|"Sterilising is only the second stage of a two stage process. It is important to thoroughly clean instruments prior to sterilisation." |
An autoclave is the means to sterilise, but not a cleaning machine. The first stage, of equal importance, is the cleaning process and this often tends to be treated at best, as an inconvenience.
Cleaning by hand is a time consuming and inefficient way in which to prepare instruments for sterilising. Contamination can still be present on the instruments when they come to be sterilised creating a valid risk of bacterial/viral organisms being protected from heat kill in an insulating cacoon. Also, most instruments are of stainless steel manufacture and it is essential to remove all surface contaminants before autoclaving to prevent those impurities leaving a baked-on stain on the surface.
"Sterilising a dirty instrument once, is to ruin it forever."
Micro-organisms cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be found in serrated edges, knurled handles, screw threads and fine micron scratches. Ultrasonic activety, followed by a rinse under running water is the only economical way to penetrate those hidden areas and effectively clean.