Among the devices selected for the sterilization process, we can distinguish a UV sterilizer and a ball sterilizer. However, are they sufficient to get rid of all germs, bacteria and viruses? Is it worth using them? Maybe there is another way for effective sterilization?
The popularity of devices used for sterilization is still growing. Worldwide coronavirus pandemic caused that many owners of beauty, hairdressing and tattoo salons are considering buying new, appropriate equipment. The devices used until today are not 100% reliable, e.g. during the sterilization process of reusable instruments. Of course, the situation does not apply only to Great Britain, but also to other countries, where in fact within a dozen or so months health and safety has become the most important priority for many of us.
In online stores, there is a growing demand for the most popular devices that can be used for sterilization. The most popular devices are UV sterilizer and ball sterilizer. For example, the prices for good and proven ball models start at £200-300. However, are they effective if they are only devices from a lower price range? There are still autoclaves, special steam sterilizers, whose purchase cost often starts from £900-1000
Is the operation of a UV sterilizer and a ball sterilizer sufficient enough to talk about effective sterilization? Can we be sure that after using them we will get really sterile instruments?
UV sterilizer – What is it?
UV sterilizer is often used for sterilization. This equipment uses UV radiation, which means that microbes are destroyed using ultraviolet rays. UV waves have different lengths, however, according to the conducted tests, it was possible to determine at what length they are most effective – 254 nm. The UV sterilizer / germicidal lamp damages the DNA of bacteria and viruses.
Unfortunately, when using a UV sterilizer we can not talk about effective sterilization. Here, the ultraviolet rays propagate linearly. What does it mean? They do not reach all places where germs can be found. UV radiation kills microbes in the air and on various surfaces, but does not penetrate them. In this case, it is more of disinfection than sterilization. Of course, to know the difference, you need to look at these two, often confused processes.
Disinfection is a process that only destroys vegetative forms of microorganisms. This means that it does not eliminate bacterial spores, i.e. bacteria that are closed in the form of a cocoon. These remain dormant until their environment changes to a more favorable one – for example, when they enter our body. Therefore, disinfection is not a fully effective process and it is more often used to disinfect utility surfaces or everyday objects (door handles, buttons) than treatment tools.
Sterilization is the destruction of all living forms of microorganisms, so this process is effective and above all safe for the human body. Reusable instruments are most often sterilized. Sterilizers (e.g. UV or ball) are used for sterilization, however, for some time only a steam autoclave ensures effective sterilization.
In the case of a UV sterilizer we can speak more of disinfection by mechanical means than sterilization. Yes, such equipment works, but more as for “cleaning” the surface and air than reusable tools.
UV radiation – Is it safe?
Is UV radiation, that changes the structure of nucleic acids of vegetative and spore forms, completely safe for humans? It turns out that not entirely. Not only that, according to sterilization classes, where class B is completely safe, and S and N are lower classes, UV sterilizer belongs to the lower classes. More and more manufacturers are using technologies to reduce UV radiation harmful to humans. Unfortunately, they are still not enough. In addition, the prices of high-end UV sterilizers often exceed the budget of the owners of beauty salons.
In order for the UV radiation used in germicidal lamps to be effective, they are turned on for several hours. Some models work for two hours, others for up to 8 hours. It is important that the air, e.g. in a beauty salon, between treatments can be disinfected within 15-20 minutes. However, this is still not enough to ensure full effectiveness and safety.
Where do we usually deal with UV radiation? They are usually:
– hospitals (e.g. doctor’s offices, operating and patients rooms),
– other medical facilities.
We must remember that such devices should be treated as a supplement to sterilization (complementary method).
Why is a UV sterilizer not a sterilizer?
The UV sterilizer is equipment that should not be called a sterilizer because we cannot talk about full sterilization. It is admittedly a cheaper method of dealing with viruses, fungi and other germs. Unfortunately, it does not protect the human body against threats, such as skin irritation or, in extreme cases, skin cancers. In the long run, this is therefore an ineffective alternative because:
– does not offer full sterilization,
– does not remove spore forms of bacteria,
– it must work for a long time (up to 8 hours),
– is not completely safe for humans.
