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Types of Disinfectants: How to Make the Best Choice for Your Facility

Why Disinfect?
Almost every environment on the planet contains bacteria and microorganisms. You might be surprised to learn that on one square inch of skin there are more than 600,000 bacteria. Most are harmless to humans. But disease-causing organisms – called pathogens – can be dangerous or even deadly!
Using the right types of disinfectants regularly on surfaces throughout your facility is critical in helping prevent the spread of colds, Flu, and other sicknesses. Since there are many types of disinfectants on the market, it’s important to understand how they work – including their pros and cons— in order to make an informed decision on how to best disinfect and protect your facility and the people in it.
How do Disinfectants Work?
Disinfectants are chemical agents applied to non-living objects in order to destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold or mildews living on the objects. By definition, disinfectant formulas must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The “active ingredient” in each disinfectant formula is what kills pathogens, usually by disrupting or damaging their cells. Active ingredients are usually aided by other ingredients with various purposes. For example, surfactants can be added to a disinfectant formula to provide consistent wetting on a surface or to help in cleaning.
Main Types of Disinfectants, Categorically Speaking
Several broad categories of disinfectants are used in commercial and industrial facility maintenance. Below are several of the most common types. While not an exhaustive list, these cover the large majority used today. If you’d like more detailed information on the pros and cons of these types of disinfectants.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats) 
A top choice for disinfection in hospital and institutional settings because of their low cost and quick action against a wide range of microorganisms. Quats can be formulated with a variety of detergents to provide both cleaning and disinfecting ability.
Chlorine Compounds 
Kill an array of organisms including resistant viruses, and are highly recommended for cleaning bodily fluids. Chlorine-based disinfectants are inexpensive and have relatively quick kill times, however they can be corrosive and cause discoloration as well as irritation if not used as directed. Chlorine Sanitizer II is an example of a chlorine disinfectant, ideal for use in healthcare settings and food preparation processing.
Alcohols 
When diluted in water, alcohols are effective against a wide range of bacteria, though higher concentrations are often needed to disinfect wet surfaces. The downsides are they evaporate quickly (and thus may not remain on the surface long enough to kill), they’re flammable, and they may not have organic soil tolerance claims, meaning they may not be effective when organic matter (blood, for example) is present.
Aldehydes 
Very effective against the bacteria that cause Tuberculosis, yet they need a high part per million (ppm) ratio to be effective for disinfection. Some bacteria have developed a resistance to aldehydes, and have been found to cause asthma and other health problems. They can also leave greasy residue and must be in an alkaline solution.
Iodophors 
Can be used for disinfecting some semi-critical medical equipment but they can stain surfaces and have an unpleasant odor (think Iodine). Idophors aren’t often used in facility maintenance anymore.
Phenolic Compounds 
Effective against pathogenic bacteria including Mycobacterium tuberculosis as well as fungi and viruses, but also very toxic and corrosive, attacking surfaces while they attack the organisms on them. Some areas enforce disposal restrictions on Phenols.
Hydrogen Peroxide 
Often mixed with peracetic acid to achieve specific disinfecting claims. These strong oxidizers can be highly reactive if mixed with other chemicals or come in contact with various surfaces. Their efficacy range is somewhat limited and at high concentrations they are dangerous. All in all, there are much better choices than hydrogen peroxide for facility disinfecting.Household and Denture

 

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