Types of Disinfectants: What to Consider While Choosing your Disinfectant

What is Disinfectant?

Almost every environment on Earth contains bacteria and micro organisms. It will be surprising for you to learn that on one square inch of human skin there are more than 600,000 bacteria. Most bacteria are harmless to humans. But the disease causing organisms are called pathogens that can not only be dangerous but even deadly. One of the most contagious diseases of 2020 has been COVID-19.

Thereby using right types of disinfectants regularly on surfaces throughout your facility is critical in helping prevent the spread of diseases and sicknesses like colds, Influenza and even COVID-19. Since, we all know that there are many types of disinfectants in the market hence it is very important to understand how they work. Keeping in view, their advantages and disadvantages in order to make a rightful decision on how to best disinfect and protect the people in your community.

How the Disinfectants Work?

Disinfectants are basically chemical agents applied to non-living objects in order to destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold or other living organisms on the objects. As per the definition, a disinfectant formula must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The active ingredient in every disinfectant formula is factor that kills pathogens, usually by disrupting or damaging their cells. Active ingredients are usually aided by other ingredients with varied purposes. For example, Surfactants can be added to a disinfectant formula to provide consistent wetting on a surface or to help in cleaning.

Several broad categories of disinfectants are used in commercial and industrial facility maintenance. Mentioned below are some of the most common types of disinfectants. While not an exhaustive list, these covers the large majority used today. If you’d like more detailed information on the pros and cons of these types of disinfectants, reference Nyco’s Liquid Disinfectants 101 chart.

  1. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats) - A top choice for disinfection in a hospital and institutional settings because of its 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. Nyco’s RTU disinfectant is an example of a quat-based disinfectant with both cleaning power and broad spectrum kill claims for many common and dangerous bacteria and viruses (including emerging pathogens and SARS-CoV-2).
  1. Chlorine Compounds – It kills an array of organisms including resistant viruses and is highly recommended for cleaning bodily fluids. Chlorine-based disinfectants are inexpensive and have relatively faster killing time, however they can be harmful and cause discoloration as well as irritation if not used as directed. Chlorine Sanitizer is an example of a chlorine disinfectant, ideal for use in healthcare settings and food preparation processing.
  1. 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 downside of it is that it evaporates quickly, they are highly flammable and may not have organic soil toleranceclaims, which means they may not be effective when organic matter for eg.: blood is present.
  1. Aldehydes - Very effective against the bacteria that causes 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 be a cause asthma and other health problems. They can also leave greasy residue and must be in an alkaline solution.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Hydrogen Peroxide - When formulated as ready-to-use disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide-based products are viewed as being “greener” and more sustainable for the environment. This is because they break down into the naturally-occurring elements of hydrogen and oxygen. They are mildly acidic and are effective cleaners. At high concentrations (of hydrogen peroxide) they can become unstable and dangerous.

What to Consider When Choosing Your Disinfectant

There are four primary considerations you should evaluate when choosing a disinfectant to best meet the needs of your facility. Answering these questions will give you a framework for helping determine the best product(s) to use in your organization.

  1. Effectiveness

Does a disinfectant kill the microbes and pathogens that are of top concern. For example, you may be highly concerned about Staphylococcus aureus Methicillin Resistant (MRSA). Some disinfectants are EPA approved as effective against this bacteria. Clorox Pro 4 is one such disinfectant. Keeping this in mind, that pathogens can have multiple strains. The disinfectants are certified for specific strains. Uno is also effective against Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) Community Associated Methicillin Resistant. Depending on the industry and community type – healthcare, education, long-term care and hospitality – you will have varying needs and requirements.

  1. Kill Time

Once again, disinfectant formulas are registered to kill specific pathogens in a specific amount of time and they need to be on a wet surface the entire time to be working actively. Thirty seconds to five minutes might be a standard killing time. If a disinfectant needs 10 minutes though, be sure it will actually stay wet that long. Alcohol-based disinfectants may well evaporate before their required contact time. Read and follow all directions for use.

  1. Safety

Some categories of disinfectants are toxic, some stain, others are disruptive, yet others have an undesirable odour. Check toxicity and flammability ratings on products, as well as any personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations for disinfectants you apply. Be sure a disinfectant should not damage any surface it is intended to be used upon.

  1. Ease of Use

Some applications require multiple steps that may not always be convenient. Water hardness is one factor that can impact the effectiveness of some disinfectant formulas. Lysol disinfectant spray cleans and disinfects in just one step, making it a top choice for an easy, ready-to-use use disinfectant that addresses a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses, fungi and mildew in hospitals, institutions, and industry.

Going through the information about various types of disinfectants takes time, but it’s a critical step to ensure that you are making the best maintenance decision for your community. Having the right products on hand along with a solid plan to prevent disease and infection will save effort and expense down the lane and bring  peace of mind to you, your staff and any visitors that come through your doors.

Final verdict

It is imperative to have an in-depth know how about the disinfectants as each of it varies in its usage, effects, corrosion, colour and odour. Keep in view the safety standards as prescribed and its effectiveness in the facility.