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Disinfecting surfaces or hands

Sanitize vs. Disinfect:
Sanitizers kill 99.9 percent of bacteria within 30 seconds.
  e.g. purell, germ-X hand sanatizers. 63% Ethyl Alcohol.
See hand sanitizers

Disinfectants Kill nearly 100% of bacteria, but not necessarily within 30 seconds. It costs up to $1 Million to get a product certified as a disinfectant, so you pay about 30% more.
  e.g. Bleach, LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray, Clorox Disinfecting Kitchen Cleaner

Time and Concentration:
The Lysol and Clorox disinfecting bathroom cleaner instructions say to let the disinfectant stand for 10 minutes for disinfection or 60 seconds for sanitization.
Clorox Bleach usage says to dilute 3/4 cup per gallon (21:1) and let stand for 5 minutes to disinfect.
Bleach must be in a 10:1 concentration to be effective in killing germs.
See Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bleach But Were Afraid to Ask at

The CDC's Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities: Surface Disinfection says:
"The labels of most products registered by EPA for use against HBV, HIV, or M. tuberculosis specify a contact time of 10 minutes. Such a long contact time is not practical for disinfection of environmental surfaces in a health-care setting because most health-care facilities apply a disinfectant and allow it to dry (~1 minute). Multiple scientific papers have demonstrated significant microbial reduction with contact times of 30 to 60 seconds."

In "The Relationship Of Concentration And Germicidal Efficiency Of Ethyl Alcohol", 1950, Harry E. Morton, Univ. of Pennsylavania School of medicine he says:
a 60-70% concentration of ethyl alcohol is better than a 95% concentration.

The standard food service mixture for sanitizing solution is approx 1 cup of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of warm water.

According to Big Jay reviews everything, washing with regular soap probably removes 99% of the bacteria.

According to WebMD:
For people seeking the best protection against disease-causing organisms in home kitchens and bathrooms, commercial disinfectants do a better job at eliminating them than do natural, environmentally friendly products. According to research in the North Carolina Statewide Program for Infection Control and Epidemiology (NC-SPICE), the commercial disinfectants tested killed 99.9% of bugs, including Salmonella, Escherichia coli(E. coli), and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE). The natural products eliminated only 90% of the bugs.

When the Clorox Company had to defend its Green Works product line, the NAD ruled that the cleaners are, in fact, as effective as traditional cleaning products at removing most soils. However, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended that Clorox be clear with consumers that Green Works cleaners cannot kill germs or cut through tough grease stains as well as some stronger cleaners that contain disinfectants.

Continual exposure to the toxic chemicals found in most disinfectants, sanitizers and cleaners weakens your immune system, leaving you more prone to recurring infections.

A study of over 200 healthy households found that households using antibacterial products did not have any reduced risk for runny noses, coughs, and other symptoms of infectious diseases.

Researchers have raised concerns about triclosan, the most common ingredient in antibacterial soaps, and its link to dioxins, which altered sex hormones, birth defects, and cancer.
Triclosan is also known as Irgasan and Microban.
See also: Antimicrobials and Antibacterials at

In a 2000 report, "Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern", Stuart B. Levy from Tufts University School of Medicine, says:
"Some researchers have found a correlation between too much hygiene and increased allergy.
This hypothesis stems from studies that revealed an increased frequency of allergies, cases of asthma, and eczema in persons who have been raised in an environment overly protective against microorganisms. In one rural community, children who grew up on farms had fewer allergies than did their counterparts who did not live on farms. [Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer's children and their peers living in the same rural community., 1999, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Basel, Switzerland.]

A 2009 report by Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE) -- titled "Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous to Our Health" -- cites more than 40 scientific studies that illustrate the health risks associated with chemicals found in kitchen cleaners, handy wipes, and other common cleaning products.

In 1998, high school student, Merri Moken, showed that using common household disinfectants we're creating strains of mutant, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Disinfectant and antibiotics kill germs in similar ways (by breaking down the bacterial cell walls or inhibiting protein synthesis), hence the connection.

Other Dangers:
Household ammonia (3 to 10 percent aqueous NH3) and bleach (5 percent NaClO) are two of the most common cleaning agents. Combining them releases chloramine gas.
NH4OH + NaOCl → NaOH + NH2Cl + H2O
When inhaled, chloramines react with the moisture of the respiratory tract to release ammonia (NH3), hydrochloric acid (HCl), and oxygen free radicals. Typically, exposures to low concentrations of chloramines produce only mild respiratory tract irritation.
Bleach can react violently with hydrogen peroxide and produce oxygen gas.