Ball sterilizer – What is it?
In addition to the UV sterilizer, the ball sterilizer is also most commonly used. The device can be found in many beauty salons, hair salons or tattoo studios. It works by heating up small metal balls inside it to temperature of around 240 degrees Celsius, so you can sterilize reusable instruments in it. Unfortunately, as it turned out over time, as in the case of the UV sterilizer, here too there is no effective sterilization.
Is the ball sterilizer effective?
Despite the fact that much research has been done into the “efficiency” of the ball sterilizer, it is still used today. An interesting report appeared in the 1980s by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which deals with the regulation and supervision of sales, among others medicines and medical devices in the US published the results showing that:
– sterilization with a ball sterilizer cannot be called fully sterilized,
– the device may present a risk of various diseases and injuries to patients.
The report did not go unnoticed in other countries. Unfortunately, despite this, in the UK you can still see a ball sterilizer being used – regardless of the fact that, more than 30 years ago, the harmful effects of these devices have been proven.
In the case of a ball sterilizer, the tools are not fully inserted – some parts always stick out. So when talking about “sterilization” using a ball sterilizer, disinfection is a more accurate term. Many specialists believe that such a device should not at all be called a sterilizer. Additionally, we cannot control the course of “sterilization”, as in the case with steam autoclaves.
You can check your sterilization process at any time by using test strips placed in a steam autoclave with sterilized reusable instruments. Remember to deliver the test results to the laboratory within 24 hours of sterilization. This is just one of the many advantages of steam autoclaves, considered to be the best devices for sterilization due to full safety and high efficiency.
Proven sterilization methods – autoclave
If sterilization using a UV and ball “sterilizer” is ineffective and affects our health and safety, then how to perform a full and effective sterilization? The answer is simple – using an autoclave – a steam sterilizer. Why?
– effectively conducts full sterilization,
– it is completely safe for humans,
– offers a much faster operating time (up to several minutes),
– has the highest safety class B (according to sterilization classes),
– has a European certificate admitting it as a medical device,
– has the standard EN13060: 2004 and the Declaration of Conformity 97/23 / EEC – required for devices using high pressure,
– it is used in hospitals, outpatient clinics, dental offices – wherever sterilization must be fully reliable.
The use of an autoclave allows the removal of spore forms of viruses and bacteria, which means the highest efficiency of the sterilization process. There is not a single microorganism on the surface of the tools after removal from the autoclave. Such equipment is sterile (perfectly clean and free of germs) and ready for reuse.
The autoclave is built in such a way that high pressure and temperature operate inside its chamber, which promotes effective sterilization. Added to this is the condensation of water vapor, which is responsible for the complete destruction of dangerous microbes. In other words, the autoclave kills microorganisms, viruses and other spore forms with high pressure and steam.
It is worth knowing that autoclave sterilization is the only effective way that guarantees actual sterility of the instruments. If it is not kept (when we do not use the autoclave), we are exposed to infections with HIV, hepatitis, papilloma or mycosis. Therefore, sterilization of all reusable instruments should only take place using an autoclave – a steam sterilizer.
That is why instead of a UV or ball sterilizer it is worth choosing proven methods, i.e. autoclaves – medical sterilization devices. These not only take up little space (depending on the capacity expressed in liters), they are fast (sterilization time is about 5 minutes), but above all they are effective. The growing interest in this type of equipment has meant that autoclaves can now be bought at reasonable prices.
1. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, 9 March 2016 | Q&A:
2. About UV Light
3. Quick Answer: Does UV Light Kill Fungus?
5. Sterilization guidelines, by ICRC:
6. Do Glass Bead Sterilizers Really Work? By NLS Staff:
9. Sterilization of Dental InstrumentsDental Clinical Guidance, str. 6 http://www.sdcep.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/SDCEP+Sterilization+of+Dental+Instruments.pdf
10. Flight Class B – Clave B Autoclave – What is a Class B Sterilizer?
Flight Class B – Clave B Autoclave – What is a Class B Sterilizer
UV sterilizer and ball sterilizer – are they effective?