Sterile technique

Sterile means "free from germs." When you care for your catheter or surgery wound, you will need to take steps to avoid spreading germs. Some cleaning and care procedures need to be done in a sterile way so that you do not get an infection. Carefully follow all of the steps described below to keep your work area sterile.

You will need:

  • Running water and soap
  • A sterile kit or pad
  • Gloves (sometimes these are in your kit)
  • A clean, dry surface
  • Clean paper towels

It’s important to wash your hands well and keep all work surfaces clean and dry at all times. When you handle supplies, touch only the outside wrappers with your bare hands. You may need to wear a mask over your nose and mouth.

Keep your supplies within your reach so you do not drop or rub up against them when you are reaching. If you need to cough or sneeze, turn your head away from your supplies and cover your mouth with your upper arm.

Getting Your Supplies Ready

Follow these steps to open up a sterile pad or kit:

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 1 minute. Wash the backs, palms, fingers, and between your fingers thoroughly. Wash for as long as it takes you to slowly say the alphabet or sing the "Happy Birthday" song 2 times through. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Use the special flap to start to pull back the paper wrapper of your pad or kit. Open it so that the inside faces away from you.
  • Pinch the other sections on the outside, and pull them back gently. Do not touch the inside. Everything inside the pad or kit is sterile except for the 1-inch border around it.
  • You can drop other supplies onto the middle of the pad. Throw the wrapper away.

Your gloves may be separate or inside your sterile kit. Follow these steps to get your gloves ready:

  • Wash your hands again the same way you did the first time. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  • If the gloves are in your kit, pinch the glove wrapper to pick it up, and place it on a clean, dry surface next to the pad.
  • If the gloves are in a separate package, open the outer wrapper and place the open package on a clean, dry surface next to the pad.

Putting on Your Gloves

It’s important to put your gloves on carefully. Follow these steps:

  • Wash your hands again the same way you did the first time. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Open the wrapper so that the gloves are laying out in front of you, but do not touch them.
  • With your writing hand, grab the other glove by the folded wrist cuff.
  • Slide the glove onto your hand. It helps to keep your hand straight and thumb tucked in.
  • Leave the cuff folded. Be careful not to touch the outside of the glove.
  • Pick up the other glove by sliding your fingers into the cuff.
  • Slip the glove over the fingers of this hand. Keep your hand flat and do not let the thumb touch your skin.
  • Both gloves will have a folded over cuff. Reach under the cuffs and pull back towards your elbow.

Once your gloves are on, do not touch anything except your sterile supplies. If you do touch something else, remove the gloves, wash your hands again, and go through the steps to open and put on a new pair of gloves.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you are having trouble using the sterile technique.

Alternate Names

Sterile gloves

Update Date: 8/10/2012

Updated by: Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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