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Disinfectant vs Antiseptic vs Antibacterial vs Sanitisers

Many people believe that all sanitising products are the same and do the same job. Disinfectants , antiseptics and antibacterial products all have different uses.

Although it's commonly known that cleaning chemicals are dangerous, how many people take the time to read the labels and follow instructions. Some products require being left for a few minutes or need to be rinsed away.

Cleaning products are made using a mixture of different chemicals suited for a job in hand. Here we will look at how disinfectant, antiseptic and antibacterial cleaning products differ and their correct uses.


Wikipedia describes a disinfectant as "Disinfectants are chemical agents designed to inactivate or destroy microorganisms on inert surfaces. Disinfection does not necessarily kill all microorganisms, especially resistant bacterial spores; it is less effective than sterilization, which is an extreme physical or chemical process that kills all types of lif" (apx 01).

It is always important to clean surfaces first with warm soapy water and a cloth. This removes all dust and dirt particles to make sure the entire area is disinfected properly. Many disinfectant sprays need to be left for a varying amount of time and cannot be mixed with any other cleaning products and many need to be rinsed off. Always read the label.

  • Disinfectants are for use on hard surfaces and they are much stronger than antiseptics.

  • Disinfectants kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.

  • Rubbing alcohol (71%) and hydrogen peroxide (3%) are commonly used disinfectants.

  • Chlorine is also a widely used disinfectant, it is even used in drinking water. One reason to buy yourself a water filter.

  • Disinfectants are very effective for keeping hard surfaces like counter tops free from COVID19.

To find out how the science behind how disinfectants work I found this quick and a


Wikipedia describes an antiseptic as "Antiseptics (from Greek ἀντί anti, "against" and σηπτικός sēptikos, "putrefactive" are antimicrobial substances that are applied to living tissue/skin to reduce the possibility of infection, sepsis, or putrefaction. Antiseptics are generally distinguished from antibiotics by the latter's ability to safely destroy bacteria within the body, and from disinfectants, which destroy microorganisms found on non-living objects. Some antiseptics are true germicides, capable of destroying microbes (bacteriocidal), while others are bacteriostatic and only prevent or inhibit their growth.

  • Antiseptics are for use on the skin outside the body and contain microorganisms that work to deter the development of bacteria, fungi and viruses.

  • Common antiseptics include rubbing alcohol (71%) and hydrogen peroxide (3%).


It is important to remember that antibacterial cleaners remove bacterians, not viruses (unless otherwise stated). Antibacterial products often need to be left for around 2 minutes on a surface before wiping to be effective

  • Antibacterials are also for use on skin on the outside of the body as well as use on hard surfaces

  • They are active against bacteria, not viruses.

  • They are common in soaps and alcohol sprays.

  • Saliva is antibacterial which is why mouth wounds heal quickly and we have a tendency to put a cut finger in our mouths.


A sanitiser is a chemical that is designed to kill numerous types, but not all, of bacteria and also some viruses that can cause disease. These chemicals are not as strong as disinfectants, which makes them safe to use on skin. For example, provided your hands are not soiled, when you should wash your hands with soap and water, a hand sanitiser with 60% alcohol will kill the COVID-19 virus.

  • If you’re disinfecting a hard surface or object use a disinfectant not a sanitiser.


Thanks for reading, hope you found it useful.

Kerry L x

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