User Guide to Maintaining your W&H Steam Steriliser/Autoclave
The use of an autoclave for the sterilisation of instruments is an important operation followed by various medical practices alike. The daily procedures for places like surgical, dental and veterinary clinics, usually rely on good operation of their autoclave to treat patients. This is why it is important that routine maintenance procedures are followed to minimise the risk of unexpected unit breakdowns.
You may well be aware that having a technician to perform routine service and validation of your autoclave is one very important way to ensure your unit is working as intended, and performing to Australian standards. However, this info blog will focus on sharing what you can do to maintain your autoclave. By following the guidelines in this blog, you can be sure that you are doing your part to prolong the life of your unit and minimise costly repairs, and disruptions to normal workflow at your practice.
This blog will cover the following topics and more:
- Cleaning procedures
- Steam penetration test
- Filter replacements
- Water tank maintenance
- Door seal replacement
- When to book a technician for service
- Autoclave Validation
Why spend time and money to maintain an autoclave?
You already spent a considerable amount of money to acquire the autoclave for your practice, which is why some may be reluctant to invest in maintenance. However, in many cases, creating a plan, and performing maintenance on your steriliser will end up costing less money in the long run. Yes, that's right!... Just by spending a few minutes every week is the best approach to taking the best care of your autoclave. (Don't just leave it to the technicians once a year). This will avoid unnecessary breakdowns when you and your patients least expect it most.
How can I maintain my autoclave effectively?
The best way to maintain your autoclave is to set up a maintenance plan in your practice that includes routine procedures. In this blog, you will find all the recommended maintenance procedures and instructions on how to do them. The recommendations in this blog will be based on maintenance procedures specific to W&H Med B-Class and S-Class autoclaves. However, if you have a different brand of autoclave, such as Melag, Mocom, Comminox, etc, the procedures will be almost identical, so we encourage you to read on. However, please use this resource alongside the manufacturer's written instructions, found inside your user manual.
Let me continue by mentioning that maintenance plans should differ from practice to practice. For example, one practice may run their autoclave 5 times a day/7 days a week, while another practice may use theirs only once or twice a week. Just like the servicing of your car, you should either have maintenance performed periodically (eg. monthly, yearly) or based on how often it is used (in this case, the amount of cycles) - which ever comes first!
Whether you use your autoclave once a week or 30 times per week, we recommend you add the following procedures to your daily or weekly routine:
- Clean the rubber door seal and the metal chamber face side with a damp, non-abrasive, lint-free cloth. If you choose to use detergent, make sure it a mild solution and that you rinse with water.
- Clean the autoclave chamber, trays and rack with a damp, lint-free cloth.
- Clean the outer surface of your autoclave with a damp, lint-free cloth. Never use disinfectants, detergents or abrasive products.
- If your steriliser is recycling water, routinely drain and flush the water reservoir using your supplied draining tube.
Note: Always use demineralised water for your autoclave. As a guide, the water should have a conductivity level less than 50 micro siemens. Water with a high mineral content is unsuitable for correct sterilisation and can also cause serious damage to your instruments and internal components of your autoclave.
Steam Penetration Test
According to the Australian guidelines, a steam penetration test must be undertaken daily before sterilising instruments for normal operation. In this instance, you have the option to perform either a Helix test or a Bowie-Dick test (named after the developers, Dr. J. Bowie and Mr. J. Dick ... in case you were wondering)
Watch this video on how to perform and record a daily Helix test.
Sterilisers are extremely hot after use and remain hot for some time. Perform routine maintenance in the morning when the unit is still cold.
Monthly or 50-cycle Procedures
The following procedures should be undertaken monthly or after 50 cycles, which ever comes first:
- Clean the chamber filter. The chamber filter can be accessed by removing all instruments, trays and rack from the chamber. The filter is located at the back of the chamber and can be removed by turning it counter-clockwise. Rinse the filter under water and re-insert it by turning it clockwise into position.
