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Autoclave Sterilizer vs. Dry Heat Sterilizer: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 11, 2024
An autoclave sterilizer uses pressurized steam for sterilization, while a dry heat sterilizer employs high temperatures without moisture.

Key Differences

An autoclave sterilizer operates by using steam under pressure to achieve high temperatures, effectively killing bacteria, viruses, and spores. In contrast, a dry heat sterilizer uses hot air that is either static or forced to sterilize equipment.
Autoclaves are typically faster than dry heat sterilizers due to the efficiency of steam in transferring heat. Dry heat sterilizers require longer exposure times as dry heat is less efficient in penetrating materials.
Autoclave sterilizers are ideal for moisture and heat-stable materials, including surgical instruments, while dry heat is preferred for materials that can be altered by moisture, like powders or oily substances.
The autoclave is commonly used in medical settings for its quick and effective sterilization. Dry heat sterilizers are often used in laboratories for materials that cannot tolerate moisture.
Autoclaves can sometimes corrode sensitive instruments over time due to the moisture involved. Dry heat, while slower, is less corrosive and can be used for delicate instruments and electronics.

Comparison Chart

Sterilization Method

Uses steam under pressure.
Uses high temperature without moisture.

Typical Sterilization Time

Faster, due to efficient steam heat transfer.
Slower, as dry heat penetrates less efficiently.

Suitable Materials

Moisture and heat-stable materials.
Materials sensitive to moisture.

Common Usage

Widely used in medical settings.
Often used for powders, oils, and electronics.

Effect on Instruments

Can cause corrosion over time.
Less corrosive, suitable for delicate items.

Autoclave Sterilizer and Dry Heat Sterilizer Definitions

Autoclave Sterilizer

A machine for achieving sterilization by combining high pressure and temperature.
Our laboratory autoclave sterilizer is essential for preparing sterile media.

Dry Heat Sterilizer

A sterilizer suitable for materials sensitive to corrosion and moisture.
Our delicate surgical tools are preserved longer thanks to the dry heat sterilizer.

Autoclave Sterilizer

An apparatus used primarily in medical settings for sterilizing equipment.
After each surgery, instruments are cleaned in the autoclave sterilizer.

Dry Heat Sterilizer

A sterilization unit using high temperature without moisture.
We use a dry heat sterilizer for our heat-resistant laboratory equipment.

Autoclave Sterilizer

A device for sterilizing various tools and materials in a healthcare environment.
The clinic's autoclave sterilizer is indispensable for maintaining a sterile environment.

Dry Heat Sterilizer

Equipment used in laboratories for sterilizing powders and other dry materials.
The dry heat sterilizer ensures the sterility of our powdered chemicals.

Autoclave Sterilizer

A pressure chamber designed to kill microorganisms and spores using steam.
The autoclave sterilizer is regularly tested to ensure its efficacy.

Dry Heat Sterilizer

An apparatus for sterilizing using hot air, either static or forced.
The dry heat sterilizer is ideal for our sensitive electronic instruments.

Autoclave Sterilizer

A device using steam under pressure for sterilization.
The hospital ensured all surgical tools were processed in the autoclave sterilizer.

Dry Heat Sterilizer

A device primarily used for items that cannot tolerate steam sterilization.
Oily substances are best sterilized in the dry heat sterilizer.


What is an autoclave sterilizer?

A device using steam and pressure for sterilization.

How does an autoclave sterilizer work?

It sterilizes using steam under high pressure and temperature.

What is a dry heat sterilizer?

A sterilizer using high temperatures without moisture.

What materials are suitable for an autoclave?

Moisture and heat-stable materials like surgical instruments.

How does a dry heat sterilizer work?

It sterilizes by applying high temperatures to objects.

Are autoclave sterilizers used in dental clinics?

Yes, they are commonly used in dental settings.

Can electronics be sterilized in a dry heat sterilizer?

Yes, as they are less likely to be damaged by dry heat.

Do autoclaves use chemicals for sterilization?

No, they use steam and pressure.

Is autoclave sterilization faster than dry heat?

Yes, steam sterilization is generally faster.

Can autoclaves sterilize liquids?

Yes, they can sterilize certain types of liquids.

What materials are best for dry heat sterilization?

Materials sensitive to moisture, like powders and oils.

Can dry heat sterilizers damage delicate instruments?

They are less likely to damage delicate items compared to autoclaves.

Is dry heat sterilization eco-friendly?

Yes, as it doesn’t require chemicals or generate waste water.

What maintenance does a dry heat sterilizer need?

Regular cleaning and temperature calibration.

Can autoclaves kill all types of microorganisms?

Yes, including bacteria, viruses, and spores.

Are dry heat sterilizers used in hospitals?

Less commonly, they're more typical in labs for certain materials.

How long does autoclave sterilization take?

Typically 15-30 minutes, depending on the load.

How long does dry heat sterilization take?

It can take up to 2 hours, depending on temperature and load.

What maintenance does an autoclave require?

Regular cleaning, seal checks, and pressure tests.

Is dry heat sterilization effective against spores?

Yes, but it requires longer exposure times.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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