Sterilization vs. Disinfection

Difference between Sterilization and Disinfection

In any medical procedure, sterilization and disinfection both are used for decontamination. Disinfection is used to destroy microbes so that transmission of infection can be stopped. Though, it is not necessary that all the microbes present on surgical equipment would get destroy or killed in the process of disinfection. It is to be noted that only some of the viable microbes are killed.

Sterilization, however, is the process where every microorganism is killed and the equipment becomes sterile and pure as new and untouched. Sterilization is a decontamination process wherein from spores to any other viable microorganism is killed.  The process of sterilization is done by chemical agents, filtration and other physical methods such as heating and exposure to radiation. The chemical used are mainly liquid and gaseous in nature. Physio-chemical method involving certain physical and chemical agents is also used for sterilizing surgical equipments. The commonly used different sterilization techniques are steam sterilization, heating or chemical sterilization and radiation or sterile sterilization.

If you need to understand deeply about disinfection, you can consider the use of disinfectants used in daily floor cleaning. Disinfectants used for surgical cleaning of equipments are of two types: broad spectrum and narrow spectrum. As the name defines, broad spectrum disinfectants are used eliminate large variety of microbes whereas non-toxic and easy- to- use narrow spectrum disinfectants act on smaller microorganisms. The common examples of disinfectants are alcohols, aldehyde, oxidizing agent and phenolic, biguanide. To some extent, sodium bicarbonate also acts like one. Due to their non toxic nature, the use of disinfectants is limited to domestic household chores.

Sterilization is mostly used to disinfect surgical equipments and in surgical labs. It completely eliminates the microbes and even resistant spores off the treated surface. Disinfection is not particularly much of a procedure nor follows a strict protocol of techniques whereas sterilization is an absolute process in itself.