What is the difference between disinfection, sanitation and sterilization?

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery April 21, 2010 Print Friendly and PDF
Disinfection uses antimicrobial agents on non-living objects or surfaces to destroy or inactivate microorganisms. Disinfectants may not kill all bacteria, viruses, fungi and spores. Most disinfectants are weakened or inactivated by organic matter such as dirt and feces. Sanitation uses an antimicrobial agent on objects, surfaces or living tissue to reduce the number of disease-causing organisms to non-threatening levels. Sanitizing does not affect some spores and viruses. A practical method of sanitizing hands is to wash them with soap under running hot water for at least 20 seconds. Sterilization is using chemicals, temperature, gas and/or pressure to kill or inactivate all disease-causing bacteria, spores, fungi and viruses.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.