An autoclave is a specialized type of instrument used to sterilize objects. Some autoclaves use steam that heat water up to 134 degrees C (273 degrees F). Once heated to this level, the temperature must be held constant for at least 15 to 30 minutes (depending upon the unit). The two types of autoclaves in widest use are steam (which incorporate pressurized water vapor) and dry-heat (which achieve sterilization through high temperatures).
To assure an autoclave is operating properly, spore tests are regularly conducted. A spore test strip is placed inside the autoclave and cycled through a batch. Once finished, the test strip is sent off to an independent lab for testing. The lab will check for the presence of spores (or absence of) and determine if the autoclave has ‘passed’ or ‘failed’. Spore testing is required by law for all tattoo parlors and body piercers that re-use their tools and own autoclaves. Spore testing and autoclaves are not required for body piercers and tattoo artists if pre-sterilized body jewelry and disposable tools are used.