What is the difference between disinfection and sterilisation?

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Although many people will use both terms interchangeably, there are significant differences between both types of high-level cleaning. So, what is the difference between disinfection and sterilisation?

Disinfection is used to reduce the number of viable micro-organisms on a device, however, it may not necessarily inactivate them all. Disinfection may be used to reduce the number of viable micro-organisms to a level that ensures the device is fit for its intended purpose. A reduction in the number of viable micro-organisms to the smallest number possible by cleaning and disinfection enables the sterilisation process to meet the challenge of making a device sterile.

At Sychem, we’re specialists when it comes to providing disinfection solutions. We provide two chemical solutions for use on the skin and surfaces: Sychem Protect and Sychem Control. Protect is our skin antiseptic solution which offers safe, effective, skin cleansing, disinfection, and sanitation across a wide range of industries. When it comes to surfaces, Control is the ideal solution, offering user-friendly, single-step cleaning and disinfection across a wide range of industries.

In comparison, sterilisation is a process designed to kill all types of micro-organisms including viruses, bacteria, and resistant bacterial spores, but is not necessarily effective against prions (i.e. the causative agents of CJD). This is because it is simply not possible to ensure detection of all organisms on a device, the term sterile can be used when the potential bio-burden (the number of organisms on a device) has been reduced such that there is less than one in a million chance of any surviving (this can be expressed mathematically as a sterility assurance level (SAL) of 10-6 or 1:1 000 000).

Important factors to note for sterilisation

The effectiveness of all sterilisation methods can be affected by several factors:

  • The type and number of micro-organisms which may present on the medical device; some micro-organisms are more resistant to the sterilization process than others
  • The design of the medical device – micro-organisms can be protected by unseen cracks and crevices which is why cleaning processes must be both thorough and validated; inspection of devices must take into consideration the complex design of some medical devices.
  • Without a correctly decontaminated device, you will not be able to sterilise a product.

At Sychem, we offer a range of disinfection chemicals, Autoclaves and Washers for use in healthcare, laboratory and life science applications. If you’re interested in how Sychem can help your business or facility, contact the team today.

📧 [email protected]

☎️ 0845 644 6824

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