Conor Clifford

By: Conor Clifford on December 12th, 2021

Print/Save as PDF

What Are The Types of Commercial Disinfectants? Pros and Cons [VIDEO]

Illness-causing germs, also known as pathogens, are easily spread throughout your facility. Routine disinfection is the most effective way to minimize the spread of germs.

But, you need the right disinfectant to make sure that the germs (bacteria and viruses) on surfaces throughout your building are being killed.

With the right disinfectant, you will ensure facility cleanliness and occupant health and safety.

There are several types of chemical disinfectants to choose from. Given that, it's important to understand how they work and what the pros and cons of each are.

Chemical disinfectants vary in the different pathogens that they target and kill. There are also other factors to consider when choosing the best chemical disinfectant for your facility.

The best disinfectant for you will not only be effective at killing the germs and bacteria that put your guests at risk but also be safe to use around the surfaces and people in your building.

Below, we’ll review the different types of chemical disinfectants and their advantages and disadvantages so you can pick the right one for your facility.

Commercial Disinfectants: What Are The Different Types? 

What is a Commercial Disinfectant?

Disinfectants kill 100% of the germs and bacteria listed on the manufacturer’s label when used properly.

To be considered a commercial grade disinfectant, it must be tested and registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

EPA registered disinfectants have undergone extensive testing to measure their effectiveness against the germs and bacteria listed on the product’s label.

What Are The Different Types Of Commercial Disinfectants? 

There are 6 popular chemical ingredients that are commonly used in commercial disinfectant products. 

The common chemical disinfectant ingredients are:

  1. Quats
  2. Iodophors
  3. Hypochlorites
  4. Peroxide
  5. Phenolics
  6. Alcohols

Each of these different ingredients has unique characteristics. We’ll review the different chemicals used in disinfectant products to help you better understand which would be the best option for your facility’s situation. 

Quats

Quats, or quaternary ammonium compounds, are very commonly used in disinfecting solutions because they’re highly effective against a wide range of germs and bacteria.

Some disinfectants that contain quats can be used as cleaner/disinfectants, which means they can be used to complete 1-step disinfection. 

Advantages

Quat-based disinfectants are usually odorless, noncorrosive, and will not stain your surfaces.

If your facility is looking for an environmentally friendly disinfectant, quats are biodegradable, though they may be toxic to marine animals.

Quat-based disinfectants are popularly used for disinfection in hospitals and institutions because they’re a low-cost option. 

Disadvantages

The efficacy of quat-based disinfectants is affected by the number of soils that are present on a surface. As mentioned, some quat-based disinfectants may be used as a cleaner/disinfectant, however, if a surface is heavily soiled, the effectiveness of the disinfectant will be reduced.

If quats are used with the wrong cleaning method or cloth type, the efficacy of the disinfectant may be reduced as well. This is known as quat-binding. Quat-Binding

Quat binding occurs when quats are absorbed by the cloth used to apply them. This can be dangerous because the disinfectant is no longer able to kill germs on a surface, leading to increased germ spread.

Quat-based disinfectants should only be used with non-woven or disposable cloths. Some disposable single-use microfiber cloths may also eliminate the risk of quat-binding.

Using the spray and wipe method can also further eliminate the chances of quat binding during surface disinfection.

Iodophors

Iodophors are a combination of iodine and a carrier detergent. In order to use an iodophor-based disinfectant, the solution must be diluted.

Iodophor-based disinfectants are most commonly used in medical facilities to disinfect certain types of medical equipment, like blood culture bottles, hydrotherapy tanks, and thermometers.

Some iodophor-based disinfectants can be used as a cleaner/disinfectant in a 1-step disinfection process.

Advantages

One advantage of iodophors is that they aren’t negatively affected by the presence of hard water. This makes them viable for use in some facilities that don’t have access to soft water.

Iodophors easily kill germs and bacteria by penetrating the cell walls.

Disadvantages

Iodophors can stain surfaces, more commonly plastics, when used as a disinfectant. This means that iodophor-based disinfectants shouldn’t be used on plastic surfaces or surfaces that are easily stained. 

Iodophor-based disinfectants are generally more expensive than other disinfectant types.

Hypochlorites

Clorox Germicidal BleachHypochlorite-based disinfectants are very effective against many types of germs and bacteria.

The most common hypochlorite disinfectant is sodium hypochlorite, which is more commonly known as household bleach.

Hypochlorite-based disinfectants are beneficial for many different facility types. 

If you’re going to use a hypochlorite-based disinfectant, it should always be used with the two-step cleaning and disinfection process. Hypochlorites don’t have any cleaning power, so it is necessary that surfaces are cleaned before being applied.

