4 Key Terms to Understand When Selecting Disinfectants

by Lawton Brothers | Jul 12, 2023


When selecting disinfectants, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of the products you are choosing. In this article, we will explore four essential terms that will enhance your knowledge about disinfectants, helping you make informed decisions for effective cleaning and sanitization.

Sanitizers vs. Disinfectants 

It's important to note that sanitizers and disinfectants are not the same. While both are used to eliminate germs, they have different levels of effectiveness. Disinfectants are designed to kill germs on surfaces or objects, whereas sanitizers aim to reduce the number of germs present without eliminating them completely. Disinfectant products undergo more rigorous testing requirements and have a higher bar for effectiveness compared to surface sanitizers. 

Contact Time 

Contact time, also known as "wet time," refers to the duration the disinfectant must remain in direct contact with the surface or item to achieve complete disinfection. To ensure proper disinfection, the product should not evaporate or dry out before the specified contact time is reached. In high-temperature and low-humidity environments, multiple applications may be necessary. While some disinfectants require a contact time of up to 30 minutes, most EPA-registered hospital disinfectants have a label contact time of 10 minutes. To promote compliance and cleanliness, it is advisable to choose products with shorter contact times, as people often tend to wipe away the disinfectant immediately after applying it. 

Mode of Action 

The mode of action refers to the mechanism by which the active components of a disinfectant inhibit or destroy germs and viruses. Understanding the mode of action is essential for reducing the development of resistance caused by specific chemical formulations. There are five primary modes of action employed by disinfectants: denaturation of cellular proteins, oxidation of cells, alkylation, action on nucleic acids, and action on cytoplasmic membranes. By familiarizing yourself with the mode of action, you can choose disinfectants that are effective against the specific types of pathogens you are targeting. 

Ease of Use 

Disinfection can be performed using either a 1-step or 2-step method, depending on the type of disinfectant being used. When surfaces are soiled with dirt, grime, or other substances, they must be cleaned before disinfection to ensure optimal results. This is necessary when using 2-step disinfectants. However, some disinfectants offer a 1-step solution, acting as both a cleaner and a disinfectant. These versatile products can be used to clean lightly soiled surfaces while simultaneously providing disinfection. Considering the level of soiling and the convenience of the cleaning process will help you select the appropriate disinfectant for your specific needs. 

By understanding these key terms—sanitizers vs. disinfectants, contact time, mode of action, and ease of use—you can make well-informed decisions when selecting disinfectants for your cleaning and sanitization requirements. 

For a wide range of disinfectants and cleaning supplies, Lawton Brothers is your ideal partner. We offer a variety of products tailored to suit your facility's needs. Contact us today at 800.432.0813 to discuss your cleaning requirements and find the perfect disinfectant for your surfaces.

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