Disinfectants are available in a variety of types, each of which has a set of uses, pros and cons. In today’s disinfectant comparison, we’ll discuss the most common types and how you can choose the best one to serve you in emergencies and long-term storage situations.
Alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine – we know so many disinfectants, but which one is best for prepping and survivalism? Read more to find out.
Disinfectant Comparison – What’s the Difference?
Before we dive into the various types, it’s important that we clear up the difference between cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants since many people often confuse these terms.
These products are designed to remove dirt, soil, dust, germs (such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses), as well as organic matter. This means that cleaners don’t “kill” anything, instead, they lift unwanted particles off surfaces so you can wash them away using water.
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Sometimes it’s necessary to use a cleaner or detergent to remove dirt before applying a disinfectant to maximize its effect. This is why some will already contain a cleaning agent in the product.
These products are formulated to reduce the count of germs (fungi, bacteria, and viruses) down to a safe level across various surfaces.
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These products are chemical in nature and act by killing germs. Disinfectants that are effective against staph, also work against MRSA.
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Generally, the label of any disinfectant should list all the germs that it can kill. It should also feature an EPA registration number.
You can buy disinfectants readily from grocery stores, and other retail shops. You can also use certain types to treat infected wounds.
Disinfectant Comparison – Main Types
There are lots of disinfectant categories and types used in commercial and industrial settings.
Talking about all of them would take volumes, so we’re limiting this section to the most common ones since they’re the types you’re more likely to come across.
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Alcohols require to be diluted with water for their effect to come through. 70% of alcohols work against a broad spectrum of germs and bacteria, although you may need higher concentrations to disinfect wet surfaces.
Alcohol disinfectants can be flammable, toxic, and irritating to the eye. Their recommended use is for cleaning skin, tools and surfaces.
The mode of action of alcohol-based disinfectants involves modifying the protein structure of microbes, while the presence of water amplifies their effect.
These products are affordable, but inactive in the presence of organic matter. They also evaporate quickly and must be over 50% concentrated to work.
- Size 32-fluid ounce bottles of first aid antiseptic
- First aid to help prevent risk of infection from minor cuts, scrapes and burns
- Active ingredient: 3% hydrogen peroxide (stabilized)
Hydrogen peroxide is available in concentrate and ready-to-use forms. When produced as the latter, it is considered generally safe, sustainable, and environmentally friendly.
The reason for this is that their mode of action involves breaking down the microbes into naturally-occurring water and oxygen.
These disinfectants are effective against a wide array of bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses. They work quickly and are a bit acidic, but incompatible with various chemicals.
These products leave no residue, deodorize, and are non-corrosive.
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Like most chlorine compounds, chlorhexidine kills a broad range of microorganisms including fungi, spores, resistant viruses, and bacteria. This product is also recommended for sterilization and cleaning bodily fluids.
Chlorine-based disinfectants like this one work in a relatively short time. What’s more, it penetrates well and is safe to apply on food prep surfaces.
However, it corrodes metals such as aluminum and stainless steel. Additionally, it becomes less effective in the presence of organic matter and alkalinity.
Not to mention, this type of disinfectant causes discoloration and has an bad odor.
Disinfectant Comparison – What to Consider When Choosing One
When you’re choosing a disinfectant, there are 4 main points you should take into account so you end up with a product that best meets your needs.
Does it kill the pathogens and microbes that are on top of your concern list? For instance, you may be worried about MRSA and in this case, you should look for EPA-approved products to be effective against this strain of bacteria.
Remember that microbes can exist in numerous strains, so try to choose ones with a wide spectrum to protect you against as many pathogens as possible. This is important in survival scenarios where you don’t know what germs you’ll encounter.
Now, ask the following questions: how fast does the it kill its targeted pathogens? And does it keep the surface looking wet during this time?
As we mentioned above, disinfectants have different formulas that are effective in killing certain pathogens within a specific duration. They are also required to remain wet on the surface for the entire period to be working actively.
Typically, they take from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to kill germs depending on the type you’re using. No matter how long the time it needs to fully work, you should make sure it stays wet that whole period.
Disinfectants that are alcohol-based, for example, evaporate easily and can disappear well before their necessary contact time.
Also, don’t forget to check the shelf life.
Next, ask yourself this: is it safe to use on people, animals, and the surfaces you plan on applying it to?
As we discussed, not all disinfectants are safe. Some are toxic, some are corrosive, some smell harsh, and some stain.
The label of the product should mention its flammability and toxicity ratings, in addition to info you need before using it. For example, PPE (personal protective equipment) or surface finishes.
Finally, take the time to figure out the steps you should perform before you can use the disinfectant. Some products require several steps before application, which may not be very simple.
Sprays are generally the top option because they’re usually ready to use right away. They also tend to be effective against a broad range of bacteria, mildew, fungi, and viruses.
Disinfectant Comparison – Which Should You Store for Emergencies?
Now that you’re familiar with the types and how to choose, the question is: which one should you store for survival and emergencies? Well, this depends on the application you’re planning to use them for.
When it comes to general disinfection of surfaces, tools, and wounds, alcohol-based are the way to go. They’re also effective against a broad spectrum of microbes, affordable, and easy to store in large quantities.
Hydrogen peroxide is another great option if you’re looking for something effective against mold, fungi, viruses and bacteria. It’s also quick-acting, leaves no residue, deodorizes, and is non-corrosive.
Disinfectant Comparison – Wrap Up
There you have it, a guide to disinfectants, how they work, pros and cons, as well as how to choose the right type for your needs.