Antiseptics and Disinfectants

Antiseptics and Disinfectants

What is Disinfectant?

A disinfectant can be defined as an antimicrobial agent that can be applied on the surface of some objects in order to destroy the microorganisms residing on it.

How does it destroy the micro-organisms?

The simple answer to this is – antimicrobial agents.

A disinfectant is an antimicrobial agent. It is not necessary that a disinfectant will kill all the microorganisms. It is not as effective as sterilization. The process of sterilization kills all types of living forms but a disinfectant kills only certain types of microbes. It is generally applied to a floor or a drainage system. Most of the popularly used cleaning products used in homes and offices are nothing but disinfectants.

Types of Disinfectants

Some common types of disinfectants include:

  1. Air disinfectants: It is defined as the chemical substances which are used to kill the microorganisms that are suspended in the air. It can also be called as a disinfectant spray.
  2. Alcohol: It is seen that alcohols are used as disinfectants. Ethanol is the most common example in this case. Some other examples of disinfectants are, chlorine when it is in the concentration of 0.2 to 0.4 in aqueous solution and sulphur dioxide, which acts as a disinfectant in small concentrations.

What is an Antiseptic?

Antiseptics can be defined as antimicrobial agents which can be applied on the body of living organisms to inhibit the action of microbes. They are not injected into the body like the antibiotics, rather they are applied on the surface of the skin to heal the living tissues in case of wounds and cuts.

Dettol is the most commonly used antiseptic. It is a mixture of chloroxylenol and terpineol. Iodoform is also used as an antiseptic for wounds.

Types of Antiseptics

Some antiseptics are germicidal in nature, implying that they have the ability to completely destroy microbes. These types of antiseptics are referred to as bacteriocidal antiseptics. Other antiseptics only inhibit the growth of microbes (or prevent the growth of microbes altogether).  Such substances are commonly referred to as bacteriostatic antiseptics.

The Difference between Disinfectants and Antiseptics

Disinfectants and antiseptics are both used for killing the microbes but still, there is a difference between them.

  • An antiseptic is used for killing the microbes on the living tissues whereas a disinfectant is applied on a non-living object.
  • Secondly, the concentration of both differ. We can use the same chemical as a disinfectant and an antiseptic by varying its concentration.
  • For example, phenol can be used as an antiseptic if its concentration is 0.2 per cent but to use it as a disinfectant the concentration should be 1 per cent.
  • We can broadly conclude that the cleaning products contain disinfectants and the healing products (for curing the living tissues) contain antiseptics.
  • Both are similar in nature but vary in their concentration. Lysol is a disinfectant whereas Dettol is an antiseptic.

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