When the word disinfection comes up, what comes to the mind is germs and bacteria. Well, you are not too far off the mark. Disinfection is the process of killing or removing germs except for bacteria spore from an inanimate object. It deals with the elimination of germs, but it is not absolute as bacteria spores can still survive after a disinfection process.
Disinfection can also be defined as the removal, killing and inhibition of microorganisms that may cause disease. The principal aim of disinfection is to kill potential pathogens, but disinfection also substantially diminish the total microbial population. We cannot talk about disinfection without mentioning some such as sterilization.
Terms Used in Disinfection
Sterilization: is the process of eliminating all forms of microbial life, including bacteria spores. Although sterilization is different from disinfection, some people still use it interchangeably, but they are not the same. Unlike disinfection, sterilization is sporicidal. Antiseptic: When we talk about antiseptic, it is similar to disinfectant in one aspect – both are used to eliminate microorganism. However, they have different makeup and use.
While disinfectant is applied on an inanimate object, antiseptic is used to inhibit or kill pathogen found on living organisms. It is used to destroy pathogen found on the human skin or mucus membrane. In simple words, disinfectant is used on non-living objects, while antiseptic is used on living tissue.
Sanitation: is relatively similar to disinfection, but in this case, it involves the reduction of microbial life to a safe level. All these are still in association with disinfection.
Decontamination: Another term also used is decontamination. It is the removal of pathogenic microorganism from objects, so they are safe to use.
The suffix “cidal” or “cide” and static is used to denote the killing and workings of disinfectant. For example, when a disinfectant is said to be bactericidal, it means that it kills or inactivates bacteria. Likewise, fungicide and virucide. But when it is termed static, it inhibits the growth of microorganism.
What is a disinfectant?
Disinfectant is chemical agents that destroy microorganism when applied to inanimate objects. All disinfectant has an active ingredient that kills or inhibits bacteria. Other ingredient aid the active ingredient in the formula.
Classes of Disinfectant
Disinfectant can be classified based on their activity level, that is, how effective they are against a broad spectrum of microorganism.
High-Level disinfection: the disinfectant in this category are capable of inactivating microorganism, including viruses. They are also active against bacteria spores. This disinfectant is capable of sterilization with a high contact time and killing bacteria spores.
Intermediate-level disinfection: the disinfectant in this group is capable of killing vegetative microorganism, fungi, and inactivating some viruses. They are mostly used in the laboratory to disinfect surfaces.
Low-level disinfection: here, the disinfectant can kill vegetative microorganism except for Mycobacterium tuberculosis. They can also be inactive some fungi and bacteria.
Type of disinfectant
We have several types of disinfectant, some of which are used on a commercial scale.
Alcohols: Alcohols can inactivate a wide range of bacteria, though disinfecting wet surfaces requires higher concentration. The only downside to alcohol is that they evaporate quickly, which may result in shorter contact time. Alcohol is more effective when combined with other agents like formaldehyde. It should be used with caution due to its volatility and flammability.
Phenols: phenols are active against a broad spectrum of microorganism and lipid-containing viruses but, their action against non-lipid viruses varies. However, they are corrosive, toxic and may not be safe to use on a food contact surface or areas with young children.
Quaternary compounds: this has a quick action against a wide range of microorganism. They are of low cost and often used in mixture against other germicides. The effectiveness of some compounds in this group is reduced by organic matter.
Hydrogen Peroxide: they are strong oxidizers which makes them a potent disinfectant when in contact with various surfaces. They are safer to use compared to chlorine. Their efficacy is limited and is toxic at high concentration.
Aldehyde: the disinfectant in this group requires high concentration to be effective. Some bacteria have developed resistance to it. Aldehyde has been discovered to be the cause of some health-related issues like Asthma.
Chlorine compounds: they inactivate a wide array of bacteria and viruses. They have low cost and quicker kill time. However, they are corrosive when the standard of usage is not followed.
Iodophors: They are commonly used to disinfect medical equipment, but they have an unpleasant odour and causes stain.
How to Apply Disinfectant
Applying disinfectant is not a difficult task to achieve, but it does require some useful application. Below are a few tips of applying a disinfectant.
Use a Clear solution: when applying disinfectant, it is advisable to use a clean solution. If the solution is not clear enough or is dirty, you might end up spreading germs all over the floor. It is recommended that mop water should be changed after mopping 2-3 rooms.
Use a microfiber mop: research has shown that microfiber mop is more effective in the application of disinfectant than natural based fibre. The reason is that ordinary fabrics absorb quarternary compound, which is the active ingredients in most disinfectant. Cotton and other materials used in textile possess a negative ion while quart compound is positive. Two opposite charge attracts and binds together, to prevent this, it is advisable to use mop made of microfiber.
Clear out dirt: it is better to clear out dirt and other organic particles before applying a disinfectant. This is because the efficacy of some disinfectant is affected by organic matter.
Disinfect Hot spot: disinfect spot like the doorknob, handrail, and light switch are hot spot areas that should be continuously disinfected. Since bacteria multiply quickly under the right conditions and the hot spot are more exposed to bacteria. There is a need to disinfect it.
Specificity: some disinfectant has targeted mode of action. They work against some specific set of microorganisms. It is essential to check the labelling of a disinfectant before applying it, to know its spectrum of activity. While some disinfectants are broad-spectrum – working against all kinds of microorganisms, others are narrow-spectrum.