Difference Between Disinfection and Sterilization (With Table)

Several microorganisms live on surfaces that are not often cleaned. They cause numerous diseases and affect the health of people adversely. They are even responsible for the rotting of food. Therefore, it is better to kill them, or just stop them from growing. Two common ways to do so are disinfection and sterilization.

Disinfection vs Sterilization

The main difference between disinfection and sterilization is that disinfection can only reduce the effects that harmful microorganisms have on objects and surfaces, while most of them still remain intact and do not die off whereas sterilization kills all the microorganisms and none of them remains on the object or surfaces.

Disinfection is a way to minimize the effects of microorganisms on a surface. Through this process, only vegetative cells are killed and there is no effect at all on spores. Due to this, it is not used at all to clean wounds. Some disinfecting agents that are commonly used for this purpose include alcohol, phenol, iodine, and chlorine.

Meanwhile, sterilization is the process of killing off all microorganisms on a surface. Through the process, both vegetative cells and spores are killed. Due to this, it is used very often for cleaning wounds. Some ways for carrying out the process of sterilization include heat, radiation, steam, filtration, etc.

Comparison Table Between Disinfection and Sterilization

Parameters of ComparisonDisinfectionSterilization
MeaningIt is a process for reducing the effect of harmful microorganisms.It is a process of killing off microorganisms completely from a surface.
EffectsIt only kills vegetative cells and not any spores.It kills vegetative cells as well as spores.
UseIt is used in day-to-day life very often.It is primarily used in medical procedures and for research.
WoundsIt is not used to clean wounds.It is used to clean wounds.
AgentsDisinfecting agents include alcohol, phenol, iodine, and chlorine.Sterilization agents include heat, radiation, filtration, and even steam.
ExamplesExamples of disinfection include pasteurization, sanitisers, disinfecting urinals, etc.Examples of sterilization include cleaning medical tools before surgeries.

What is Disinfection?

Disinfection is the process of using a chemical substance or any compound in order to reduce the effects that harmful organisms have on surfaces. During the process, vegetative cells are killed off completely. However, there is no effect at all on spores. For this purpose, it is not used for medical purposes like cleaning wounds but is effective in day-to-day life.

Some of the most common disinfecting agents include alcohol, phenol, iodine, and chlorine. These are used for several purposes such as pasteurization, sanitisers, and even disinfecting urinals. However, there are various viruses, fungi, and bacteria that are not affected by disinfectants. Due to this, it is always better to take more serious steps.

An important aspect of the process is that disinfection can only be carried out with other factors in play. These include contact time, type of disinfectant, temperature, the concentration of disinfectant, and even turbidity. If all these are present to the right degree, only then will disinfection take place in the correct way.

Disinfection is also a widespread method for cleaning water resources. Many groundwater sources contain germs and other microorganisms. For reducing their effects, numerous techniques such as ozonation, light treatment, chloramination, chlorination, etc. are used.

What is Sterilization?

Sterilization is another cleaning process in which various chemical and even physical methods are used to kill microorganisms. This process not only reduces their effects but makes the surface entirely clean. Both vegetative cells and spores are destroyed during sterilization. Due to this, it is used extensively in medical procedures such as cleaning wounds. However, it is not used very often in day-to-day life.

Some of the most common agents for sterilization include chemicals, heat, irradiation, filtration, and even high pressure. Most of these methods are used for cleaning surgical tools before a medical operation. Other applications include pascalization, food irradiation, and even protecting contamination of solar system bodies from earth material.

Unlike disinfection, sterilization, in theory, kills off all types of fungi, viruses, and bacteria. However, in practice, it is not always true that sterilization kills off all germs and microorganisms. This also brings forward an aspect that sterilized objects must be maintained after the process. Or else, germs and microorganisms are likely to infect them again.

Regardless, when it comes to large water bodies, sterilization is not always practical or cost-effective. It includes large amounts of chemicals being mixed into the water, which to some degree is very difficult. Moreover, there are chances of environmental hazards erupting.

Main Differences Between Disinfection and Sterilization

  1. Disinfection is a process for reducing the effect of harmful microorganisms whereas sterilization is a process of killing off microorganisms completely from a surface.
  2. Disinfection only kills vegetative cells and not any spores whereas sterilization kills vegetative cells as well as spores.
  3. Disinfection is used in day-to-day life very often whereas sterilization is primarily used in medical procedures and for research.
  4. Disinfection is not used to clean wounds whereas sterilization is used to clean wounds.
  5. Disinfection agents include alcohol, phenol, iodine, and chlorine whereas sterilization agents include heat, radiation, filtration, and even steam.
  6. Examples of disinfection include pasteurization, sanitisers, disinfecting urinals, etc. whereas examples of sterilization include cleaning medical tools before surgeries.

Conclusion

Disinfection and sterilization are two very popular methods of cleaning objects and surfaces. However, each of them has a different process. This means that they even have different applications. The most notable difference between the two is that disinfection only reduces the effects that harmful germs and microorganisms have. Therefore, it is not always the best choice for cleaning wounds. Meanwhile, sterilization kills germs and other microorganisms off completely. Due to this, it is used in medical procedures and research.

Some disinfection agents include alcohol, phenol, iodine, and chlorine. These are all chemical-based. On the other hand, some agents for sterilization include heat, radiation, filtration, and even steam. These are chemical and even physical processes.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0196655313000023
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc2631727/

About the Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff at Ask Any Difference is a team of experts in the field of "Difference Between" topics and led by Sandeep Bhandari, Piyush Yadav and Chara Yadav. Trusted by over 1.5 million readers worldwide
PinterestLinkedIn, Facebook

2D vs 3D x
2D vs 3D