Sterilization vs. Decontamination: What is the Difference?

Sterilization and decontamination are used to reduce bacteria and viruses to prevent illness and infection. Students who take a first aid HCP course (for Health Care Providers) learn how to disinfect properly to protect themselves and others from airborne or blood borne pathogens that could make them sick. Obtaining a first aid license or completing a first aid level C online course can help you understand the difference between sterilization and decontamination so that you will know which process to use for the proper function of disinfection.

Sterilization is a type of decontamination that kills all types of bacteria, viruses, or microorganisms that may be present. There are different methods of sterilization that can be used to kill bacteria and viruses that may be growing on a surface. Heat, such as boiling water that is over one hundred degrees Celsius and steam are just two ways that heat can be used for sterilization. Chemical sterilization, such as bleach or hydrogen peroxide, can also be used to sterilize a surface. Hydrogen peroxide is taught to students who go through first aid training and certification as an easy way to disinfect a small cut or wound. Filtration and radiation are other methods of sterilization that may be used in commercial settings to disinfect large areas or surfaces.

Decontamination is used to decrease the amount of bacteria in an area or on a surface. It does not kill everything like sterilization does. Decontamination is also known as deep cleaning and is a method that is used the most in daily routines. An example of decontamination would be someone using antibacterial wipes or spray to wipe down their computer desk and chair at the end of a work day. This method cleans the surface and decreases the amount of bacteria that may be growing in that area, but it does not kill all bacteria or viruses.  

1st aid training and certification programs go into greater details on the importance of sterilization and decontamination to minimize exposure to blood borne and air borne pathogens as well as harmful bacteria and viruses. Promote a healthy living environment and work space by getting your first aid certification started today!

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