Sterilization vs. Aseptic Technique: What's the Difference?
Sterilization Vs. Aseptic: What's the Difference?
If you are confused about the difference between sterilization and aseptic technique, you’re not alone. At first glance, both terminologies sound like they can get your lab equipment pretty clean. However, these two terms are not interchangeable, and there are significant differences between the two processes.
At Globe Scientific, we remain dedicated to educating future generations of fellow lab professionals about the tricks of our trade. Read on to learn more about the difference between sterilization and aseptic technique and how it applies to the lab setting.
When understanding the difference between sterilization and aseptic technique it’s helpful to consider our goals within a lab setting concerning microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, spores, and fungi.
- If we are seeking to eliminate all microorganisms from a system, we need to practice sterilization. Sterilization destroys most everything in its path (rendering its subject sterile).
- If we are seeking to maintain the sterility of a previously sterilized item or to avoid contamination of a system by harmful microorganisms, we practice an aseptic technique and use devices which help maintain that sterile environment.
It might be most helpful to think of sterilization as the initial hit (whether through heat, radiation, chemicals, or pressure), and an aseptic technique as all the processes that we implement to maintain that sterility as time goes on.
Sterilization vs. Aseptic Technique in the Lab Setting
When pondering typical lab practices, the difference between sterilization and aseptic technique becomes clearer. As humans working in a laboratory setting, we need to be as hygienic and tidy as possible to ensure contaminant-free products and processes.
However, we cannot sterilize ourselves (ever been inside an autoclave? We sure hope not!). Instead, we practice aseptic techniques such as washing our hands, wearing barriers like gloves, goggles, and gowns, and draping fields to minimize contamination, to maintain the sterile state of equipment and materials we use.