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What You Need to Know About Disinfectants and Antiseptics

Feb 21 2017, 10:31 AM

Disinfectants and antiseptics are products used in most businesses and almost all walks of life for various purposes. They are used to sterilise and clean and have been in widespread use for at least 150 years. What most people do not realise, however, is that they are not interchangeable and should be deployed under set circumstances.

Here are a few things you should know about antiseptics and disinfectants;
  • They Do the same thing in different situations;
    While both disinfectants and antiseptics perform the same purpose of killing bacteria upon contact. The difference, however, is that disinfectants kill bacteria on non-living surfaces such as ceramic, wood, stone, or metal, while antiseptics are designed for use on skin and wounds, i.e. living tissue.
  • Alcohol was the first antiseptic and disinfectant;
    In the western world, alcohol has been used as a rudimentary disinfectant and antiseptic for hundreds of years. In fact, Theodoric of Bologna, a 13th century surgeon, recommended dressings dipped in wine to prevent the development of pus in wounds. Of course, the Persian, Greek, and Roman people were aware of the antiseptic properties of copper, vinegar, and certain spices long before this point.

  • The Ingredients are not always interchangeable;
    These days, disinfectants and antiseptics are not interchangeable as they are made from different ingredients (some of which may be corrosive or irritating to skin). For example, disinfectants often use bleach and other corrosive chemicals. Antiseptics, by contrast, use ingredients such a phenol and zinc.
  • Both are now widely used in medical settings;
    Phenol was first discovered in 1834 but was not widely used in medical settings until around about 40 years later Since the 1870s both antiseptics and disinfectants have been used in medical settings to sterilise wounds and equipment and thereby minimise the risk of infection and wound contamination. This resulted in a sharp decline in patient mortality rates.

  • Disinfection is not the same as sterilisation;
    While this may seem obvious to some, this is not always the case! Disinfection, broadly speaking, is the removal or destruction of most harmful bacteria from a surface. Sterilisation, on the other hand, is the removal of all bacteria from a surface and is only practiced as a matter of routine in medical settings.
Antiseptic and disinfecting products are everyday chemicals which should be used wisely and with care. When deployed properly, however, they are our best defence against infection and disease.

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