Difference Between Disinfection and Sterilization

Disinfection and sterilization are two processes used to eliminate microorganisms that can cause illness and damage to people’s health. However, both processes are different and should not be confused. Difference Between Disinfection and Sterilization

Just in case you have doubts about it, below we will tell you what is the difference between them.

STERILIZATION  Difference Between Disinfection and Sterilization

Sterilization guarantees the elimination of any pathogenic agent on a given surface. An item is said to be sterile when it is “completely free” of microorganisms. It is important to understand that it cannot be determined in an absolute way that the sterilization of something is complete, but the probability that something is contaminated can be reduced so much to the point of saying that it is “sterilized”.

This process can be maintained in specific environments where there is generally a high pressure or a constant high temperature.

There are many ways to carry out sterilization, one of the best known to us is pasteurization. Although there is also radiation, boiling; among other.

Sterilization is especially important in hospitals , food industries, water bottling companies, and in medical devices.


Disinfection is used in contexts where sterilization is not possible. The surfaces of certain fragile items and of our homes are disinfected by us, but not sterilized.

Disinfection is a process that seeks to destroy microorganisms, above all, disinfectant products focus on eliminating those that can cause us diseases.

It can also be disinfected to inactivate or slow the growth of microorganisms, not specifically to kill them. In terms of results, those achieved with disinfection are less radical than those achieved with the sterilization process.

Some of the most popular disinfectants are: ozone, alcohol, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide and iodine.

Key differences 

  • Sterilization is aimed at destroying almost all microbial life, while disinfection refers to the process by which part of microbial life is destroyed or its harmful effects on humans are inhibited.
  • Examples in which disinfection is applied: when we wash the dishes, when we clean the toilet.
  • Examples where sterilization is applied: on surgical instruments, on pasteurized milk.
  • Disinfectants do not kill spores, but sterilization can eliminate them.
  • The level of cleanliness achieved by disinfection can be described as ‘adequate’, while the degree of cleanliness achieved by sterilization can be said to be ‘extreme’.
  • Sterilization takes longer than disinfection.

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