Skip to main content

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health Encyclopedia

Sterile technique

Alternative Names

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

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. 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, 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 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 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 your 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.


Perry AG, Potter PA. Sterile technique. In: Perry AG, Potter PA, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills and Techniques. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 8.

Review Date:8/22/2016
Reviewed By:Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

We Appreciate Your Feedback!
1. Did you find this information useful?
2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?