Updated: May 25
When we hear the word ‘disinfectant,’ I’d say the vast majority of us think of brands such as Lysol or Clorox ̶ products you can find on virtually any supermarket shelf.
The truth is that there are almost as many brands and types of disinfectant on the market as there are stars in the sky. Well, maybe not that many, but let’s just say a lot! So how do you even know what kind of disinfectant you need? Or how to choose the best disinfectant?
Before we delve into the various types of disinfectant, as well as their pros and cons, it’s worth keeping mind this warning, from China’s Occupational and Health Council in Hong Kong:
“In choosing a disinfectant, both the disinfecting properties and safety have to be considered. Many chemicals are corrosive, toxic or irritants. If used improperly or not according to instructions on the proper protection, accidents can happen.”
What Are Disinfectants, Exactly?
Now, if you answered, "Something that kills germs," you’d be correct...sort of. In fact, disinfectants are antimicrobial substances that can be applied to inanimate surfaces to kill microorganisms that might be present. However, contrary to popular belief, disinfectants can not eradicate every microorganism in existence, in particular highly-resistant bacterial spores!
And unlike antibiotics, which target microorganisms within the body, disinfectants operate externally. Generally speaking disinfectants are designed to kill bacteria as quickly as possible, which is why they’re used so often in hospitals and other health care facilities.
And disinfectants don’t just kill bacteria. They are also often extremely effective in eliminating viruses, fungi, mold or mildews on surfaces and inanimate objects.
Plus, every disinfectant on the market must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Failure to do so can result in some pretty serious governmental push-back.
The Main Types of Disinfectant
As we said, there are all sorts of disinfectants, but there are roughly seven major types in use today. Here is a brief run-down of the categories:
Alcohols Alcohol is very effective when it comes to combating bacteria and can also be readily combined with water, although fairly high concentrations are called for if you’re disinfecting wet surfaces. The drawback to using alcohols is that are highly flammable and tend to evaporate quickly. Plus, their effectiveness is limited when it comes to dealing with organic matter, such as blood.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds These compounds (or ‘quats’ as they are commonly known) are widely used in hospitals and institutions, not so much because of their efficacy but because they’re relatively cheap and are effective against a broad of microorganisms. An added plus is that quats can be combined with a broad array of detergents for both cleaning and disinfecting use.
Phenolic Compounds Phenolic compounds are especially effective against pathogenic bacteria, as well as fungi and viruses. The downside is that they’re extremely toxic and highly corrosive and will often damage the surfaces being treated.
Chlorine Compounds Chlorine compounds will eradicate a broad range of organisms, including resistant viruses. As such, they are widely used for cleaning bodily fluids. They also have the advantage of being inexpensive and fast acting. The downside is that many of them are corrosive and hard to handle.
Aldehydes Again, a very effective anti-bacterial agent, although they do need a high part per million ratio in order to be completely effective. Unfortunately, certain strains of bacteria have already developed a resistance to aldehydes, which obviously lowers their overall effectiveness. Plus, aldehydes have also been connected to asthma and other health problems.
Iodophors Idophors are not used that often these days ̶ although they can be used for disinfecting some semi-critical medical equipment ̶ but they tend to stain surfaces and have a very disagreeable smell.
Hydrogen Peroxide Finally, we have the old standby, hydrogen peroxide. HP can be fairly effective, although it can be highly reactive if it’s mixed with other chemicals or comes in contact with certain surfaces. The truth is that its usefulness is limited and it can be dangerous if used in high enough concentrations. Bottom line: There are better and more effective, choices available.
And Not Forgetting...
To this list we should add our own Sterifab®, not because we’re being particularly partisan, but because it is by far the best disinfect on the market. If you're not convinced, read on.
One thing that sets Sterifab apart is its versatility. It is the ultimate all-purpose product. Oftentimes people think that the best disinfectant to use depends on their particular situation. Some brands are designed to kill diverse sorts of microorganisms (these are referred to as being ‘wide spectrum’); others may be designed to eradicate a smaller assortment of microorganisms. Not only is Sterifab one of the best disinfectant sprays on the market, but it makes for an excellent bed bug spray. It can also be used as a disinfectant spray for mattresses and to get rid of scabies.
Sterifab works by destroying the microbes at the cellular level or hindering their basic metabolic functions. That’s why it’s is commonly used in hospitals, prisons, dental surgeries, kitchens, bathrooms, offices ̶ anywhere that humans live or work.
Sterifab is precisely engineered to:
Kill mold and mildew
Kill germs and disinfects
Destroy pathogenic odors
Plus, it not only reduces the level of microorganisms from a variety of sites, but also functions as a bacteriostatic ̶ that is, it inhibits bacterial growth ̶ and as a highly effective fungistatic, preventing otherwise hard-to-control fungal growth.
Important Safety Tips
How to Safely Use Disinfectants
Handling disinfectants safely is paramount, wherever they are used. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has some very useful safety advice vis a vis the safe handling of disinfectants and can be found here.
OSHA notwithstanding, the following safety measures should be taken when using and/or storing disinfectants:
Don’t eat, drink, or store food in any area that contains disinfectants.
Wash your hands and face immediately after using any disinfectant.
Keep storage areas well ventilated
Always follow the usage instructions suggested by the manufacturer
Never mix disinfectants with other cleaning agents, unless expressly permitted.
Store disinfectants in cool, dry and well-ventilated areas.
Do not store incompatible chemicals together.
Always dispose of disinfectants properly and in accordance with the law.
Always use personal protective equipment, when needed.
Understand emergency measures thoroughly.
And remember, if you have any questions or concerns about how, and where, to use Sterifab, you can contact us at any time.