Autoclave Labels: Best Options for High-Temp Resistance and Adhesion

Steam autoclave sterilization is critical to ensuring that lab and surgical equipment is cleaned of all potential microbial contamination. But the extreme heat, moisture, vacuum and pressure of autoclave sterilization isn’t just tough on bacteria, fungi and viruses. It can also remove or do damage to the labels we use to identify and track labware, surgical instruments, trays, and other equipment.

This is why it’s important to choose the right autoclave-resistant labels. When you use labels with the right materials and durability, they’ll easily withstand the extremes of the autoclave, even across repeated sterilization cycles, and specialized labels can even withstand additional conditions such as cryogenic storage, dry heat ovens, gamma irradiators, or ethylene oxide gas treatments.

For the best results in applications such as these, Zebra’s Z-Xtreme and Z-Ultimate labels are the top recommendation for their extreme temperature resistance, scratch and smear resistance, their ability to withstand harsh chemicals such as isopropyl alcohol and bleach, and their unparalleled resistance to the harshness of the steam autoclave process.

Why Zebra Z-Xtreme and Z-Ultimate Labels Are the Best Option

Z-Xtreme and Z-Ultimate labels have a minimum application temperature of 50°F (10°C) when first applying your label to your labware, instruments, or other items. But once they’re applied, they can be exposed to temperatures of -40°F (-40°C) to up to 302°F (150°C) and still remain adhered and easily readable or scannable.

Both types of labels are great for labeling stainless steel and aluminum metal surfaces as well as Pyrex glass. There are specific label model numbers that are also quite good for labeling most plastics and even rough and moist surfaces.

Z-Xtreme labels have a white, matte polyester facestock that provides outstanding print quality and good smear and scratch resistance, along with excellent resistance to chemicals. If you need maximum smear and scratch resistance, then Z-Ultimate labels are recommended. Their white, gloss polyester facestock offers enhanced durability against smearing and scratching beyond what the Z-Xtreme offers.

Typically, you will want to use Z-Xtreme or Z-Ultimate 2000T or 4000T labels and pair them with Zebra’s 5095 or 5100 resin ribbons for high durability to abrasion, harsh chemicals and the environmental stresses of the autoclave.

With both the Z-Xtreme and Z-Ultimate, there are versions with removable acrylic adhesives, and the rest are UL-approved and CSA-compliant labels with permanent acrylic adhesives for long-term labeling.

Zebra PolyPro Labels for Curved Surfaces

One special consideration in labeling labware or instruments for autoclave sterilization is the curvature of the surface. If you’re labeling a curved surface and it will be exposed to the autoclave, Zebra’s PolyPro 4000T labels are typically your best choice.

The PolyPro 4000T comes in a standard, high-tack or removable version, and it has a matte Kimdura® polypropylene facestock with a permanent or removable acrylic adhesive. The Kimdura polypropylene material is more flexible than a polyester label, so it’s better for adhering to curved surfaces.

The PolyPro 4000T offers outstanding operating temperature resistance of -40°F (-40°C) to up to 250°F (121°C), and it can be applied at temperatures as low as 10°F (-12°C) if you’re using the standard label within this type. When applying a version with high-tack or removable adhesives, then the application temperatures need to be higher, and the operating temperature ranges learn more toward the colder side and don’t offer as much high-temp resistance.

Finding the Right Autoclave Labels for Your Needs

To get more details and to match up the right label and specs with your autoclave application, download our Zebra label and supplies selector guide and check out pages 14-16 for information on Zebra’s PolyPro, Z-Xtreme and Z-Ultimate Labels.

Or feel free to connect with our autoclave labeling exports at Tri-State Business Systems, so we can provide you with an exact recommendation along with great pricing and support for your labeling and printing needs. Contact us now , or call us at 908-359-8001