Sterilization is known to be an important aspect of most of the behind the scene work in medical procedures nowadays. From surgical operations, dental procedures, and basic blood work. Without proper cleaning techniques to keep the equipment we use in good condition, and free of pathogens, the risk of spreading of disease, infections, and even death can occur. The precise nature and easily perturbed state of sterilization can be daunting. Unfortunately, there are common misconceptions about these methods.
“Disinfection Equals Sterilization”
To understand the difference between disinfection and sterilization, a clear and accurate definition of sterilization would help. The Center for Disease Control states it as the “process that destroys or eliminates all forms of microbial life and is carried out in health-care facilities by physical or chemical methods.” Despite the method, the destruction of all microbial life is accomplished it is defined clearly that there must be no presence of bacterial, pathogens, or spores. However, the CDC acknowledges disinfection as the partial removal of all microbial life, even calling it partial sterilization. In this way, there is a margin for error in disinfection, whereas medical facilities must adhere to strict sterilization protocol to remove any and all spore, bacteria, and in some cases, viral particles, which could lead to infection or contamination.
This misconception has been slowly rising over the years due to advertisements interchangeably using these terms to illustrate the cleaning power of their products. Sterilize, sanitize, and disinfect often find themselves bunched together into one meaning. Yet, that could not be further from the truth. If you saw your surgeon wiping their scalpel down with a Clorox wipe instead of peeling it out of an autoclaved package, you should probably get another doctor. That is because, without pressure, heat, and powerful chemical agents, pathogens can still find a way to exist.
Overall, household items that claim to kill 99.9% of all germs, viruses, and bacteria are still good. They should continue to be used. However, like their name implies, that is where they should stay, in the house. Items like Clorox and Bleach are all great at sanitizing and delivering disinfection. Unfortunately, they could never be used in a clinical setting to prepare equipment for procedures. Hopefully, this provides a better understanding of the terms and gives clarity to the confusion between sterilization and disinfection.
The link to the CDC article can be found below, and for any further questions, please feel free to contact us.