Difference Between Disinfection and Sterilization

The process of killing or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms is called Disinfection and Sterilization. Microbes can cause ample diseases in humans and animals can also affect their health by spoiling the food. Therefore, it is beneficial to kill or inhibit their growth to minimize their harmful effects. This is achieved by sterilization or disinfection. However, the way the two processes are conducted is quite different.

Some of the Important Difference Between Disinfection and Sterilization are as Follows - 

Disinfection vs Sterilization

Disinfection 

Sterilization

Here, the number of harmful microbes is minimized to a minimal level.

Here, the surface is made completely germ free

In this only vegetative cells are killed, not the spores

It kills both vegetative cells and spores

Here, chemical methods are used for disinfection 

Here, physical methods are used for sterilization 

It only reduces the effect of microbes 

It completely eradicates microbes 

Only required cleaning is done here

Complete cleaning is done here 

Phenol, alcohol, chlorine, iodine are some of the disinfecting agents.

Some of the sterilization methods are dry heat, filtration etc. 

What is Sterilization?

A physical process that is followed to completely destroy all the forms of microorganisms present on any surface is called Sterilization. This process is followed mainly to preserve the substance for a longer time without decay. It is usually done by physical agents such as heat, radiation, filtration, etc. 

What is Disinfection?

A process used to eliminate or inhibit the growth of bacteria and other pathogens causing infectious diseases in both humans and animals is called Disinfection. The chemicals used for this process are mainly chlorine, iodine, alcohol etc. 

Similarities Between Disinfection and Sterilization

Some common factors between Disinfection and sterilization are - 

  • Both are used to decontaminate objects.

  • Both processes kill harmful microbes.

  • They destroy bacteria, protozoa, viruses and bacteria.

Methods Used in Disinfection and Sterilization 

Some of the methods used in disinfection and sterilization are -

  • Antisepsis - It is a process in which microorganisms are destroyed in living tissue which limits the effects of infection. 

  • Antiseptic -  It is a chemical agent that is applied to living tissue to kill microbes. 

  • Autoclave - It is a high pressure device used to allow the application of moist heat above the normal-atmosphere boiling point of water.

  • Biocide - They are the chemicals or substances that help to kill biological organisms.

  • Disinfectant - It is a germicide that kills virtually all recognized pathogenic microorganisms . 

  • Decontamination - It is a method by which organisms are killed with no quantitative implication, generally by using the procedures for making items safe before disposal.

Some of the factors affecting the Efficacy of Disinfection and Sterilization 

The activities that are performed by the germicides against the microorganisms depends on a number of factors. Awareness of these factors will help us to be beware of the germs. The factors affecting the efficacy of disinfection and sterilization are - 

  • Number and location of microorganisms 

  • Innate resistance of microorganisms

  • Concentration and potency of disinfectants 

  • Physical and chemical factors 

  • Organic and inorganic matters 

  • Duration of exposure 

Conclusion

The main takeaway here is that the aim of disinfection and sterilization are different. The main aim of a disinfectant is to kill or inactivate the harmful microorganisms. Sterilization, on the other hand, aims at killing all the microbes. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. What are the Two Methods Used for Killing Microbes? 

Ans - The process of killing or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms is called Disinfection and Sterilization.

Q2. What is Sterilization? 

Ans - A physical process that is followed to completely destroy all the forms of microorganisms present on any surface is called Sterilization. This process is followed mainly to preserve the substance for a longer time without decay. It is usually done by physical agents such as heat, radiation, filtration, etc.

Q3. What is Disinfection? 

Ans - A process used to eliminate or inhibit the growth of bacteria and other pathogens causing infectious diseases in both humans and animals is called Disinfection. The chemicals used for this process are mainly chlorine, iodine, alcohol etc. 

Q4. What Common Features Does Disinfection and Sterilization Share?

Ans - Some common factors between Disinfection and sterilization are - 

  • Both are used to decontaminate objects.

  • Both processes kill harmful microbes.

  • They destroy bacteria, protozoa, viruses and bacteria.

Q5. What are the Factors Affecting the Efficacy of Disinfection and Sterilization? 

Ans - The factors affecting the efficacy of disinfection and sterilization are - 

  • Number and location of microorganisms 

  • Innate resistance of microorganisms

  • Concentration and potency of disinfectants 

  • Physical and chemical factors 

  • Organic and inorganic matters 

  • Duration of exposure 

Q6. What are the Methods Used in Disinfection and Sterilization? 

Ans - Some of the methods used in disinfection and sterilization are -

  • Antisepsis - It is a process in which microorganisms are destroyed in living tissue which limits the effects of infection. 

  • Antiseptic -  It is a chemical agent that is applied to living tissue to kill microbes. 

  • Autoclave - It is a high pressure device used to allow the application of moist heat above the normal-atmosphere boiling point of water.

  • Biocide - They are the chemicals or substances that help to kill biological organisms.

  • Disinfectant - It is a germicide that kills virtually all recognized pathogenic microorganisms . 

  • Decontamination - It is a method by which organisms are killed with no quantitative implication, generally by using the procedures for making items safe before disposal.