Disinfection and sterilization are both decontamination processes. While disinfection is the process of eliminating or reducing harmful microorganisms from inanimate objects and surfaces, sterilization is the process of killing all microorganisms. Sterilization also destroys the spores of various organisms present on surfaces, in liquids, in medication, or in compounds such as biological culture media. Such “extreme” forms of decontamination are needed during critical times like surgery, or in environments like industrial, laboratory or hospital. It is more practical to use disinfection in everyday life.
Disinfection is usually carried out using chemicals, often solutions, but also vapors and gases. When chemicals are used to destroy all forms of microbiologic life, they can be called chemical sterilants. These same germicides used for shorter exposure periods also can be part of the disinfection process (i.e. high-level disinfection).
Sterilization falls into the following three basic categories of which there are several options in each category:
1.High temperature/pressure sterilization (autoclave)
Each of these and several less common methods are discussed in later sections.