What Temperature Kills Bacteria – What Should You Need To Know

What Temperature Kills Bacteria – What Should You Need To Know

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One of the most common dilemmas that come up when you want to disinfect nearby surfaces or food from bacterias is which temperature is ideal for removing harmful bacterias. Is cold temperature the answer we are looking for, or do you resort to using heat to kill bacterias?

Before we start looking for the temperatures that can kill bacterias, it is important to learn about how bacterias are related to temperature. And whether it is even possible to completely eliminate bacterias from substances.

To help you understand that we are going to start by finding out what temperature kills bacteria, which temperature stops bacterial growth, which one is ideal for them to multiply to understand the nature of bacterias.

So, keep reading to know more.

The Ideal Temperature for Bacteria Growth

One of the most important factors to consider here is that bacterias can only grow and multiply at a certain range of temperature. The majority of bacterias grow in moist environments where the temperature is between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit.

When at room temperature, bacteria growth can double every 20 minutes as they can multiply in numbers over a short period. As they can survive in temperatures up to 140 Fahrenheit, you will need a temperature higher than 140 degrees to kill bacterias effectively.

Bacterias stop multiplying when they are in an environment that is below 32 degrees F (0 degree Celsius). But once the food has thawed, the bacterias swing back in action to reactive and multiply.

So if you do not have the necessary equipment to disinfect food by heating or cooking them, you should refrigerate them for the time being.

Do Cold Temperature Kill Bacteria?

A common misconception about bacterias is that they cannot survive cold environments. In fact, cold temperatures do not kill bacterias, but they can prevent them from spreading as long as they are in a cold environment.

When exposed to a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, you can freeze all bacterias in an inactive state where they cannot multiply in numbers. However, the bacterias will be able to multiply themselves the moment the environment around them reaches any temperature ranging from 40F to 140F.

Also, cold temperatures that can freeze bacterias can be dangerous for people if you are trying out this method at your home.  If you want to sanitize your home, cranking up your air conditioning is a horrible idea, where instead of freezing bacterias, you have a higher chance of freezing yourself.

By using a refrigerator instead, you will be able to freeze bacteria if you want to preserve food before cooking; this brings us to the next question.

Can Hot Temperature Kill Bacteria?

Hot temperatures can kill almost any bacteria when it is above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why you should always keep your food refrigerated and cook it at a high temperature before you eat them.

While cooking food, it is best if you cook them at a temperature of 165 degrees to ensure that no harmful bacterias are remaining. If you attempt to remove all bacterias, you will have to heat your food to a temperature where it loses its taste and flavor.

However, do not worry about removing all bacterias. If you remove the harmful bacterias from objects that reduce the number of bacterias radically to the point where it is safe for consumption or use, you are good to go.

Bacteria Killing Agents That Use Heat

The process of killing bacterias by exposing them to certain levels of heat is known as sterilization. It physically and chemically damages cells which allow us to eliminate bacterias through this process. Some of these processes include:

  • Flaming

This method is widely used in both labs and at home. You can sterilize objects by passing them few times through a Bunsen flame and removing them before they turn extremely hot. This way, the bacteria is burnt by the flame of the burner.

Needles, glass slides, scalpels are usually sterilized with this method as these items can not be held directly in the flame.

  • Radiation

Almost all the packaged foods are exposed to radiation to eradicate bacterias before they are packaged to ensure quality. Radiation kills bacterias by damaging the DNA of the cells.

  • Boiling

One of the most popular methods of killing bacterias that uses moist heat would be boiling. For boiling drinking water, make sure that you boil for at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Suppose you want to disinfect smaller objects made of silicone, steel, aluminum, or materials that can withstand high exposure. In that case, you can disinfect them by putting them into boiling water for four to five minutes. This process sterilizes objects by completely removing or killing bacteria from the surface.

Why Using Heat Is the Best Method of Killing Bacteria?

One of the best alternatives for using heat to kill bacteria would be a chemical disinfectant that disrupts the cell processes of bacterias to destroy them.

However, while you are using a disinfectant, a widely known and used method that effectively kills bacterias, there are many downsides to using and producing disinfectant by the bulk. They only kill the bacteria in the places they are directly applied to and are not always environmentally friendly to produce.

On the other hand, thermal or heat disinfection is usually slower than using a chemical disinfectant. But it can also penetrate material for complete disinfection when you are using a thermal heater that is specialized to spread heat evenly and gradually.

This gradual spreading of heat is essential to eliminate the risks of thermal shocks that can occur when an object is exposed to the rapid change of heat in its surrounding temperature.

Final Words

It is nearly impossible to remove bacterias entirely from objects or food by exposing them to high temperatures when you are cleaning or storing food at home. However, if you can kill enough of the bacterias with high temperatures, you will be safe from the harmful bacterias.

And now that you know what temperature kills bacteria and how to use temperature to kill them, keeping your house and food safe from bacterias will be easy as pie!


1. www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Health-and-Safety/Food-Safety-FAQ/What-conditions-encourage-bacteria-to-grow

2. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7361064/

3. www.health.state.mn.us/people/foodsafety/cook/cooktemp.html

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