Steam sterilizer

by Alethea Drexler

archives assistant

We’re back!

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving weekend.

This week’s post features our vintage Castle steam sterilizer:

Castle steam sterilizer

This one is a small model–the box is about a foot long and seven inches tall–that seems to have been popular for specialty instruments (which would have been used in smaller quantities), dental instruments, and in barbershops.  Technically, it’s a “tabletop” version, but ours has a stand.  The metal flap hanging down from the stand is actually a small table leaf that can be raised and locked into place to give the user a little bit of workspace.

Square sterilizers like this seem to have been the next generation after the canister ones seen in the post about the World War I nurses.  This is probably from the 1920’s through 1940’s.  A similar German one can be seen in this auction posting.

On a stand.

The handle is “double jointed”–you actually push it down to open the lid.  This would have helped the lid seal more securely.

That’s the electrical cord looped up over the box.

Double-jointed handle

The inside appears to have hard-water deposits, so clearly this saw some use.  The instruments would have been placed in the perforated tray, where steam could surround them completely.  (Note that the handle, to the right, is pushed down.)

Say, "Aaah!"

This copper steam sterilizer has a patent date from the first decade of the 20th century.

Circa-1897 canister sterilizer similar to the ones in the nurses’ posting.

Small steam sterilizers are sold today for sterilizing baby pacifiers, bottles, and nipples.  Some are even designed to be heated in a microwave oven.

Autoclaves, which use both steam heat and pressure, are commonly used today to sterilize surgical packs.  The one we used at the veterinarian’s office was about the size of a large television.  The autoclave was originally invented in the 1870’s and, logically but perhaps surprisingly, is a close cousin to the pressure cooker.  Pressure canners are basically autoclaves for home-bottled food.

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Posted in Artifacts

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