If you’re in the market for an autoclave to up your sanitation game, your choice will be based on several key factors, says Nailcare Academy co-owner Janet McCormick, including the cost of the autoclave, the number of nail techs who will be sharing it, and how many automatic features you desire. Autoclaves can be expensive, but if you market your dedication to effective sterilization, you will likely be able to gain client loyalty so your investment eventually pays for itself.

You can sterilize via either dry heat or steam.

Nail techs can choose between steam autoclaves or dry heat sterilizers. While autoclaves are more expensive (the more automatic features, the higher the cost), they’re faster than dry heat sterilizers and are more commonly seen in salons.


Consider how many nail techs are in the salon. If your salon only has one or two techs, you can buy a small autoclave. However, if there are more than that, you will need to purchase a larger autoclave in order to accommodate the volume of tools everyone uses.

Horizontal Versus Vertical Autoclaves

• Horizontal autoclaves tend to have more automatic features and cost more. They load in the front and can have drying cycles.
• Vertical autoclaves load from the top and do not have a drying cycle. They are less expensive but they have fewer features. They are not vacuum assist units, so they don’t vent hot water after the cycle.



• Verifiable infection control method for implements
• Fast turnaround — usually 30 minutes at 250°F
• Absolutely effective with routine monitoring


• Some training required
• Requires monitoring and maintenance
• Requires purchase of pouches and spore testing materials for verification



• Easy to install
• Relatively low operating costs
• Noncorrosive for metal and sharp instruments


• Longer sterilization time
• Uses ultra-high temperature
• Not suitable for materials that aren’t stainless steel
• Requires purchase of pouches and spore testing materials for verification


• Clean the implements beforehand with a brush, warm
water, and liquid soap, and rinse.
• Don’t overload the unit.
• Perform monthly spore tests to ensure the unit’s
• Purchase a spare seal. Seals do not fail often, but it’s
wise to plan ahead to avoid any downtime.

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