There are over 500 antimicrobal products registered with the EPA for use against Influenza A Virus on hard surfaces. Some are: [active ingredients]
Lysol Brand Disinfectant Direct Multi-Purpose Cleaner [5, 7]
Lysol Brand Deodorizing Disinfectant Cleaner [5, 19, 10, 9]
Mr. Clean Multi-Surfaces Antibacterial [56]
Clorox [30]
Clorox Disinfecting Spray III [4, 6, 11]
Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner [8]
Citrace Hospital Germicidal Deodorizer [11, 16]
Envirocide/Cavicide [35, 47]
Sani-Cloth plus [35, 4, 6]
Oxyfect-H Peroxide Disinfectant Cleaner [15]
H2Orange2 120 Ready to Use [15]
Alpha HP, Accel TB, Peroxy Hdox and others [15]
Wepak Pine Disinfectant [33, 38]
Selig's Pin-A-Quat [33, 6]
Surfacide/6 [4, 6]


 4. Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) (60%C14, 30%C16, 5%C18, 5%C12) *
 5. Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (50%C14, 40%C12, 10%C16 )
 6. Alkyl dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride (68%C12, 32%C14) 
 7. Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (67%C12, 25%C14, 7%C16, 1%C18)
 8. Citric Acid C6H8O7
 9. Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride C22H48ClN
10. Dioctyl dimethyl ammonium chloride
11. Ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH)
15. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)
16. o-Phenylphenol C6H5C6H4OH
19. Octyl decyl dimethyl ammonium chloride
30. Sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) (Beach)
33. Pine Oil
35. Isopropyl alcohol (C3H7OH)
38. Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (58%C14, 28%C16, 14%C12)
47. 2-(2-(p-(diisobutyl) phenoxy) ethoxy) ethyl dimethyl ammonium chloride or Benzenemethanaminium,
        N,N-dimethyl-N-(2-(2-(4-(1,1,3,3-tetramethylbutyl)phenoxy)ethoxy)ethyl)-, chloride
56. Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye and caustic soda
* Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) is a broad spectrum biocide for the control of algae, bacteria, fungi, viruses and molluscs at the following use sites: swimming pools, empty food storage areas (e.g. potato), indoor hard surfaces (e.g. sinks, countertops, musical instrument mouthpieces, garbage pails, shower stalls), other indoor surfaces/water (e.g. upholstery, carpets, closed toilet systems, humidifiers), industrial process fluids (e.g. pulp and paper mill systems, open cooling water tower systems, air washers, industrial scrubbing systems/recirculating water cooling towers and wastewater systems), material (e.g. textiles, leather) and wood.
It is of the chemical family Quaternary amines (quats) ,comprised of 24 compounds that are structurally similar quaternary ammonium compounds .

Products such as CaviCide, Sani-Cloth and some Lysol products contain ADBAC's.

Disinfecting medical equipment

Medical equipment that comes in contact with skin can just be disinfected.
If it comes in contact with mucous membranes or internal structures it should be sterilized.
See ADBAC at Health Canada

Antimicrobials - Agent that kills microbial growth. See "disinfectant," "sanitizer," and "sterilizer."

Antibacterial: Anything that destroys bacteria or suppresses their growth or their ability to reproduce. Heat, chemicals such as chlorine, and antibiotic drugs all have antibacterial properties.

Antiseptic - A substance which inhibits the growth and development of microorganisms. It means "against infection". Usually refers to a substance put on a small wound to avoid infection.

Disinfectant - One of three groups of antimicrobials registered by EPA for public health uses. EPA considers an antimicrobial to be a disinfectant when it destroys or irreversibly inactivates infectious or other undesirable organisms, but not necessarily their spores. EPA registers three types of disinfectant products based upon submitted efficacy data: limited, general or broad spectrum, and hospital disinfectant. See Disinfection

Germicide - A substance or agent that kills microorganism. e.g. a Disinfectant

Sanitizer - One of three groups of antimicrobials registered by EPA for public health uses. EPA considers an anti-microbial to be a sanitizer when it reduces but does not necessarily eliminate all the microorganisms on a treated surface. To be a registered sanitizer, the test results for a product must show a reduction of at least 99.9% in the number of each test microorganism over the parallel control.

Sterilizer - One of three groups of antimicrobials registered by EPA for public health uses. EPA considers an antimicrobial to be a sterilizer when it destroys or eliminates all forms of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their spores. Because spores are considered the most difficult form of a microorganism to destroy, EPA considers the term sporicide to be synonymous with "sterilizer. An autoclave is a device which sterilizes with superheated steam.
See: Antimicrobial Products at the US EPA, Sterilization at the CDC and Sterilizers

Glossary of Terms at the EPA

Hosehold toxins
Mold, Mildew Algae
Germs - Pathogens
Pathogen survival
Hydrogen Peroxide vs Bleach
Know Your Surface Tips for Cleaning and Disinfecting Environmental Surfaces at
Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008 from the CDC
  Surface Disinfection
  Regulatory Framework for Disinfectants and Sterilants
Is Surface Disinfection Necessary? at Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008 from the CDC.
Household Disinfectants - And other cleaning products - do your really need them
Safe Cleaning Products Initiative from the Women's Voices for the Earth
Report Warns Against Overuse of Household Disinfectants
Commercial Disinfectants Protect Best Against Disease at WebMD
Disinfectants at Wikipedia
Clean Up On These Disinfecting Tips at
Cleaning Tips from LYSOL
Tips for Properly Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Children's Toys
Comparison study on disinfectant efficiency of ethanol, bleach and anti-bacterial hand soap against E.coli and mixed culture

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last updated 22 Mar 2010