First Aid Survival

Disinfecting and Sterilizing Medical Equipment in a Survival Scenario

primitive survivors disinfecting

What would you do if you get an injury during an SHTF situation? Do you have the right instruments to stitch an open wound? Do you know how to perform this operation on yourself? Most of all, how can you guarantee the sterility of your tools to avoid infection?

Here are some of the many ways you can disinfect and sterilize your medical equipment during a survival scenario!

Sterile vs. Clean

There is a huge difference between sterile and clean. Just because you wipe something down and clean it doesn’t mean it is sterile. Getting a tool clean simple means meticulous hand washing, wearing non-sterile gloves, and maintaining a clean environment where no sterile rules apply. Clean techniques are great for some care facilities and other clinical settings where patients are not at a high risk of infection.

On the other hance, keeping something sterile means going even further from keeping it free from stains and marks. Sterilizing means keeping it free from bacteria and microorganisms. Sterility is the absence of viable life that has the potential to reproduce and spread dangerous and disease-causing germs and bacteria. Environments that characterize sterility include hospital care settings, surgery centers, pharmaceuticals, and around patients at a high risk of infection. They use antiseptic cleaners and wear gowns, gloves, masks, and are covered from head to toe.Β 

Obviously, it would be difficult to achieve a sterile environment if you are in the woods, forest, or any other area during an SHTF scenario. In this case, we may only be able to keep things clean by preventing infection or reducing the number of microorganisms that could be transferred from one person to another by medical instruments or other suppliesΒ 

How to Disinfect and Sterilize Medical Equipment

Here are some ways you can sterilize, or keep as clean as possible, your medical supplies during a survival scenario.


  • Soak your tools in bleach, either sodium or calcium hypochlorite.15-30 minutes in a 0.1% solution of bleach will disinfect instruments but no longer or rusting will occur. Instruments must be rinsed in sterilized water afterward.
  • Soaking in 70% isopropyl alcohol for 30 minutes is also acceptable if you stockpiled on such items.Β  Some will even put instruments in a metal tray with alcohol and ignite them. The flame itself will do the part, although it may cause damage to the instruments in the long run
  • You can place them in boiling water for 30 minutes. However, this may not eliminate some bacterial spores and might cause issues with rusting, especially with knives and scissors
  • Start stockpiling on chemical solutions now. These products are specifically made for the purpose of high-level disinfection in case there is no source of heat. This is very important if you have medical instruments that are made of plastic.Β  A popular brand is Cidex OPA, a trade name for a solution with phthalaldehyde or glutaraldehyde as the active ingredient. To use this, simply insert the tools in a tray with the solution for 20 minutes for basic disinfection. You can also do it overnight to ensure its sterility. Try looking for test strips that can identify when the solution is contaminated. As an alternative, use 6-7.5% hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes
  • If you are in an area with power, take advantage of your oven. Wrap the instruments in aluminum foil or place them on a metal tray. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or, alternatively, 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.Β 
  • You can even make use of your pressure cooker for sterilizing your instruments! Hospitals use a type of pressure cooker called an autoclave that steams towels, instruments, bandages, and other items.
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