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What are the different types of disinfectants and what are their uses?

Using the correct type of disinfectant regularly on surfaces you frequently come in contact with becomes crucial to help prevent the spread of illnesses and diseases.

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We are familiar with the popular adage that cleanliness is next to godliness. It is undoubtedly true as unclean surfaces become breeding grounds for bacteria and microorganisms to multiply. With the pandemic, the emphasis on maintaining hygienic has only increased. People are keener to learn about disinfection than before.

Using the correct type of disinfectant regularly on surfaces you frequently come in contact with becomes crucial to help prevent the spread of illnesses and diseases like the common cold, influenza etc.

What is a Disinfectant?

Disinfectants are chemical agents applied on inert surfaces and objects to destroy viruses, bacteria, fungi, mould, mildew, etc., living on them. Disinfectants typically kill the cell wall of microbes or interfere with their metabolism. They are used extensively in hospitals, kitchens, bathrooms and for home sanitization to eliminate infectious organisms.

Methods of Disinfection

Physical Methods of Disinfection

There are three physical methods of disinfection:


Boiling is a very simple yet effective method of water disinfection. Heating water to a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius kills most of the pathogenic organisms, especially bacteria and viruses that cause waterborne diseases.


Pasteurisation is a method of heating food to kill germs present in the food and make it safe for consumption. 90 to 99 % of viruses and bacteria present in the food will be killed by this process. 

Non-ionising Radiation

Using non-ionising radiation, such as UV light, is another method of physical disinfection. UV light is used for surface cleaning and disinfecting smooth surfaces like dental tools but not porous material like wood or foam. UV light also treats municipal drinking water.

Chemical Methods of Disinfection

When chemicals are used to destroy microorganisms on surfaces, it is known as a chemical method of disinfection. They are three types of chemical disinfectants:  

Low Level Disinfectants

These disinfectants rapidly kill most vegetative bacteria and medium-sized lipid-containing viruses when used as per the instructions mentioned on the label. Examples include alcohol, phenols, and quaternary ammonium compounds.

Intermediate Level Disinfectants

When used according to the instructions mentioned on the label, this type of disinfectant can kill all microbial pathogens. Examples include sodium hypochlorite and Iodophors.

High-Level Disinfectants

When used according to the instructions mentioned on the label, high-level disinfectants can kill all microbial pathogens, excluding large numbers of bacterial endospores. Examples include aldehydes, hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid etc.

What are the Uses of Disinfectants?

Various types of disinfectants are used in hospitals, business establishments, government organisations, schools, and homes to kill or reduce the number of pathogens on surfaces, thereby preventing diseases. Medical instruments and PPE used in healthcare settings also need to be disinfected effectively to keep healthcare workers as well as patients safe and healthy.


  1. How quickly can disinfectant products kill a particular pathogen?

Different types of disinfectant formulas are registered to kill a specific pathogen in a particular amount of time. Generally, thirty seconds to five minutes is typical kill time.

  1. What about the safety of disinfectants?

Some types of disinfectants are toxic, some can stain, and others can corrode and some also emanate an unpleasant odour. It is recommended to read the toxicity and flammability ratings on the disinfectant products and follow any personal protective equipment recommendations if need be. You can be certain that a disinfectant will not damage a surface that it is intended for.

  1. Does using a disinfectant involve multiple steps?

Using some types of disinfectant products may need multiple steps that may not be a feasible option for many. Also as mentioned earlier, water hardness can also affect the efficacy of a disinfectant. Disinfectants like Dettol Disinfectant Spray helps in surface cleaning and disinfects in one step making it a top choice for an easy ready to use disinfectant that can get rid of a broad spectrum of bacteria, fungi, mildew etc in institutions, hospitals and other industries.

  1. What health risks may arise in households from the use of disinfectants?

There is a possibility of accidents to occur with disinfectants and detergents. E.g. Chemical burns may occur depending on the active substances present in the disinfectant. If ingested, chemical burns can occur in the gastrointestinal tract. It can also cause allergies to people with skin sensitivities. To avoid such incidents consumers using disinfectants must ensure they are used correctly and stored safely. The warnings mention on the packaging and other instructions must be followed strictly.

  1. Are disinfectants necessary to prevent infectious diseases?

Even though microorganisms are found everywhere in the environment, it is not necessary that all of them will cause diseases. In fact, many of them even have protective and supportive functions ( for example the microorganisms found on our skin and inside our gut). However, to avoid any kind of health risks, it is essential that all basic hygiene rules are adhered to, whether it’s at home or your workplace. 

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