Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Acupuncture
(1999; 35 pages) [French] [Spanish] View the PDF document
Table of Contents
View the documentAcknowledgements
Open this folder and view contentsIntroduction
Open this folder and view contentsSection I: Basic training in acupuncture
Open this folder and view contentsSection II: Safety in acupuncture
Close this folderAppendix
View the document1. Sterilization of acupuncture needles and equipment
View the document2. Methods of sterilization
View the document3. Disinfection
View the document4. Maintenance
View the documentAnnex I: List of participants

2. Methods of sterilization

Steam sterilization is the most widely used method for acupuncture needles and other instruments made of metal. It is nontoxic, inexpensive, sporicidal and rapid if used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions (e.g. time, temperature, pressure, wraps, load size and load placement). Steam sterilization is only fully effective when free from air, ideally at 100% saturated steam. Pressure itself has no influence on sterilization, but serves as a means of obtaining the high temperatures required.

Dry heat can also be used for sterilizing needles and particularly for sterilizing materials that might be damaged by moist heat, but it may cause the needle to become brittle. It requires higher temperatures and longer sterilization times.

Recommended sterilizing temperatures and times for steam under pressure, and for dry heat, are shown in the table below.

Recommended methods of sterilization

* Steam under pressure (e.g. autoclave, pressure cooker)
Required pressure: ⇒ 15 pounds per square inch (101 kilopascals)


30 minutes
15 minutes
10 minutes
3 minutes

* Dry heat (e.g. electric oven)


120 minutes
60 minutes
30 minutes

(Source: WHO - GPA/TCO/HCS/95/16 p.15.)

Instruments made of rubber or plastic which are unable to stand the high temperature of an autoclave can be sterilized chemically, at appropriate concentrations and ensuring adequate immersion times (e.g. 6% stabilized hydrogen peroxide for six hours).

For cupping, it is recommended that glass rather than rubber or plastic cups should be used since glass can withstand the higher temperatures required for sterilization.

It should be noted that boiling needles in water is not sufficient for sterilization, nor is soaking in alcohol, since these methods do not destroy resistant bacterial spores or certain viruses.

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