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Sterilisation (sterilization for the Yanks)

There are a number of ways to sterilise cutting implements. Some of them can be done easily at home, some can't. There are also a few misconceptions here. Again, a note to say I'm neither a doctor, a nurse, or any other relevantly-degreed individual.


Often assumed to be good for sterilisation. In reality, it kills some bacteria. But it isn't particularly effective against virii and there are a fair number of hardy bacteria that alcohol doesn't kill. Plus to be effective, it has to be a min. of 60% ABV (120 proof) to be of any use, with 75% ABV (150 proof) or more preferred. It also should be applied for a min of 15 seconds. Even so, after centuries of use, many virii and some bacteria are far more resistant than they used to be.


Can't be done at home, 'nuff said. Well OK, it *could* be done at home, but the equipment's a wee bit pricey.


Min 6% concentration, soak the blade in it for 6 hours. Clean with sterile (boiled and allowed to cool completely) water.


The same stuff you put in your swimming pool. Chlorine Dioxide works well when it comes to chemical sterilisation, again immersion for 6 hours is minimum. Again, clean with sterile water.


As Karl rightly said, it can possibly fuck the temper of a decent blade but if you just want to get one more use from a razor blade or scalpel, it'll not be a problem. The tempering issue is more to do with long-term usability, edge holding, and resharpening properties than the actual edge sharpness itself. The other thing is that tempering is done at temps. above 300degF/148degC or thereabouts) for the most common of "stainless" steels (alloy 440C) and better quality non-stainless carbon steels are done at much higher temperatures.

So losing the temper isn't really that much of a concern. Heating the blade can be done with:

  •  direct flame, the classic
  •  boiled water immersion (212degF/100degC)
  •  steam in an autoclave/high pressure environment.

This will kill off the vast majority of bacteria spores and virii. Just remember that the blade must be fully cooled before use (allow a good few hours) and bear in mind that it might *possibly* mess with the tempering of a knife's blade.


These are often used to clean the wound itself, but I can't say as I've found them necessary. Regular soap and water does the trick to keep a wound clean. Some also advocate using alcohol directly on the wound. Fun if you like pain, but a waste of good booze if it is drinkable, and a waste of time anyway. Just remember that wipes/booze/etc. are disinfectants not sterilising agents. The reason they're used is that you can't pour strong bleach or irradiate human tissue without negative effects, so as far as cleaning the wounds go, they're as good as you can get but aren't good enough to truly sterilise a blade/needle/lancet/anything else.

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