Storing Sterilized Items

After the sterilization cycle is completed and the instrument units are dry and cool, inspect all packages for proper color change by visible chemical indicators. The units should then be stored in a clean, dry, closed cabinet. Storage practices for wrapped sterilized instruments should be event-related. Event-related practices recognize that packages remain sterile indefinitely, unless an event causes a package to become contaminated (e.g., torn, wet, or open packaging).

Prior to distribution to the point of use, the sterile instrument units should be inspected to verify barrier integrity and dryness. When the packaging is compromised (i.e., torn, wet, or open), the instruments should be re-cleaned, re-packaged in a new wrap, and re-sterilized. The date of sterilization and the sterilizer used, noted on the outside of the packaging material, should facilitate the retrieval of suspected instrument units in the event of a sterilization failure.2,3