Using Pressure Canners to Sterilize Equipment

Canners have been scientifically proven to have equal capabilities of sterilization as an autoclave.

As practical preppers, we have always been advocates of pressure canners. There aren’t many feelings as good as the one you get from a pantry stock-full of jars containing the farm fresh preserves that you raised with blood, sweat, and tears. The only other feeling that beats this is being able to feed your family with those preserves, especially when times get tough or other options and sources have been depleted.

In our journey of prepping, we have also discovered other uses of pressure canners that are as equally important as feeding your family. That is, keeping your family healthy and safe. Pressure canners have been studied and proven to be able to sterilize medical instruments.

Whether you are planning a medical trip to a less developed country or preparing an emergency first-aid kit, having a method of sterilization should be an essential part of your plan. Sterile instruments are critical in preventing cross contamination with harmful pathogens. It is agreed that the use of saturated steam under pressure is the most effective and acceptable method for achieving sterilization.

The most common device used for sterilizing medical instruments by this method is an autoclave. However, autoclaves tend to be large, heavy, and very expensive pieces of equipment. So if you are planning an overseas trip, or if saving money is a priority to you, purchasing an autoclave may not be an option, but thankfully it is not your only option!

Pressure canners use this exact method  of pressurized steam to preserve meat and vegetables, and now we know that they can also be used in the medical practice. 

Canners have been scientifically proven to have equal capabilities of sterilization as an autoclave. Pressure canners are much more portable than autoclaves and can be found at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, pressure canners are more versatile than autoclaves given that they can function on a variety of heat sources such as wood and coal, rather than depending solely on electricity. For the many of you who already have one in your kitchen, I’m sure you are ecstatic to know that you also have an incredibly important medical machine! And if you don’t have one yet, we sell them on our site at a very affordable cost.

Below are some key instructions and take-aways from a resource article about using pressure canners to sterilize. The easy-to-read article can be found in its entirety at the end of this page, and we highly recommend you read it if you plan to use pressure canners in for this purpose.

How To Sterilize Medical Instruments With a Pressure Canner

  • Place medical instruments in a bag or pack
  • Place packs on a rack above the water surface. If instruments are submerged in water, boiling temperature is not enough to destroy all forms of microbial life including spores.
  • Pressurize at 15 psi, at 250 oF (121 oC) for 15 minutes or longer
  • Constant monitoring is essential.

More Helpful Tips

  • The size of the vessel does not seem to affect sterilization, and should only be taken in to consideration for portability, space needed for instruments, and the time each size takes to reach required temperatures (i.e. smaller vessels will reach sterilization conditions faster, but larger vessels can hold more instruments at once).
  • You can install a thermometer to attach to the lid for temperature verification
  • Pressure gauges are highly advantageous (included in AllAmerican Canners)
  • You can add weight (not to exceed 30g) to increase the pressure to 20 psi in order to achieve sterilization in less time (5-10 minutes)
  • Always use barriers such as gloves, masks, caps, gowns, protective glasses, etc. when dealing with medical instruments
  • consult current guidelines issued by government agencies or professional organizations on appropriate infection control practice in the clinical setting.

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