Sterilization Trays: Stainless Steel or Plastic?

by Carmen Raymond

sterilization-basketStainless steel and polymers are two of the most popular material options for sterilization trays used in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. In terms of toughness, long shelf life and resistance to contaminant absorption, surgical stainless steel outperforms plastic trays, especially for medical usage. Stainless steel trays also have a lower total cost over time.

Plastics can become discolored, can absorb fluids, have limited life shelf and are expensive over time. The CDC advises using a temperature between 121°C (250°F) to 132°C (270°F) for steam sterilization of surgical instruments. (Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008 ( These recommended temperatures far exceed what most polymers' trays can tolerate, which is about 74°C (165°F). Because of these characteristics, many plastic trays for medical use are constructed as disposables, intended for single use applications. They may also be used for chemical sterilization.

For most medical applications, stainless steel sterilization baskets are the obvious choice. If you want a disposable option or you are using chemical sterilants, then you could consider polymer sterilization trays. 

Total Cost Over Time

The initial cost of plastic trays is less than that of stainless steel sterilization trays. If you can use a stainless steel tray for 10 years and you must replace the polymer baskets three to four times a year, the cost over time makes stainless steel the cost-effective option 

  Stainless Steel Trays (WP-4372) Polymer Trays
Initial Cost $152 $60
Expected Life 10 Years 4 Months
Number Needed for 10 Years 1 30
Total Cost over Time $152 $1800

Personalize Your Trays

At WPI you can also personalize your sterilization trays to fit your needs. Customized your tray. WPI offers a variety of sterilization trays, and we invite you to browse our vast selection to find one that is right for you.


See Sterilization Baskets & Trays