- Clean the steam diffuser plate by removing it from the chamber and wiping it with a damp sponge and mild detergent.
3 Month or 400-cycle Procedures
- Replace the bacteriological filter by unscrewing the old one by hand (counter-clockwise) and screwing on a new one (clockwise). Remember to reset the digital counter on the unit. It is also good practice to mark the date on the new bac filter with a permanent marker.
- Replace the dust filter by pulling the old one out from underneath the steriliser, removing it from the handle, and attaching the new filter to the handle. Remember to reset the digital counter on the unit.
Don't have a replacement bac filter or dust filter for your autoclave? Get into contact with us today for supply of these parts.
Bacterial Filter Replacement
Watch the following video on how to replace the bac filter.
Dust Filter Replacement
Watch the following video on how to replace the dust filter.
6 Month or 800-cycle Procedures
- Every six months or after 800 cycles, you should perform a detailed clean of both water tanks. It is important to perform this procedure while the unit is switched off and disconnected from mains power. Also, you should pay particular attention not to touch the water level sensors when cleaning. The full procedure can be followed by watching the video below.
Cleaning the water tanks
Watch the following video on how to clean the water tanks.
Technician Service and Calibration
Every 6-months, you may wish to call upon a technician to perform a routine service and calibration of your autoclave. This service may include the routine changing of the bac filter and dust filter and any necessary cleaning which has been described in this blog. It will also include testing of temperature and pressure and how they measure against time. Correct sterilisation should reach approx. 2 bar of pressure and 134 degrees Celsius and be able to hold that for 3 mins (as an example). You will receive a report and certificate to show your device is within calibration to Australian standards.
1 Year or 800-cycle Procedures
- Replace the door seal by removing the old one from its place and replacing it with a new one. This step is vital for maintaining your autoclave as the rubber seals will tend to deteriorate over time. Negligence to replace this part periodically will undoubtedly result in a vacuum test failure later down the track and cause disruption to your practice.
Don't have a replacement door seal for your autoclave? Get into contact with us today for supply of this part or, leave it to the technician to replace during the 12-month validation service (read further for more details).
Replacing the door seal
Watch the following video on how to replace the door seal.
It is a requirement under the Australian standards (AS 4815) to have your autoclave validated at least once every year. Apart from being mandated to have this test performed, it is important to be sure your autoclave is properly eliminating microbiological contaminants from your instruments.
The validation process involves the execution of a spore test by using small biological indicator vials and is usually completed by a technician. Once the test has been completed by either you or the technician, and the results have been collected, you will be issued with a certificate and report that can become part of a legal document. This will reduce the risk of litigation being taken against your practice which could result in closure and serious implications for you as a practitioner and the wellbeing of patients.
Apart from the spore test, the technician will also conduct any necessary cleaning, filter replacement or door seal replacement. The technician will also ensure that the steriliser is within calibration.
If you believe your autoclave is up for validation, click here to find out more.
Hang on.. what if my device fails a validation test? ...
If in the case your device fails validation, it generally means your device requires a repair or replacement of an internal part. Inspection of the device's interior should be performed by a technician. The technician should be able to diagnose the underlying issue and get the unit back to working order. After this validation can be completed and you will be issued with your certs.
5 Years or 4000-cycle Procedures
Every 5 years or after 4000 cycles, you should have your autoclave serviced by a technician. This service will include replacement of moving parts that are located in the device's interior. .. A reminder that users should never open the unit - for safety reasons.
At this stage you may want a technician to perform checks on the following:
- Pneumatic connections
- Electrical connections
- Door locking system
- Pressure safety valve
- Safety systems
- Solenoid valve
- Vacuum internal parts
You may require the technician to perform a 12-month validation at this time depending on your next scheduled service.
Thank you for reading through this blog on autoclave maintenance! We hope it helped you and your practice improve their maintenance procedures.