Plastic sterilization

Hi. There has been some discussion in the past about sterilizing cutting boards, and now of course the safety of materials used for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a serious matter. Here’s some information that may be helpful when considering material choice for items such as mask clips. You should always check with the health care organization you want to supply to make sure that they will accept the material, as they may have differing standards and sterilization methods.

Three tips to ensure more effective sterilization:

  • Avoid engraving - it creates pockets where contaminated material can collect.

  • Avoid narrow slots/cuts or multiple slots. Again, you want to avoid places where material can collect. Living hinges are not a good design solution.

  • Identify the material used. Here’s a list of standard abbreviations for plastics:
    British Plastics Federation - Abbreviations
    At a minimum, this should be a label on the packaging, and should be as specific as possible, e.g., material (PMMA), brand and type of acrylic (Cast), not just “acrylic”. Packages should only contain one material - don’t mix PETG and PLA 3D printed parts in the same bag, for example.

Please try to keep any responses focused on sterilization - discussion of other material choice criteria should be in the threads for particular items.

ISM Plastics Sterilization Compatibility
Medical Plastics News - Sterilization Considerations


Also, don’t use PLA for reusable PPE. Its structure allows accumulation of contaminants in the material. PLA, ABS, and nylon will suck moisture out of the air in relatively large quantities, including anything in that moisture. Because of its low operating temperature, PLA can’t be decontaminated. Use PETG as it is less moisture hungry and much easier to sanitize.
If you want to use PLA, make sure the users know it must be disposed of after use.