Health & Medical Healthy Living

What Are the Differences Between Sanitizing & Sterilizing Medical Equipment?


    • Floors can be sanitized or disinfected using bleach and water.Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

      Almost anything can be sanitized. In the textbook "Medical Assisting," Lucille Keir et. al defines sanitization as the "process of washing and scrubbing to remove materials such as body tissue, blood, or other body fluids." Sanitizing instruments involves mixing warm water and an approved detergent and soaking the items for at least 20 minutes. The inside or outside of large pieces of medical equipment can be cleaned with the same type of solution using a rag or sponge. The sanitizing solution should be kept covered to avoid evaporation and the possibility of added contamination. It should be changed at least every 24 hours.


    • Sterilization is the "process that destroys all forms of living organisms," according to Keir. The use of an autoclave is a popular way to sterilize instruments. An autoclave is a piece of equipment that heats up to a minimum of 250 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature at which living organisms will die. Incineration is the destruction of pathogens by flame or fire. Clothing, bedding, or protective equipment like gowns and gloves can be incinerated if covered in blood or if they have come into contact with serious infection or disease. Some facilities may have a dry heat oven. The oven heats to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be used for very sharp intruments or petroleum products that would be corroded by the moist heat of an autoclave.


    • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a spore is a "type of bacterium that can form a tough, protective coat around its essential matter to allow survival for long periods of time in unfavorable conditions." Items coming into contact with spores are best sterilized using as high a temperature as possible.

    Hand Washing

    • Hand washing is a form of sanitization. Although gloves should be worn while sanitizing or sterilizing medical equipment, hands should be washed thoroughly after the gloves are removed following any cleaning technique.

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