A Pressure Cooker Used as Autoclave

Sterilization is an important part of daily activity in hospitals, some professionals boil their equipment while others use steam and pressure. We know that autoclave is used for steam sterilization purposes in hospitals. But, is it possible to use a pressure cooker as a substitute? In this article we will try to understand, can a pressure cooker be used as an autoclave? 

What Is A Pressure Cooker?

A pressure cooker is a kitchen appliance that uses steam pressure to cook food quickly. Pressure cookers have been around for centuries, but they gained popularity in the United States during the 1970s as a way to save time in the kitchen. 

Moist heat produced inside a pressure cooker is used to sterilize medical instruments. For sterilizations, pressure cookers with either a revolving valve or fixed valve can be utilized. They are usually small single wall steam sterilizers with a cylindrical shape.

What Is An Autoclave?

An autoclave is a device that uses steam under pressure to sterilize equipment and supplies. Autoclaves are commonly used in the field of medicine in order to sterilize surgical instruments and dressings. They can also be used in laboratories and industries. The autoclave is similar to a pressure cooker but bigger

It is of two types gravity-fed autoclave and pre-vacuum autoclave. In general, autoclaves consist of a pressure chamber, pipes to supply and release the steam, valves to remove air to control the pressure, and temperature and pressure gauges to monitor the procedure. 

A pressure cooker used as autoclave

The standard condition that autoclaves must meet is the ability to reach at least 121°C and generate steam under pressure of 15 psi for 15 to 20 minutes. Autoclaves are also suitable for sterilizing items that are not being used or reused but discarded.

A Pressure Cooker Used As Autoclave

Yes, you can use a pressure cooker as an autoclave. The working principle of both devices is to increase the boiling point of water by raising the pressure inside a sealed container. With the increase in temperature, it’s possible to kill microorganisms that can cause infection.

The pressure cooker is less safe than an autoclave as the former uses dry heat while the latter uses moist heat. The pressure cooker is also less durable than an autoclave. However, the pressure cooker is a cost-effective and easy-to-use alternative for autoclaves. 

There is a big price difference between the two items. Although, there are portable and less expensive autoclaves in the market.

Difference between Autoclave and Pressure Cooker

1. Basic

The working principle of both devices is to increase the boiling point of water by raising the pressure inside the sealed container. With the increase in temperature, it’s possible to kill microorganisms that can cause infection.

Autoclaves are generally bigger than pressure cookers. They can be placed on a kitchen stove. The pressure built inside is much higher than that of a pressure cooker. The temperature inside an is also much higher than the temperature inside a pressure cooker.

2. Method of  Operation

An autoclave uses steam under pressure to sterilize equipment and supplies. It is one of the dependable methods to destroy microbial life via moist heat through steam sterilization with pressure. The autoclave is a  big pressure cooker that increases the temperature above the boiling point of water. 

A pressure cooker can work just like an autoclave. As the water boils the temperature inside increases which in return increases pressure. 

The standard condition that autoclaves must meet is the ability to reach at least 121°C and generate steam under pressure of 15 psi for 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Applications

Hospitals use autoclaves for sterilizing surgical instruments. While we use pressure cookers in kitchens to cook food quickly.

A pressure cooker used as autoclave Autoclave

4. Affordability

Autoclaves are more expensive than pressure cookers. A pressure cooker uses more pressure to sterilize objects and is a cost-effective and easy-to-use alternative for autoclaves. There is a big price difference between pressure cooker and autoclave. 

5. Safety

The pressure cooker is less safe than an autoclave as the former uses dry heat while the latter uses moist heat. The pressure cooker is also less durable than an autoclave.

How To Use Pressure Cooker For Sterilization?

A pressure cooker works on the same principle as an autoclave. It can be used as a tool for sterilization. Follow the steps below to sterilize items using a pressure cooker;

A pressure cooker used as autoclave Pressure Cooker
  • Fill the pressure cooker with one and a half to two inches of water.
  • Place the items inside a wire basket and then in the pot.
  • Place the lid on top and make sure that the gasket and safety valve is properly in place.
  • Bring the water to a boil and let the steam build up for about 10 minutes before putting on the weight.
  • Once the pressure has built up, lower the heat and cook for the specified time.
  • When the cooking time is up, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and allow it to cool down naturally.
  • Once the pressure cooker cools down remove the lid and take out the items inside.

A Pressure Cooker Used As Autoclave – Conclusion

The pressure cooker is a cost-effective and easy-to-use alternative for autoclaves. There is a big price difference between pressure cooker and autoclave. There are less expensive autoclaves in the market, but generally, it is more expensive than a pressure cooker.  

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