must

  1. To Minimize Downtime:  When you are ready to run a load in your autoclave, you expect it to work and work right.  Routine preventative maintenance will help catch any potential issues before they occur.
  2. To Maintain Functionality:  Regular inspections will pinpoint components that are showing wear or are slowing down your autoclave processing.  Components can wear down due to mineral deposits left behind by steam and water.  In any autoclave, water is used for steam generation and effluent cooling. During these processes, the water (no matter the quality) will leave varying amounts of salt and mineral deposits on the surfaces it touches. These deposits then build up over time (like layered paint), and can begin to compromise the productivity and functionality of the autoclave’s steam generator, as well clog the pipes, valves, and drains used for water transport and removal. Purifying your water source will not eliminate the need for regularly scheduled maintenance, but it is not a bad investment to consider a Water Purification System, if you don’t have one in place already.
  3. To Receive Helpful Tips:  Are your liquids boiling over?  Are your wrapped packs coming out wet?  Regular visits from your autoclave technician can help problem solve and answer questions you may have about your particular autoclaving needs.


How to Maintain Your Autoclave: Self Service

Proper maintenance of your autoclave is dependent on the balanced approach of self-service and professional service. If you are maintaining your unit in house, here are a few steps you can take to ensure your autoclave is operating smoothly:


  1. Make sure the chamber drain strainer (located in the front drain hole of the sterilizer) is totally free of debris.  A clogged chamber drain strainer will prevent the sterilizer from sensing temperature. Here’s a useful video on how to clean the drain strainer.
  2. Be sure to immediately wipe up any spills in the autoclave chamber with chamber cleaning solution and accompanying cleaning pads.
  3. If your autoclave is equipped with a steam generator, it may have an automatic generator blow down valve on it.  If you hear the generator getting rid of steam each day when you turn it off, then it has one of these.  If it does not, you should manually drain the generator at the end of each day (depending on water quality). This will aid in drawing off the sediments and impurities in the water and keep the generator clean.


  1. Flush chamber with clean water or chamber cleaning solution.  This is particularly necessary if saline solutions are being sterilized.  Depending on the type of goods being sterilized, the chamber may also require scrub cleaning (or other type) on a regular basis.
  2. Inspect door gasket for pitting or warping.  If you see either one of these, it may be time to replace it.
  3. Visually check for water and/or steam leaks.  If you see a leak, find the root cause and repair it as soon as possible.

Note: Each of these steps should be checked against the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Download our free eBook to learn how to properly maintain your autoclave >

How to Maintain Your Autoclave: Professional Service 

Your autoclave should also undergo more thorough inspections and cleanings by a trained service provider.  The frequency for this service will vary depending on your daily autoclave usage, but can range anywhere from once to more than four times yearly. This service should include lubrication of parts and components, calibration of temperature and pressure sensors, cleaning of traps, inspection of heating elements and, where needed, replacement of worn parts (e.g. gaskets, safety valves, etc.)

It is recommended that you keep records of all services in accordance with your local, state and/or federal requirements. This includes service dates, autoclave model and serial numbers, service descriptions, who serviced the autoclave, and a signature from whoever approves the service(s).

Click here for a list of Preventative Maintenance plans and PM Parts Pax.

Remember, when you neglect preventative maintenance on your autoclave, you risk unnecessary equipment failures, autoclave downtime, and costly repairs. For more about autoclave service and preventative maintenance, contact Consolidated Sterilizer Systems or visit our Support & Services page, which includes information about our SterilCARE™ Preventative Maintenance Service, designed to keep autoclaves running at top performance. 

Protect Your Investment

Preventative and proactive maintenance are the keys to reducing downtime and ensuring the longevity of your autoclave. Read this eBook to learn how to properly maintain your autoclave and develop a comprehensive maintenance plan.

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