When is Chemical Sterilization Most Appropriate?
In all laboratories and hospitals, sterilization is a must. This is because viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other disease-casing agents cannot be totally killed by disinfection. What disinfection can only do is to remove them the way we remove dirt and germs in our kitchen. It only removes such agents, but it does not kill and eliminate them.
Sterilization is the primary and recommended method of cleaning all equipment, tools, and devices that are repeatedly used such as surgical instruments, biopsy forceps, and a custom tray. These objects are prone to any type of contagious disease, which can be transmitted by these tools and objects if not sterilized.
Types of Sterilization
There are two types of sterilization processes. These are:
- Heat Sterilization
- Chemical Sterilization
Heat sterilization is the most recommended method of sterilization used for many decades already. This is because pathogens and other harmful bacteria are killed at a certain heat temperature. Some tools that are small can be soaked with boiling water. This will ensure that even the hardest to reach areas are sterilized.
In the case of larger and more complex devices and equipment in which sterilization with boiling water does not apply; steam sterilization is used. Steam sterilization distributes the heat all over the surfaces. This method can instantly kill and eliminate stubborn bacteria, fungi, and pathogens. It is also a proven method to clean all hospital and laboratory equipment and devices regardless of size and shape.
There are instances that steam sterilization is not applicable. Some devices and equipment are vulnerable to moisture and steam. Devices and equipment with a complex electronic system is a good example. The modern alternative to sterilizing them is through infrared sterilization. This type of heat sterilization kills all disease-causing agents in an instant.
Nowadays, there are a lot of modern hospital and laboratory instruments and tools such as a custom tray that are susceptible to heat. This means they have some components that should not be exposed to high temperature. These components are rubber, plastic, glass, and other similar elements.
To sterilize them without using heat, the recommended alternative is through chemical sterilization. Chemical sterilization is the process of using low temperature chemicals to kill, eliminate, and remove all germs, viruses, and bacteria. This can be in the form of gas or liquid chemicals.
Chemical sterilization uses the following elements and compounds:
- Peracetic Acid
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Glutaraldehyde and Formaldehyde
The above chemicals are used in many different ways and processes. Some can be mixed with other chemicals. Others are directly applied. There are also cases that some of them can be used along with steam sterilization.
Hospital and laboratory instruments don’t have to get heated only to sterilize them. Chemical sterilization can do the job without heating them. However, not all instruments and equipment can be sterilized in this method. This is because there are some equipment or devices that contain some elements that may react violently with the above chemicals. Before using a chemical sterilization process with these types of devices, it is recommended you check the manufacturer’s instructions from both manufacturers of chemicals and devices to be sterilized.
Chemical sterilization is now becoming the most recommended method of the sterilization. Many hospitals and laboratories are beginning to reduce the use of disposable instruments. Hospitals and laboratories are also now using a custom tray instead of disposable ones. And there are such instruments that should not be heated because they may have been made of plastic or glass. This is where chemical sterilization is appropriate.