Medical sterilization technician pushing a rack of medical equipment to the steam sterilizing unit.

Steam Sterilization

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Steam offers unmatched advantages for sterilization. For more than 100 years, it’s been the go-to sterilant for reliable and inexpensive performance in sterilizing items that are not damaged by high heat, such as scalpels and scissors. But how do you ensure that your steam sterilizer is effectively working to keep instruments safe?

Ensuring the safety of sterilized items takes more than just following procedures. Tests for efficacy of the process are a critical component to making sure every instrument is safe to use on patients. As a leader in the field, 3M has been developing and improving technology for sterilization assurance for decades. We can offer a full portfolio of sterilization assurance products including biological indicators (BI), chemical indicators (CI), tape and other accessories for load, pack and exposure monitoring. We can partner with you to provide expert support, education and service. As an independent manufacturer of sterilization assurance products, 3M creates products that can be used to test the efficacy of a variety of sterilization systems and produce unbiased results.


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  • Mini Auto-reader with four biological indicators inserted with digital test results displayed.

    3M™ Attest™ Mini Auto-reader 490M

    We have a smaller auto-reader available to meet your multi-facility or department needs.

    • Easy-to-read display
    • Small footprint for space-constrained areas
    • No-hassle, AnyWell technology - use any well for compatible 3M™ Attest™ BIs*

    *The 3M™ Attest™ Mini Auto-reader 490M is compatible with 3M™ Attest™ Biological Indicators 1491, 1492V and 1295. Sterilization cycles must align with a biological indicator's instructions for use.

    When medical instruments and implants arrive into your care, you know how long they’re going to take to sterilize, and how quickly they’ll be needed. It’s your job to ensure they are sterilized and safe for patient use.

Steps for Steam Sterilization Monitoring

  • Find out whether or not your sterilizer is doing its job properly. To monitor vacuum-assisted steam sterilizers, you begin each day with a Bowie-Dick (B&D) type test to detect air leaks, inadequate air removal, inadequate steam penetration and the presence of non-condensable gases, any of which can compromise sterility.


  • A load is monitored and released based on the final negative result of a Biological Indicator (BI) in a Process Challenge Device (PCD). According to the CSA Z314.3-14 standard, a BI is required daily for each steam sterilizer and cycle type used, as well as in every load that contains an implant. Only a BI can detect the actual killing of microbial spores inside the sterilizer. 


  • Products verify whether a sterilant has penetrated to the point where the Chemical Indicator (CI) was placed in the pack. These Type 4, 5 or 6 CIs are designed to react to two or more of the critical variables required for sterilization to occur—for steam sterilization, the critical variables are time, temperature and the presence of steam.


  • Products allow anyone to see at a glance whether packs have been exposed to the sterilization process. Usually consisting of tapes or labels, these ISO Type 1 Process Indicators undergo a colour change when exposed to the sterilant. As the “adhesive company”, 3M created pressure-sensitive tapes that make 3M indicator tapes excellent choices for reliable adhesion.


Partnering with you for optimal performance.

Find tools to help your team succeed.

  • Close-up of a person using a laptop to find information online.
    Education Resources

    Continuous learning with convenient and relevant training is top of mind for sterile processing managers and technicians. Get real-world advice, backed by science, from industry experts.

    View 3M℠ Health Care Academy

  • Female medical professional in a surgical mask and cap.
    Identifying Areas of Potential Infection Risk

    3M is here to support you with holistic, science- and evidence-based solutions, guidelines, best practices, and staff education to help you reduce the risk of infection complications and minimize inefficiencies in many areas that support your ongoing healthcare-associated Infections (HAI) efforts.

    Learn about infection prevention

Medical doctor wearing a stethoscope speaking with a 3M medical sterilization specialist.

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