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Hot Air Oven for Sterilization: Definition & Working Principle

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  • 0:03 What Is a Hot Air Oven?
  • 2:03 Types of Hot Air ovens
  • 3:00 Functions of Hot Air Ovens
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alexandra Unfried

Alexandra earned her master's degree in nursing education and is currently a hospital supervisor/administrator.

A hot air oven is used to sterilize equipment and materials used in the medical field. This lesson will discuss what a hot air oven is and how it works.

What Is a Hot Air Oven?

Gina is a new employee at South Hospital. She's working in the sterilization department, which she has little experience in. Gina's manager is orienting her to the process of dry heat sterilization using the hot air oven. She begins by reviewing what it is and why it's used.

A hot air oven is a type of dry heat sterilization. Dry heat sterilization is used on equipment that cannot be wet and on material that will not melt, catch fire, or change form when exposed to high temperatures. Moist heat sterilization uses water to boil items or steam them to sterilize and doesn't take as long as dry heat sterilization. Examples of items that aren't sterilized in a hot air oven are surgical dressings, rubber items, or plastic material.

Items that are sterilized in a hot air oven include:

  • Glassware (like petri dishes, flasks, pipettes, and test tubes)
  • Powders (like starch, zinc oxide, and sulfadiazine)
  • Materials that contain oils
  • Metal equipment (like scalpels, scissors, and blades)

Hot air ovens use extremely high temperatures over several hours to destroy microorganisms and bacterial spores. The ovens use conduction to sterilize items by heating the outside surfaces of the item, which then absorbs the heat and moves it towards the center of the item.

The commonly-used temperatures and time that hot air ovens need to sterilize materials is 170 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, 160 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes, and 150 degrees Celsius for 150 minutes.

Gina understands that hot air ovens sterilize equipment over long periods of time, so she has to be organized in determining what items will be sterilized at what time. This depends on when the equipment needs to be available again. Gina's manager now explains the different types of hot air ovens.

Types of Hot Air Ovens

There are two types of hot air ovens. One is a forced air hot air oven and the other is a static air hot air oven. The forced air hot air oven is more effective than the static air hot air oven.

The forced air hot air oven works by heating the oven and using a fan to move the hot air around. This helps prevent the hot air from rising to the top of the oven and keeping the cooler air at the bottom. The fan keeps the hot air moving around at a consistent temperature throughout the oven.

The static air hot air oven works by using a heating coil at the bottom of the oven. The heat rises throughout the oven and takes a longer time to reach the desired temperature. Since the heat is not circulated as with a forced air hot air oven the temperature is not consistent throughout the oven.

Gina learns that the hospital has gotten rid of all their static air hot air ovens and now only uses forced air hot air ovens. Her manager explains how the oven works.

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