Different Common Methods of Disinfection

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced many people worldwide to understand the importance of disinfection. Disinfection is defined as the process of eliminating or reducing pathogenic microorganisms or bacteria into a non-living and living thing. But even before the pandemic, the word “disinfection” is already a common term, especially for those working in the healthcare industry.

The Importance of Disinfection

People in hospitals usually witness many surgeries and other medical operations, and disinfecting areas and instruments is vital to prevent the spread of disease. Disinfection not only protects the patients, but also the staff working in a medical facility.


What Happens When There is a Lack of Disinfection and Sterilization?

According to Rutala & Weber (2014), the lack of compliance with disinfection and sterilization guidelines has led to numerous outbreaks of infectious diseases. Hence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a science research organization, enumerated the common methods of disinfectants:

Chemical Disinfectants

Effective disinfectants reduce the risk of possible infections. Some of the most used chemicals in hospitals are Quaternary Ammonium, hypochlorite, phenolics, peracetic acid, and accelerated hydrogen peroxide compound.


Pasteurization destroys all pathogenic microorganisms through heat but not bacterial spores. For this method, there is a need to reach a specific temperature that is greater than 70° C (158° F) for 30 minutes while making sure that the process for quality assurance will be closely monitored.

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

UV light is perceived to be an effective method for killing microorganisms. This method is the recommended procedure for air disinfection, room contamination, and surface disinfection.

Researchers have evaluated the surface disinfection with three-hospital related surfaces namely bed railings, operating tables, and scrubs. Results found that exposure in this light was effective in inactivating bacteria from the mentioned surfaces except with scrubs.

Three Categories of Disinfection

Earle Spaulding, a physician, devised a rational approach classifying the disinfection of medical and surgical instruments into three categories.

He described it as follows: critical, semicritical, and noncritical items.

  • Critical Item

Critical item means a higher risk of infection if it will be contaminated with any microorganisms. All items should already be sterilized as purchased or sterilized with steam if possible.

  • Semi-critical Item

Semi-critical items are also meant to be sterilized but a few microorganisms are tolerated.

  • Noncritical Item

The last item which is noncritical is basically insignificant because the intact skin of a person already suffices as natural barrier for infectious diseases. This item requires a less strict disinfection procedure.

However, some researchers argued that these items were oversimplified.

Factors Affecting the Disinfection Process

Rutala and Weber (2014) also listed the factors affecting the efficacy of disinfecting:

  • cleaning of medical or surgical instruments

  • present organic and inorganic contaminants

  • nature and extent of microbial contamination

  • presence of biofilms, temperature

  • pH level of disinfection process

  • the humidity of sterilization process

  • disinfectant concentration

Martinson College has a mission to educate communities about the importance of proper sterilization, decontamination, and reprocessing of reusable medical devices. They have carefully developed around the rising demands of hospitals and healthcare facilities requiring better Sterilization Processing Technicians or Central Services Technicians across the globe, and more specifically in the United States.

To learn more about what courses they offer, click the link here.

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