Which type of disinfectant is best for you?
Types of Disinfectants: Know what is best for you
Pathogens are germs that cause diseases and are a serious threat to humankind. To eliminate these pesky organisms, humans have tried to find multiple methods, both temporary & permanent. One of the most commonly used temporary methods to get rid of pathogens is the use of disinfectants. Now, how do you know which type of disinfectant is the best for you? Should you go for a natural one or a chemical one? This article will cover this topic. So, let’s begin without any further ado.
Why should we disinfect?
In the first place, why should we disinfect? We live along with microorganisms, many of which are harmless, but a few pesky ones may cause tremendous harm if they enter the human body. There are about 1 billion bacteria per square centimeter on the human body according to a scientific article. It has been found that there are trillions of microorganisms residing within the human body. The number is so large that these microorganisms outnumber human cells.
What would be the number of micro-organisms around the human body? The numbers are obviously staggering & in trillions. What if even 1% of them are pathogens? They can cause mayhem. A recent example could be the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Getting rid of these pathogens is a necessary exercise. To achieve this goal, disinfection is employed.
Permanent methods like vaccination may be helpful in case of a few viruses & bacteria. But, many diseases like common flu, common cold & cough, fever, and other such commonly occurring diseases don’t have the vaccination. In such cases, it becomes vital that one practices disinfection regularly. Using disinfectants, one can ensure safety. But, how do these disinfectants work?
How does a disinfectant work?
Broadly classifying, disinfectants are of two types, namely natural & chemical. Irrespective of their type, disinfectants have two components, namely active ingredients & other additives. When applied on the surface, the active ingredient interacts with pathogens. It is responsible for the elimination of pathogens which it achieves by destroying the structure of cells. This elimination is usual by destroying the protein structure of the cell. The additives like perfumes, surfactants, and others are added either to aid the functioning of disinfectants or for other purposes.
Note:- Always prefer to buy disinfectants registered with EPA. Check out EPA-approved disinfectants.
How to choose the right disinfectant?
Using the right disinfectant ensures that the disinfected area is free from pathogens & safe for human use, protecting human health. Moreover, the surface remains neat & clean too. This makes it extremely important to understand the selection of a correct disinfectant along with a proper application of the disinfectant on the surface.
Types of Disinfectants:
These are naturally available substances that have disinfectant properties. They are more environmentally friendly. Few natural disinfectants can be at par with even chemical disinfectants. So, they are an ideal choice if you are not dealing with tough viruses & bacteria. If you want to know more about natural ones then check out our blog on natural disinfectants. Here we will discuss only a couple of natural disinfectants.
- Alcohol (Ethyl alcohol & Rubbing alcohol or IPA) -
Concentrated alcohol is not a good disinfectant! Alcohol has to be diluted with water to make alcohol an effective disinfectant. It deals with a wide array of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Dilution of alcohol should be minimum and a concentration of 70% alcohol should be maintained for higher efficiency. Alcohol disinfectants are widely used for disinfecting smaller objects.
While alcohol is one of the most environmentally friendly, green disinfectants, it is also highly flammable. Due to this, they must be stored in a cool dry place away from children. They are highly volatile and this reduces the contact time to interact with the pathogens which in turn reduces the efficiency. They also have lower efficiency when applied on surfaces with high content of organic matter.
- Hydrogen peroxide -
A go-to disinfectant when dealing with the usual pathogens. Hydrogen peroxide acts as an active ingredient (always less than 10%) and destroys the pathogen cells. They are one of the safest, environmentally friendly, green disinfectants. It (H2O2) naturally breaks down into water & oxygen. They kill a wide range of bacteria & viruses at a brisk pace. Moreover, they also act as a cleaning agent. Hydrogen peroxide is capable of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus). When applied on a surface, it takes around a minute for hydrogen peroxide to completely destroy the pathogen.
Note:- Concentrated solutions of hydrogen peroxide must be avoided as they can be dangerous to use due to their low stability. The ideal concentration of H2O2 is around 3% to 5% only.
