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Sterilization packaging

Chapter 3: Table of contents

Articles to be sterilized can be wrapped in various packaging materials prior to sterilization.  These materials will allow specific methods of sterilization to be used and will provide different duration of sterility or shelf-life to the packs.


Packs can be prepared for steam or ethylene oxide sterilization by using 2 layers of cotton muslin (140 or 270 thread count) wrapped separately around the instruments (double wrapped).  Cloth wraps are economical because they can be reused for multiple steam or ethylene oxide sterilization batches but are prone to lint formation.  Cloth does not protect against moisture and cloth wrapped packs have the shortest shelf life of all materials: 4 weeks.  Placing sterilized cloth wrapped packs in tape-sealed and heat-sealed dust covers soon after sterilization, increases the shelf life to 2 months and 6 months respectively.

Paper/Plastic Pouches:

Paper/ Plastic pouches

Heat-sealed paper-plastic pouches and plastic-plastic pouches are water resistant and waterproof respectively.  They are typically used to wrap single instruments or implants and are prone to puncture by sharp instruments.  Paper-plastic pouches allow steam and ethylene oxide sterilization and plastic-plastic pouches allow ethylene oxide and plasma sterilization to be performed.  Their shelf life is the longest at 1 year. 


Paper/ Polypropylene Pack

Packs can be prepared for steam and ethylene oxide sterilization by using non-woven materials such as paper.  This type of material is relatively inexpensive but only allows single use and is easily punctured by sharp instruments.  It does not protect against moisture and just like cotton it requires a double layer.  Polypropylene non-woven fabric is lint free and puncture resistant.  It can be used to wrap instruments for steam, ethylene oxide and plasma sterilization.  Just like paper, it also requires double wrapping and is single use.  Paper and polypropylene wraps provide excellent protection with a sterile shelf life of 6 months.

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