Steam Disinfection

Follow these procedures to help ensure that the waste you are autoclaving is properly disinfected prior to disposal.

  1. To allow for sufficient steam access or penetration of the waste, the waste must be:
    • packaged according to the recommendations provided by the manufacturer; and
    • loaded into the chamber so as not to exceed the capacity limits as set by the manufacturer.
  2. When subjecting waste to steam under pressure, the temperature in the chamber of the autoclave must reach at least 121 degrees Celsius and there must be at least 15 pounds per square inch gauge pressure for at least thirty minutes.
  3. The autoclave must be operated according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Note: A perforated tray will allow more steam penetration to the waste than a solid walled tray. Autoclave Safety Video by The National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program, The National Institutes of Health and Dartmouth College.


EHS treated label

After treatment, follow these procedures for the proper handling of the waste material.

Place a label on the bag or container (available from EHS) and place the labeled bag into another sealed bag or container that is a different color and is opaque, e.g., a black trash bag. Then discard into the regular trash.

Record Keeping

All lab personnel who treat and dispose of biological waste must keep records of the treatment. See the Disposal Request Form (PDF) for Biological Waste and Sharps and the Autoclave Waste Treatment Record (PDF).

Autoclave Testing

Most autoclaves used to treat waste must be tested on a regular monthly or more frequent schedule under Texas regulations. The NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules (NIH Guidelines) also requires an autoclave verification program.

Autoclaves are maintained and repaired by the Facilities Services Sterilization Equipment Maintenance Technician. This technician can provide hands-on training for your autoclave. For training, concerns, or questions about the operation or performance of your autoclave, contact Facilities Services at (512) 471-2020.

If you are responsible for autoclave testing on the autoclave you use, you will be provided a test pack(s) by EHS.

The test pack consists of an ampoule containing bacterial spores and media along with a plastic tube which holds the ampoule.

  • Be sure to run the test pack(s) according to the schedule outlined by EHS and in the identified autoclave.
  • Put the test pack near the drain, along with a load of waste or other materials.
  • When the autoclave cycle is complete, promptly remove the test pack, open it, push the cap down on the ampoule, and put the ampoule back into the plastic tube.
  • Complete the associated test form and call or e-mail EHS for pick-up.
  • DO NOT leave the test pack in the autoclave for more than 24 hours.