Knowing the Different Types of Chemical Disinfectants

Published: 21st September 2009
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The use of chemicals has long been considered advantageous to some extent since the early 1800s. As years pass by, the importance of chemicals gradually increases as the need for more reliable substances in removing dirt and disinfecting utensils are on the loose.

Today, chemical disinfectants are considered a part of the medical world. Without them, cleanliness and hygiene will be impossible to implement.

Disinfectants are classified as alcohols, aldehydes and acids, quaternary ammonium compounds, halogen compounds, phenols and cresols, ointments, oxidizing agents, and furan derivatives.

1. Alcohols

Ethyl alcohol is one of the most useful disinfectants. It has a high degree of antiseptic power and has the advantage of being a fat solvent, dissolving out the fat on the surface and in the follicles of the skin, thus, permitting the antiseptic to act on the more deeply situated organisms. In 70% solution by weight, that is 81.5% by volume, it is used frequently in disinfection of the patient's skin and as an evaporating lotion. Because it is a fat solvent, it is used frequently in disinfection of the patient's skin and as an evaporating lotion. Because it is a fat solvent, it is used frequently in combination with other antiseptics.

Alcohol has its disadvantages as well. This particular chemical causes considerable pain when applied to raw tissues and produces irritation of mucous surfaces; therefore, it should not be used in fresh, open wounds, for the eyes, the urethra, and many others.

As a disinfectant for instruments, it must be remembered that they must be cleansed thoroughly because of the protein-coagulating action of alcohol. Greater effectiveness is brought about when alcohol is combined with other disinfectants.

Isopropyl alcohol is displacing ethyl alcohol in many instances, since it exhibits slightly greater germicidal action, has a lower surface tension, is a better fat solvent and is less expensive. The dilution need not be as stable as ethyl alcohol.

2. Aldehydes and acids

Formaldehyde is a gas with high disinfecting properties. A 40% solution of the gas in water is known as formalin. Since it is too irritating for living tissue, it is mainly used as a preservative of specimens.

A solution of 20% formalin and 70% isopropyl alcohol solution are effective chemical disinfectant and sporicide for clean instruments that cannot be exposed to steam under pressure sterilization, and are of a material or property that will not be destroyed by the solution.

3. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

Chemicals like zephiran, ceepryn, and phemerol are stable and non-irritating. Their chief property is that of lowering the surface tension of solutions.

These compounds are incompatible with soap and they are not effective against tubercle bacillus and spores. In addition, certain gram-negative bacilli are not inhibited by the quaternary ammoniums and may even proliferate luxuriantly in such solutions.

4. Oxidizing agents

The antiseptic properties of this group are due to their property of liberating oxygen that has a mild germicidal action.

Among the different oxidizing agents, hydrogen peroxide is the most common. This is a clear, watery solution that decomposes readily in the light or on heating. When applied to wound tissues, there are immediate bubbles or fizzes that mark the liberation of gaseous oxygen.

Its primary value lies probably in the mechanical effect of its bubbles, in loosening necrotic tissues and dressings and in breaking up thick adherent masses of pus that float to the surface in a sort of foam. Because of this property and its ability to give off oxygen, it is of special value in the treatment of anaerobic infections, such as those caused by the gas bacillus.

Hydrogen peroxide decomposes rapidly unless protected from light, heat, and air.

Indeed, knowing the different classifications of disinfectants makes it easier for you to know where and when to apply them. Not all disinfectants can be used in one way or another.

Jo is an author and publisher for 'ReAgent Chemical Services Ltd' (, a well-known UK based chemical producer that makes, carries and supplies a wide selection of premium chemical. If your corporation is seeking high quality chemical product for instance brick acid or has other industrial compound requirements for uses similar to chemical mixture, analytical purposes and cleaning then check out ReAgent Chemical Services Ltd.

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