What to do
How to do it
1 Select appropriate containers/bags for
For biohazardous dry materials:
a. Use polypropylene bags or reusable containers.
Make sure your plastic container is suitable for
autoclaving. Not all plastics can be autoclaved (i.e.,
polyethylene or HDPE).
b. Ensure that contaminated materials are free of
sharp objects that may puncture bags. Autoclave bags
are tear resistant, but can be punctured or burst in the
c. Fill bags only 2/3 full. Ensure adequate steam
penetration by closing bags loosely, leaving a one-inch
opening and closing with autoclave indicator tape.
Autoclaveable sharps containers may be autoclaved
and placed in a Contaminated Materials Container
(CMC) for pick up.
For biohazardous liquids (or non-biohazardous liquids):
e. Fill liquid containers only 1/2 full. Loosen caps or use
f. Never put sealed containers in an autoclave. They
can explode. Large bottles with narrow necks may also
explode if filled too full of liquid.
For non-biohazardous glassware/labware:
g. Cap Pyrex bottles loosely – whether empty or filled to
prevent explosions due to expansion.
h. Cover bottles that are not made of safety glass (e.g., not
Pyrex) with aluminum foil.
Requirements for Decontamination by Autoclaving
Summary: Steam sterilization (autoclaving) is one of the most effective methods for decontaminating
biohazardous material. Autoclaves use saturated steam under high pressure to decontaminate
infectious materials (i.e., cultures, cells, contaminated glassware, pipettes, etc.) and to sterilize media,
lab ware and other items. Biohazardous material and full sharps containers generated within research
laboratories are placed in Contaminated Materials Containers (CMCs) and treated at the hospital
autoclave. However, some laboratories that generate biohazardous material may use local laboratory
(or departmental) autoclaves. When using laboratory or departmental autoclaves to