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Dry Heat Sterilizers Vs Steam Sterilizers: Which is Best for Lab Equipment?

Dry Heat Sterilizers Vs Steam Sterilizers

There is no room for shortcuts or compromises in the sterilization of laboratory equipment.

Stakeholders and decision-makers have several options for sterilization methods for labs. As a company dedicated to ensuring the purity and reliability of laboratory equipment through sterilization, BetterBuilt is committed to safeguarding scientific endeavors.

The overarching need for laboratories – across a myriad of industries – revolves around optimal lab contamination prevention. The focal point of this article is the comparison between dry heat sterilizers and steam sterilizers.

Before we get into this topic, we want to clarify that steam and dry heat lab cleaning methods have specific purposes and many labs use a combination of both. The purpose of this post is to objectively explain both solutions and help stakeholders make a more informed decision for their investment.

Understanding the Crux: Sterilization in Laboratories

The sterilization process to negate all forms of microbial life on lab equipment plays an integral role in precluding contamination and ensuring the validity of results. A dry heat sterilizer and/or steam sterilizer play a monumental role in lab operations. Let’s go over the advantages, disadvantages, and ideal scenarios for each.

Dry Heat Sterilizers: The Pros and Cons

Delving straight into the heart of our topic, a dry heat sterilizer adds a great deal of value to laboratory settings, rooted in its mechanism and efficiency in sanitizing operations.

Pros of Dry Heat Sterilization

Uniform Heat Distribution

Dry heat sterilizers operate with conduction to uniformly transmit heat from the outer surface of an item to its core, ensuring every molecule is methodically sterilized. This meticulousness in eradicating microbial life is paramount in any lab setting, especially in environments where even a tiny amount of contamination can compromise results.

Material Compatibility

A great deal of lab equipment is crafted from materials that are sensitive to moisture. The dry heat sterilizer shines in its capacity to sterilize this type of equipment without inflicting potential deterioration or damage that can be wrought by the moisture in steam sterilizers, safeguarding the integrity and longevity of the equipment.

Efficacy Against Thermostable Lipids

Dry heat sterilization is exhaustive in the process of eliminating microbes, including those engulfed in thermostable lipids, which may prove resilient against steam sterilization. This ensures a broader spectrum of sterilization, protecting the lab against a wider range of potential contaminants.

Energy Efficiency

Dry heat sterilizers, which do not need to generate steam, often present a more energy-efficient solution. This not only adds inherent value in terms of operational cost reduction – but also aligns with eco-friendly practices, making it a responsible choice for forward-thinking labs.

Drawbacks of Dry Heat Sterilization
Duration of Sterilization

Dry heat sterilization often requires a longer time frame compared to steam methods, potentially affecting throughput and operational efficiency. While the process is slightly longer, it is extremely thorough in eliminating microbes.

Temperature Sensitivity

Certain materials or substances might be sensitive to the high temperatures used in dry heat sterilization, limiting its universal applicability.

Inefficacy on Certain Materials

While efficient for a multitude of substances, there may be specific materials for which dry heat isn’t the optimal sterilization choice – including some plastics and rubber – necessitating alternative solutions.

Scenarios Where Dry Sterilization is Ideal
Sterilization of Heat-Stable Materials

Lab equipment made of glass, metal, and ceramics can endure the high temperatures of dry heat sterilization without compromising integrity or functionality.

Sterilizing Moisture-Sensitive Materials

Dry heat sterilizers are ideal for working with materials like powders, certain metals, and electronic components, as they eliminate the risk of moisture-related damage or contamination, safeguarding material quality and longevity.

Achieving Pyrogen-Free Glassware

Dry heat sterilization is extremely effective in eliminating pyrogens – and preventing unwanted reactions in sensitive experiments.

Eliminating Thermostable Lipid-Encased Microorganisms

Dry heat sterilization is instrumental in the process of eradicating all microbial entities, including those encased in heat-resistant lipid membranes. The dry heat effectively disrupts and eliminates lipid-encased microbes.

Dealing with Non-Corrosive Materials

Working with certain grades of stainless steel – which do not corrode at high temperatures – is suitable for dry heat sterilization.

Long-Term Preservation and Stability

Dry heat sterilization methods do not induce structural or functional alterations in materials over time – which helps to ensure the stability and longevity of such materials and lab equipment.

Steam Sterilizers: The Pros and Cons
Advantages of Steam Sterilizers

Steam can generally achieve sterilization in a shorter time frame compared to dry heat methods, which may be beneficial in scenarios demanding rapid turnaround times.

Penetration Abilities

Steam, due to its fluid nature, can permeate crevices and cavities effectively, ensuring thorough sterilization, even in more complex lab equipment.

Temperature Range

The ability to sterilize at a lower temperature, compared to dry heat, might be advantageous for certain materials that are sensitive to high heat conditions (including rubber and plastics).

Energy Consumption

While dry heat sterilizers are often highlighted for their energy efficiency, certain steam sterilizers, particularly the more advanced ones, can also be remarkably energy-efficient, which can help mitigate operational costs.

Drawbacks of Steam Sterilizers

While steam sterilizers have traditionally been used in various applications, they have a few key shortcomings that undermine certain lab sanitization processes.

Material Limitation

The pervasive moisture in steam sterilization can be detrimental to certain materials, curtailing its applicability across diverse lab equipment and potentially jeopardizing the material’s integrity.

Inefficacy Against Certain Microbes

Some microbial entities, particularly those enveloped in heat-resistant lipids, may not be thoroughly sterilized by steam, posing a threat to lab experiments.

Scenarios Where Steam Sterilization is Ideal
Rapid and Efficient Sterilization Needs

Steam sterilizers typically complete cycles in a relatively shorter time frame compared to dry heat sterilizers, enabling labs to process items swiftly and maintain a continuous workflow. This is especially vital in high-output laboratories.

Sterilizing Certain Heat-Sensitive Materials

Certain lab equipment made from plastics or rubber may be sensitive to high temperatures in dry heat sterilization. Steam sterilization can operate at lower temperatures (albeit under pressure) and can sterilize heat-sensitive items effectively without causing damage or altering their structural integrity.

BetterBuilt’s Final Take

Ensuring that the quintessence of science – accuracy, and reliability – remains intact, the steam and dry heat sterilizer both offer many essential benefits in health sciences labs, safeguarding the validity of every experimental outcome.

The diverse requirements of sterilization, material compatibility, broad-spectrum efficacy against microbes, and energy efficiency make it impossible to say one is “better” than the other. In most settings, lab sanitization necessitates a combination of both cleaning methods.

However, while steam sterilizers have their merits in certain specific scenarios, the dry heat sterilizer tends to be a more versatile and efficient solution for the demanding needs of modern laboratories.

At BetterBuilt, our mission is to ensure that every piece of equipment is not just a tool, but a promise of accuracy, reliability, and untainted scientific results. Contact us today to learn more about our dry heat sterilization options. Our team is here to answer all your questions and guide you in the right direction.


BetterBuilt is one of the top manufacturers of vivarium washers such as tunnel washers, cage and rack washers, and cage and bottle washers for life sciences, laboratories, and the healthcare industry. We have a strong reputation for quality, durability, and trust within the scientific community over the years.