Advantages & Disadvantages of Dry Heat Sterilization

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Dry heat sterilization is a sterilization technique that uses very high temperatures to kill and eliminate various pathogens from an object. This lesson will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of dry heat sterilization.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Have you ever seen an action movie in which a character in the movie got shot and the bullet was stuck in their body? Then, in order to remove the bullet, another character used the flame from a lighter to sterilize a metal blade before using the blade to cut out the bullet? Did you know that this is actually an example of dry heat sterilization (although it is a very crude example)?

What is Dry Heat Sterilization?

Dry heat sterilization is a sterilization technique that uses very hot temperatures to kill and eliminate possible pathogenic organisms from an object or surface. Specifically, dry heat sterilization is accomplished through the process of heat conduction, which is a term that refers to the transfer of heat from one object to another. During dry heat sterilization, heat from one object is transferred to another object. Then, the heat slowly travels through the object until the entire object is heated. When an object is heated to a high enough temperature for a long enough time, it will become sterilized.

There are two different types of dry heat sterilization. One type is referred to as mechanical convection, and it involves a fan that helps to circulate the heated air throughout the heated chamber (think about a convection oven that is found in many homes and restaurants). The other type is known as static-air, and it does not involve a fan. Rather, static-air dry heat sterilization simply involves a heat source (usually at the bottom of the chamber) that will cause the heat to rise naturally. The mechanical convection method is the faster, and more consistent method of dry heat sterilization.

Your oven at home can perform dry heat sterilization.
oven

For dry heat sterilization to work effectively, a specific temperature has to be reached for a specific length of time. These times and temperatures include:

  • 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 2.5 hours or longer
  • 320 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour
  • 340 degrees Fahrenheit for 0.5 hours

Advantages

There are several advantages to using the dry heat sterilization technique, and these advantages include:

  • It does not cause metals to corrode or rust
  • It is relatively inexpensive
  • It does not release any harmful or hazardous fumes or pollutants

Disadvantages

Disadvantages for dry heat sterilization include:

  • It is relatively slow (can take a couple hours)
  • Many objects cannot withstand the very high temperatures required for dry heat sterilization (ex: some plastics would melt)

Not all objects can withstand the high temperatures of dry heat sterilization.
melted plastic

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