Importance of Antimicrobial and Disinfectant Products

Importance of Antimicrobial and Disinfectant Products

Reading Importance of Antimicrobial and Disinfectant Products 2 minutes

Antimicrobial products kill or slow the spread of microorganisms. Microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and fungi such as mold and mildew.1 You may find antimicrobial products in your home, workplace, or school.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates antimicrobial products as pesticides, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates antimicrobial products as drugs/antiseptics. As pesticides, antimicrobial products are used on objects such as countertops, toys, grocery carts, and hospital equipment. As antiseptics, antimicrobial products are used to treat or prevent diseases on people, pets, and other living things.

There are two general categories for antimicrobial pesticides: those that address microbes in public health settings, and those that do not. "Public health products" are designed to handle infectious microbes.

Non-public health settings

Microbes that may cause objects to spoil or rot

Public health settings

Microbes that may cause people to get sick

  • cooling towers
  • fuel
  • wood textiles
  • paint
  • paper products
  • bathrooms
  • kitchens
  • homes
  • hospitals
  • restaurants

Sanitizers are the weakest public-health antimicrobials. They reduce bacteria on surfaces. Some sanitizers may be used on food-contact surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards, or children's high chairs. The label will indicate how a sanitizer can be used. Some sanitizers can be used only for non-food contact surfaces like toilet bowls and carpets, or air. Disinfectants kill or prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. Some disinfectants target specific viruses.

Disinfectants that kill microbes are called microbicides, but if they only stop microbial growth, without killing the microbe, they are called microbiotas. Disinfectants are the preferred public-health antimicrobial for common surfaces in medical settings. Disinfectants are also used in residential settings. Different products purify swimming pools and disinfect household surfaces such as linens, toilets, and bathtubs. Whether disinfectants are used in medical or residentials settings, or elsewhere, they may not be used on surfaces that come in contact with food.