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Red-Bag Waste Autoclave Procedure

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.  Following this three-step autoclave procedure will result in reliable sterilization of “red bag” waste.  (Assuming that you aren’t running a BSL3 facility or disposing of animal carcasses.)

Red Bag Waste Autoclave Procedure

First things first, the DON’Ts:


  • DON’T toss loose tips and pipettes into your biohazard waste bag; they’ll puncture the bag and may injure techs
  • DON’T fill bags more than two-thirds
  • DON’T double bag (double-bagging substantially increases cycle times; your load won’t be sterilized after a standard waste cycle!)

Now the DOs:


  1. Add some water to the bag—this helps generate steam in the bag throughout the load
  2. Twist the top of the bag closed and tape it with autoclave tape
  3. Label and date the waste bag


  1. Place the red bag in an autoclave pan—leaky waste bags are the worst mess, easily jamming drains, vents, and other plumbing
  2. Make sure there is air-space between bags—better air circulation makes for more reliable sterilization
  3. Load pans into the autoclave, again being sure that you’re leaving room for air flow


  1. Check that the drain is clear—autoclaves used by several departments or for many waste loads often get clogged
  2. Tag the load with an integrator strip to confirm sterilization
  3. Run your standard waste cycleThese vary by lab and application; make sure to use the settings approved in your lab
  4. Let the load cool
  5. Check the integrator strip
    • If it says ACCEPT, dispose of the sterilized bags according to your lab policy (likely in a hard-sided roll away “red bin”)
    • If it says REJECT, slap a new strip on it and run it again