If you've ever worked in a veterinary setting or animal shelter, you know that there are tons of different kinds of cleaners used for different things. Why don't we just bleach everything? Why do we have to let some disinfectants sit for 10 minutes before wiping down the area? This article is a summary of a great lecture we had at my veterinary school about infection prevention and control in the veterinary hospital.
Disinfectants and antiseptics both fall under the category of germicides. The difference is that disinfectants are used for killing microbes on non-living surfaces, while antiseptics are used on skin and other living tissues. It is important to note that disinfection and antiseptics do NOT necessarily sterilize an area. Sterilization is the complete elimination of microbes, which can be achieved through autoclaving, ethylene oxide gassing, and dry heat. Disinfectants and antiseptics do not necessarily achieve a 100% removal of microbes.
The chemical structure, concentration, contact duration with the surface or tissue, and presence of organic matter all affect the efficacy of your cleaning substance. Especially, make sure to pay attention to concentration and contact time. Just adding "a splash" of Accel to a bucket of mop water does NOT cut it!
DISINFECTANTS (use for surfaces, not skin)
ANTISEPTICS (use for skin and instruments)