AAT Bioquest

What are the differences between disinfection and sterilization?

Posted March 20, 2023


Basis of differentiation 




Is a process used to reduce the number of harmful microbes to negligible levels

Is a process used to kill all harmful microbes and maintain a sterile environment

Methods used 

Uses chemical methods 

Uses a combination of heat, high pressure, irradiation, physical and chemical methods 

Effect on microbes

Kills only vegetative cells and not the spores, thus only reducing the effect of microbes

Kills both vegetative cells and spores, completely ridding microbes from the surface 

Cleanliness factor

Adequately clean

Extremely clean

Techniques used 

- Alcohols

- Phenol

- Chlorine

- Iodine 

- Oxidizing agents

- UV light

- High temperatures

- Radiation

- Steam

- Filtration

- Radiation


Used in daily life in applications such as pasteurization and disinfecting bathrooms

Used primarily for medical and research purposes such as sterilizing surgical and laboratory instruments

Use on wounds

Wounds can be disinfected using agents such as hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol

Wounds cannot be sterilized as surrounding healthy cells may also get killed in the process

Additional resources

Sterilization and disinfection methods for decellularized matrix materials: Review, consideration and proposal

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