An autoclave is an airtight steel vessel used to heat substances and objects under very high pressures for the purpose of killing bacteria. Autoclaves are used in laboratory, hospitals, and other locations in order to sterilize the tools and devices prior to use. These machines must be tested by Nebraska Law every 30 days. The type of test we must run is called a Spore Test. I currently use a type of autocalve called a Statim 2000, which is a cassette style (the metal tray you see me pull from the machine right before I set up to pierce you). I use this type of autoclave because it is more effective as well as quicker. It sterilizes tools in about 6 1/2 minute compared to the average 25 minutes or so that a conventional chamber style autoclave takes.
My clients see that I post a picture of me mailing off our weekly spore tests, but most of you don't really know what that means. I thought I might take a few minutes to tell you a little bit about what spore testing is, and why I do it so frequently.
In short, a spore test is a type of test that can be used to check if my autoclave (the machine I use to sterilize my equipment). A spore test strip is a small piece of filter paper that is impregnated with millions of bacterial spores, typically of the genus Bacillus. The spore strip is normally sealed in a small blue glassine envelope. These little test get run through my autoclave every week, in the exact same way that I sterilize all of my jewelry and autocalveable tools. After the sterilization cycle has been completed, the test is mailed off to a testing company to see if the autoclave properly kills all bacteria. The testing facility (in this case, Autoclave Testing Service ), incubates the test for 24 hours, and then checks it to see if any of the Bacillus spore are still alive. If the spores are not alive, the test is NEGATIVE. In this case, negative is the desire result. If a test happens to come back positive, the company gives us a call so we can retest the the machine and determine if it is in need of a tuneup.
The state of Nebraska and the county of Lancaster both require body artists to test their autoclave once a month. I however test my machine weekly. The extra 40 tests a year help to insure that my autoclave is always working. In addition to my weekly test, I run what is called a Class 5 Steam Integrator in every autoclave cycle I run. The Class 5 Integrator is another test that we run as a back up. It does not check to make sure that spore are killed, but instead tests the machine to make sure all of the conditions inside are proper to kill bacteria. The center for disease control says that the Integrator is just as accurate as the Spore Test, giving myself and my customers instant peace of mind every time I sterilize jewelry or tools.
The results from my weekly spore tests can be viewed in person in my booth or at: