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Dec 21, 2015Print this page

What You Should Know About Medical Swab Sterilization

Medical swab sterilization

Sterilization is an incredibly important part of any medical process—everybody knows that. But how medical tools are sterilized is much less common knowledge.

Let's talk swabs, for instance. Just because they're single-use products, doesn't mean they don't have to go through a vigorous sterilization process. 

All of Puritan's sterile products undergo either ethylene oxide gas sterilization or gamma irradiation sterilization before they are sent to our customers. What does that mean? Let us elaborate.

The Most Commonly Used Methods for Sterilizing Medical Equipment Are...

  • Autoclaves
  • ETO (ethylene oxide gas)
  • Gamma irradiation

While there are other methods of sterilization—heat, dry heat, chemical, UV and others—these are the methods most commonly used on medical devices.

Autoclaves work, well, basically they work like pressure cookers. They blast medical devices with hot steam that kills germs and microbes. The added pressure inside the autoclave means that the water boils at a higher temperature, so the steam is a whopping 121-140° Celsius—hot enough to sterilize surgical instruments and other reusable medical equipment.

Ethylene oxide sterilization is used for more delicate instruments and devices that can't tolerate heat or moisture. The medical devices are treated with ethylene oxide gas, which disrupts the DNA of any microorganisms living on them and stops the organisms from reproducing. 

Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation—like x-rays, but with higher energy. The rays pass through plastics and kill bacteria by breaking the covalent bonds of bacterial DNA. Gamma radiation is very penetrating, and is commonly used for sterilization of disposable medical equipment, such as syringes, needles, and IV sets.

Why do we use ETO and Gamma?

Our ETO process parameters are specific for our any of our products that are packaged in a sterile wrapped peel pouch. Both the products and packaging tolerate the ETO process better than they would an autoclave or radiation sterilization process.

We use gamma irradiation primarily for molded tube products, like dry transport tubes, because those products are less permeable than the pouches and would not be as thoroughly sterilized by ETO.

Want to learn more about our sterile products?


Topics: Medical


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