©2005-2019 Unimax Supply Co Inc. NY, NY

What is cleaning?
Cleaning is the physical removal of surface contaminants.

What is disinfection?
Disinfection is the killing or inactivation of some of the microorganisms in the appl9ication.

What is sterilization?

Sterilization is the killing or inactivation of all microorganisms in the application.

Cleaning, Disinfection and Sterilization
compiled by Westley W Wood,
Unimax Supply Co. Inc. NYC

These three terms have similar features but each has distinct and important differences

Cleaning is usually restricted in meaning to the physical removal of surface contaminants, usually with detergents or soap and water, ultrasound or other methods.  While cleaning does remove soils and bacteria, cleaning does not include any component of virus or bacteria killing or inactivation though it does have the effect of dis-infection by mechanical means (physical removal)Even the most thorough cleaning leaves microorganisms on the surface of the item.  The use of an ultrasonic cleaner with detergents is able to dislodge fine particles from surfaces that may be inaccessible by physical scrubbing or brushing.  It is more difficult  but not impossible to sterilize a surface that has not been properly cleaned first. BOCK

Disinfection is the killing or inactivation of some of the microorganisms on the surface of an object without the claim for killing or inactivating all microorganisms. For tools and small objects this generally refers to the effect of immersion in a liquid "germicidal".  BLOCK

For items that canít be immersed in a liquid germicidal, the area or object must first be washed and then the surface coated, usually by spraying, and then allowed to air dry.  

A liquid germicidal's effectiveness is dependent on contact  of the germicidal liquid to the virus or bacteria to be killed but other factors such as pH, temperature and microbial load (concentration) also play a part which can defeat an intended level of disinfection

  Effective cleaning is the most important step because bacteria and viruses may survive beneath a layer of dirt,  beneath grease, dried blood, or in crevices or places that are difficult to reach by cleaning that shield the organism from direct contact with the disinfectant. Disinfecting solutions require the object be effectively pre-cleaned before liquid disinfection.

Needle bars and tubes for tattoo are sometimes allowed to be re-used if permitted by law, but they may not be used on more than one client without cleaning and sterilization (as contrasted to disinfected) between uses.  

Needles used in piercing may never be reused. 

Liquid disinfectants require specific solution strengths and contact time so it is mandatory to be familiar with the  product by reading and following the label instructions and warnings.  

All disinfectants do not destroy all types of microorganisms and some may leave harmful chemical residues which must be removed prior to sterilization or use.  They are almost all harmful to humans and animals.

While disinfectants used as soaking agents seem to add a margin of safety to the cleaning process, the use of disinfectants themselves present other dangers.

Application of alcohol, clorox (ine) or boiling is considered disinfection not sterilization. Most HDs require biological testing to verify a sterilization  process. These methods cannot be routinely tested for effectiveness.

We have urged for more than 20 years that the only safe procedure which should be adopted for all body art use is the sterilization of all reusable tools prior to cleaning.