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Sterile technique

Sterile gloves; Wound care - sterile technique; Catheter care - sterile technique

Sterile means free from germs. When you care for your catheter or surgery wound, you 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.

Follow your health care provider's instructions on using sterile technique. Use the information below as a reminder of the steps.

Sterile Technique

Carefully follow all of the steps 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

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 against them while you go through the steps. If you need to cough or sneeze, turn your head away from your supplies and cover your mouth firmly with the crook of your elbow.

Getting Your Supplies Ready

To open a sterile pad or kit:

  • Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 1 minute. Wash the backs, palms, fingers, thumbs 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 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 (2.5 centimeters) border around it.
  • Throw the wrapper away.

Your gloves may be separate or inside the kit. 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

When putting on your gloves:

  • Put your gloves on carefully.
  • 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 lying 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 your thumb touch your skin.
  • Both gloves will have a folded-over cuff. Reach under the cuffs and pull back toward 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 provider if you are having trouble using the sterile technique or you suspect infection has set in.


Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold M, Gonzalez L. Wound care and dressings. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold M, Gonzalez L, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson; 2017:chap 25.

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Review Date: 7/21/2022

Reviewed By: Frank D. Brodkey, MD, FCCM, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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