These disinfectants are man-made, usually tailor-made to deal with certain pathogens. These disinfectants may pose a risk to the environment but are highly target-specific. They usually are employed to disinfect large surfaces which require frequent disinfection like healthcare facilities.
They were long back used very commonly for disinfection purposes. Many pathogens have developed resistance to the aldehyde-based disinfectants. Moreover, they are found to cause respiratory issues when inhaled by humans. For using these disinfectants, they must be applied or present with an alkaline solution. They may also cause surface deterioration. Yet they are used to counter the Tuberculosis bacteria as they are most effective against those pathogens.
- Phenol & its derivatives
Once very widely used as disinfectants, phenol & its derivatives were replaced by the other disinfectants as Phenol & its derivatives were found highly toxic. They cause environmental damage, due to which they are banned in a few regions. Though they are considered one of the most effective disinfectants destroying a wide range of pathogens which include bacteria & viruses.
- Chlorine Disinfectants (Includes bleach)
They are capable of destroying a wide range of highly resistant pathogens. These disinfectants are chlorine compounds that have a quick kill time. Moreover, they are relatively easy to obtain, easy to use, and inexpensive. They are widely used while cleaning bodily fluids. Downsides, they can cause damage to the surface applied. They are used in healthcare facilities & industrial facilities.
- Iodine Disinfectants
These disinfectants are iodine compounds also called iodophors. They are used to disinfect medical types of equipment. They are not commercially used as disinfectants as they cause stains on the surfaces applied. Moreover, they give an iodine-like odor (which is highly unpleasant). They are now replaced by other safer disinfectants.
- Quats (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds)
These are similar to chlorine disinfectants, capable of eliminating a wide array of commonly found pathogens. They too have quick kill time and are inexpensive. They are capable of both cleaning & disinfecting which makes them an ideal choice for hospitals & industries. These disinfectants are capable of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus).
How to know which type of disinfectant is best for you?
While there are clear instructions mentioned on the label of the product about the area of application, it is important to know how to choose the best disinfectant for our application. Commercial & domestic disinfectants are quite different in composition owing to obvious reasons. The use of additives in the disinfectants is determined based on the active ingredient properties & area of application. For example, if you’re looking for a disinfectant for toilets, then go for chlorine-based disinfectants with added perfumes. Here are the four factors that you can use to assess accordingly. If the disinfectant ticks all of these, then go ahead and choose the disinfectant.
1. Efficiency & effectiveness
It is based on the type of surface, interaction time with the pathogen, and type of pathogens. There are many EPA-approved disinfectants against a particular type of pathogen. This makes your selection a bit easier. Disinfectants affecting a wide range of pathogens are always a better choice, but if you’re looking to deal with a particular pesky organism, then go ahead.
2. Safety & environmentally friendly
The disinfectant should not cause harm to nature. It should not be toxic & cause any health hazard. Always buy EPA-approved disinfectants. Always ensure that you wear PPE (if required for the particular disinfectant). Also, ensure that the disinfectant doesn’t cause any surface deterioration. Don’t forget to ensure whether the disinfectant is flammable or not. Check out the effects of disinfectants on the environment.
3. Kill time
Disinfectants require a particular duration of interaction with the pathogens to eliminate them. This means that the disinfectant must be intact on the surface till it eliminates the pathogen. Alcohol-based disinfectants have high volatility, so they may require rewetting. Quicker the kill time, the better the disinfectant.
4. Application method
The easiest the application method the better it is. If the application is simply one step procedure with minimal PPE & direction guidelines, then it is highly desirable. But many disinfectants may need a particular method of application to achieve better effectiveness & higher efficiency. For example, hydrogen peroxide & certain chlorine-based disinfectants can be sprayed by fogger machines to reach higher efficacy. You can check out the results of fogging disinfectants.
Disinfectants have played a vital role in eliminating the pathogens. But it is important to identify the type of disinfectant for our use. Consider the above-mentioned points for the assessment. Always ensure that the disinfectant is EPA-approved & non-toxic. Choosing the right disinfectant ensures the elimination of the pathogens, in turn keeping us safe & sound.