Advantages

When it is used correctly, hypochlorites can be a powerful tuberculocidal agent. Tuberculocidal means that a disinfectant is effective against tuberculosis.

Hypochlorites are also safe for use on food prep and other foodservice surfaces, given that the proper dilution ratio is used.

Sodium Hypochlorite is a low-cost option for disinfection, so it can be used by a variety of facility types.

Disadvantages

Hypochlorites, though effective at killing and removing germs and bacteria from a surface, are easily affected by the presence of soils. This means that if there are soils present on a surface, a hypochlorite-based disinfectant will not be able to effectively kill germs. 

When used as a disinfectant, your staff must take the proper precautions. Hypochlorites can give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have a negative effect on the lungs and may cause a reaction when it comes in contact with the skin and eyes.

Hypochlorite-based disinfectants are corrosive. When used repeatedly on a surface, the disinfectant chemical may start to eat away at surfaces.

Peroxide

Spartan Clean by PeroxyPeroxide-based disinfectants are fairly new to having U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval. 

When used in a disinfectant, peroxide-based chemical disinfectants have germicidal, bactericidal, and virucidal properties that make them a powerful disinfectant.

Advantages

Disinfectants that have peroxide as an active ingredient are quicker at killing germs than traditional disinfectants.

Peroxide-based disinfectants are sustainable because they break down into natural elements, which makes them good for use in facilities with sustainability goals. 

Disadvantages

In some applications, like during floor disinfection, the peroxide chemical can lead to surface etching. Surface etching can cause a dull floor finish appearance and require an additional floor care procedure to counteract it.

Phenolics

Phenol, which is the main ingredient in phenolic-based disinfectants, has a wide range of germ and bacteria kill claims and are tuberculocidal.

Many disinfectants that have phenolics as an active ingredient can be used as a cleaner/disinfectant. This means that often these disinfectants can be used with the one-step disinfection process.

Advantages

They can also be applied to a wide range of surfaces in different facility types, including healthcare facilities.

Disadvantages

Phenols should be used with the appropriate PPE. Phenols have strong odors and can cause hazardous conditions if your janitorial staff is not properly protected.

Phenols are extremely hazardous to humans and are not used in facilities except potentially in hospital operating rooms. The majority of healthcare facilities do not use phenols because of the health hazards associated with them. 

Disinfectants containing phenols should also not be used around children. In some cases, they can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. 

Like with peroxides, phenols can damage floor finishes. They should be used with caution to avoid the need for additional floor care and restorative action.

We do not recommend the use of phenolic-based disinfectants. There are many alternative disinfectant chemicals that are just as effective as phenolic-based disinfectants while also being safer to use.

Alcohols

Alcohol-based disinfectants commonly have ethyl and isopropyl alcohol as their active ingredient. For the best germ kill, alcohol should be used diluted since absolute alcohol is not very effective.

Advantages

Alcohol-based disinfectants have germicidal characteristics.

In addition to their germicidal properties, alcohols are also tuberculocidal, virucidal, and bactericidal, though they do not destroy bacterial spores.

Disinfectants that have alcohols as their active ingredient are highly effective and achieve germ kill rapidly.

Disadvantages

One major disadvantage of using alcohol-based disinfectants is that though they can be used to disinfect a wide range of surfaces, they may damage some surfaces. 

Surfaces like shellac, plastic, and glue may be melted or damaged when they come into contact with alcohol-based chemical disinfectants.

When using an alcohol-based disinfectant, surfaces may need to be re-wet multiple times to fulfill dwell time since alcohols evaporate quickly. 


Final Thoughts

The right chemical disinfectant for your facility depends on a variety of factors, including the germs that need to be killed and the surfaces being disinfected.

It’s important that you choose the right disinfectant to kill illness-causing germs that are on the surfaces in your commercial facility.

If you’re looking for the best chemical disinfectant to add to your cleaning program, EBP and other Imperial Dade locations have a wide range of disinfectant products to accommodate an array of surfaces and materials.

Whether you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, contact an EBP specialist today for a review of your facility’s disinfection routine to match you with the best possible chemical disinfectant. 

Related Articles

About Conor Clifford

Conor Clifford is an Account Executive for EBP Supply Solutions, with over 6 years of experience in helping customers find the perfect solutions for their janitorial and sanitation needs. He is a CMI-certified specialist with knowledge and expertise in enhancing floor care programs to optimize facility cleanliness, achieve maximum productivity, and provide the most innovative solutions for each business’s needs.