I already found '汚染除去' or '除染' for the English 'decontamination' but it seems, both imply cleansing from radiation. Radiation can be, but is not automatically implied in 'decontamination'. I'm looking for a word in Japanese that doesn't automatically imply radiation. Specifically, I'm looking for a medical term to decontaminate instruments, implants and such after usage in surgery. Hope, someone can help!

Edit: A colleague of mine mentioned '蒸気滅菌', does anyone know whether that's used for 'decontamination' when radiation is not involved?

  • 1
    See the Japanese wikipedia entry on 消毒, which starts off with an explanation of the difference between 消毒, 滅菌, and 殺菌: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%B6%88%E6%AF%92
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 11:49
  • There is a word "コンタミ" in Japanese derived from "contamination". It isn't a word used by general Japanese people, but is a technical term commonly used by engineers and scholars in the fields of chemistry, pharmaceutical science and medicine. I recommend you to check the word if you are interested in it. Although "コンタミ" is close to "汚染{おせん}" or "異物混入{いぶつこんにゅう}" for the people who use "コンタミ" as a term has little meaning of contamination by radiactive substances.
    – user20624
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 15:12
  • According to wikipedia and looking through google, that's mainly used for contaminated lab experiments, and the opposite "デコンタミ" only gives 86 results on google...
    – Rieke
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 15:33
  • For your use, we often use the term with "煮沸{しゃふつ}消毒{しょうどく}". This will kill disease-causing germs/bacteria etc. attached to surgical instruments etc. by boiling water.
    – user20624
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 4:15

2 Answers 2


The meaning of "decontamination" is written here.
According to the article, decontamination doesn't always mean to remove radioactive substances. Neither does 汚染除去{おせんじょきょ} or 除染{じょせん}. As for 汚染除去 or 除染, there may be a large proportion of meaning to remove radioactive substances compared to decontamination, but as with 汚染除去 or 除染, they mean not only to remove radioactive pollutants but also to remove various substances harmful to human health. The harmful substance differs depending on the field, but I think that it is germs or infectious diseases at the site of surgery.

In this sense, Japanese "滅菌{めっきん}", "殺菌{さっきん}" or "消毒{しょうどく}" written in user27280's answer is more suitable than "除染" which has a broader meaning.

Medical or chemical liquid/agent that realizes 滅菌/殺菌/消毒 is called 消毒剤{しょうどくざい}/消毒液{しょうどくえき}/殺菌剤/殺菌液/殺菌消毒剤 written in user27280's answer and instruments that realize 滅菌/殺菌/消毒 are called "滅菌器具{めっきんきぐ}/殺菌器具/消毒器具 including "蒸気滅菌器/蒸気滅菌器具". The part of "蒸気" varies depending on the means by which "滅菌" is carried out. If germs or bacteria can be killed with ultraviolet light instead of steam, there is an instrument called 紫外線{しがいせん}滅菌器/紫外線滅菌器具.

  • Thank you for this detailed answer, I get your point. My initial problem was that my Japanese colleagues did take 汚染除去 as involving radiation, and 消毒 normally (also in the explanation on wikipedia @droooze provided) means 'getting rid of 菌'. Decontamination in medical sense means cleaning every foreign body possibly attached, not only bacteria. I hoped there was a word that came close to this meaning without implying radiation, but I guess I have to go with 蒸気滅菌 as my colleague suggested.
    – Rieke
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 12:47

Are you perhaps looking for the word 'disinfect'?

Antiseptic agent 消毒剤{しょうどくざい}

Antiseptic liquid 消毒液{しょうどくえき}

Antibacterial agent 殺菌剤{さっきんざい}

Antibacterial liquid 殺菌液{さっきんえき}

Antibacterial/Antiseptic 殺菌消毒剤{さっきんしょうどくざい}

Usually products are branded with the catch-all 消毒剤/消毒液, but when reading the 'type of product' definition, it will be listed as 殺菌消毒剤.

In verb form, the word for 'disinfect' is either 殺菌する or the more common 消毒する.

  • No, I'm not looking for 'disinfection' but 'decontamination' in the medical sense of cleaning used instruments after surgery. One of my coworkers meanwhile mentioned '蒸気滅菌', I think I will go with that in the future, even though I'm not sure it has the same meaning as 'decontamination'. So if someone knows a better word or can assure me, that the latter has the same meaning, I would be grateful! But thank you for your effort!
    – Rieke
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 8:53
  • 2
    @Rieke 蒸気滅菌 means sterilisation of medical instruments using an autoclave.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 11:52

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