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.

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.

Table of Contents

Antiseptics and Disinfectants

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.

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 % but to use it as a disinfectant the concentration should be 1%.
  • 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.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


What are common antiseptics?

Chlorhexidine, povidone-iodine, chloroxylenol, isopropyl alcohol, hexachlorophene, benzalkonium chloride, and hydrogen peroxide are all often used as antiseptics in dermatologic surgery. They should be utilized for the majority, if not all, treatments that go into the dermis or deeper layers of the skin.


What is the difference between antiseptics and disinfectants?

In order to control infections, antiseptics and disinfectants are commonly employed. Biocides are chemicals that are used to kill microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Germs on non living surfaces are killed with disinfectants. Microorganisms on your skin are killed by antiseptics.


Is bleach a disinfectant or antiseptic?

Bleach is a powerful disinfectant whose primary ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, kills bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including the influenza virus, although it is rapidly inactivated by organic matter. Within 10–60 minutes of contact time, diluted household bleach disinfects.


What is the use of disinfectant?

Disinfectants are chemical agents that are applied to non-living items to kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and mildews that are present.


What is an example of a disinfectant?

Chlorine, calcium and sodium hypochlorite, iodophor, phenol, ethanol, and quaternary ammonium compounds are some of the most often used chemical disinfectants. Disinfectants differ from sterilants in that they have a lower efficacy against dormant bacterial endospores.

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