Difference between disinfectant and Antiseptics

Difference between disinfectant and Antiseptics

Disinfectants and antiseptics both are used to kill microorganisms and bacteria, as per chemical properties both are the same category, but the main difference is in their applications, Disinfectants are used on surfaces of things like floor, wooden board, metals surfaces and machines or instruments, etc. While antiseptics are used on human body parts, hands, skin, breast, and other required body parts. Antiseptics are less harmful than disinfectants on touching the skin. The difference between disinfectant and antiseptics is limited to the surface on which they are used.

Definition of Disinfectants

Disinfectants are used to clean floors, seats, washbasins, utensils, machines, etc. They contain bleaching chemicals usually used for cleaning. They destroy microorganisms on inert surfaces or inactivate them. Disinfectants are unable to kill resistant bacterial spores. For resistant bacterial spores sterilization is required. Disinfectants are different from antibiotics which can kill microorganisms in the body. They destruct the cell wall of microbes by interfering with their metabolism. Disinfectants kill all types of life on surfaces where they are applied.

Disinfectants are much strong than sanitizers, sanitizers are used commonly for human hands sanitization or the things which come in contact with the human body. Sanitizers clean and sanitize the objects.

Only a few fungi, viruses, and bacteria show resistance to disinfectants. Although most can be removed by them.

Properties of Disinfectants

An ideal disinfectant should be safe in use for humans and animals, sterilization should be maximum on microbiological sterilization, It should be non-corrosive and economical to use.

Some disinfectants are toxic and potentially harmful in nature to humans or animals. Domestic use disinfectants usually contain Denatonium, which is bitter in taste.

Types of Disinfectants

There are several types of disinfectants are available in the market depending on the requirement, every location has specific requirements and structural layout where a specific type of disinfectant can applicable.

Air Disinfectants

Air disinfectants are usually sprayed form of chemicals which are used to kill in air microorganism. The nature of chemicals may be different according to the need for a situation and type of microorganism to kill. Simple mist of dilute bleach is enough to kill microorganisms in the air in some conditions.

This is usually used as vapors or in aerosol form.  Very effective against microorganisms and safe for human Propylene glycols and Triethylene Glycols can be used where influenza virus, Penicillium chrysogenum, and other infectious viruses availability appears.

Alcohol disinfectants

Alcohol is a very effective disinfectant against all microorganisms and viruses, even in Corona’s situation, alcohol-based sanitizers are the top demand of the public. A 70% v/v ethanol solution in distilled water is a universal disinfectant, this solution is used all over the world in all pharmaceutical manufacturing companies to disinfect the floors, microbiological pieces of equipment, machines, and many more.

An Isopropyl Alcohol 95% v/v solution is also very prominent disinfectants when used against all bacteria, microorganisms, and microbiological bacterial growth.


Aldehydes have wide microbiocidal activity and are sporicidal and fungicidal in nature. Formaldehydes are used to fumigate special areas where sterilization is required. All microorganisms, bacteria, and parasites. This practice is very popular in a sterile area like a microbiological laboratory and Injection filling and preparation section in Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies.

Oxidizing agents

The process where microorganism’s cell membrane is oxidized by oxidizing agents is called oxidization. Oxidizing agents destruct the structure and lead to cell lysis and death of the microorganism. Chlorine and Oxygen are the most used oxidizing agents for disinfection.

Some other oxidizing agents are Anolyte (Electrolyzed water), Hydrogen peroxide, Potassium permanganate.

Measurements of Effectiveness of Disinfectants

All disinfectants are understood efficient if they perform against microorganisms or viruses. To evaluate the effectiveness of any disinfectant the effectiveness test is carried out against Phenol as standard Disinfectant. The corresponding rating system is called the Phenol coefficient.

Definition of Antiseptic

Antiseptics are antimicrobial substances which are used to kill germs, microorganism on the skin to prevent infections and sepsis. Antiseptics are similar to antibiotics in killing bacteria or infections, antibiotics kill bacteria inside the body however antiseptics kill outside bacteria on body skin or tissues.

Where some antiseptics prevent the growth of bacteria works as bacteriostatic, rather some destroy microbes like germicides. This is the main difference between disinfectant and antiseptics because disinfectants kill the microbes and stop to regenerate again.

Antiseptic definition microbiology

An antiseptic is a type of disinfectant, which kill or stops the growth of microorganisms on living bodies is called antiseptic microbiology Or a chemical preparation which is used to eliminate germs is known as antiseptic. Hydrogen peroxide is the best example antiseptic.

Antiseptic spray

Antiseptic sprays are chemicals prepared to protect infections on cuts, grazes, animal bites. Small wounds, burns, etc, these are filled in spray bottles that can apply fast on target places of the body. These are very helpful in First Aid processes. There are different types of antiseptic sprays which are Dermoplast First Aid Spray which is a human antiseptic spray. Pac-Kit by First Aid Only 13-030 First Aid Alcohol Antiseptic Spray, BAC-D Antibacterial Foaming Wound Sanitizer.

Some more antiseptics are like povidone-iodine, chlorhexidine, alcohol-based solutions, and cetrimide.

How do you make antibacterial spray?

You can prepare antibacterial spray at home without costing a big amount, In a mixer take distilled or DM water add some vinegar, add some drops of lavender, mix for 30 seconds, now let it do settle down it’s foaming, then replace the whole solution in a spray bottle, now you can clean any place or home.

Antiseptic spray for wounds

Hansaplast antiseptic spray is most commonly used in wounds and cuts for first aid purposes. It cleans wounds through mechanical irrigation. It is a colorless solution Fast and pain-free application.

Antiseptic spray for dogs

In India, antiseptic spay available for dogs is a popular brand is Scavon’s by Himalaya, which is a bactericidal action that controls infections. The spray’s antifungal property is responsible for effectively treating and preventing the recurrence of fungal infections. Supportive in sarcoptic and psoroptic mange.

Types of antiseptic


Ethanol 70% and IPA (Iso Propyl Alcohol are top antiseptic, these are also called surgical spirit, ethanol and IPA are two universal disinfectants and antiseptics used in all pharmaceutical and pathological uses.

Chlorhexidine gluconate

Chlorhexidine gluconate is widely used as a mouth wash to kill germs in mouth and odor of mouth, this is also used on out skin as an antiseptic.


Chloroxylenol is an antiseptic, which is used in big brands of antiseptic in their composition, it is a disinfectant also, widely used in hospital and pathology laboratories to clean used instruments.

Hydrogen peroxide

 Hydrogen Peroxide is a primary antiseptic used everywhere in hospitals, clinics to sterilize the medical equipment and to cleanse the wounds and skin before administration of syringe in the skin. This is used in 3% v/v strength in general conditions.


Iodine solution is widely used in postoperative surgeries to cleans wounds and stitches.

Octenidine dihydrochloride

Octenidine dihydrochloride is widely used in place of chlorhexidine gluconate, this is used in Europian countries.


Polyhexanide is a strong antimicrobial agent which is utilized as antiseptic in chronic wounds that are acutely infected. The application of Polyhexanide stops the development of resistant bacterial strains.

Urinary antiseptic types

Methenamine and nitrofurantoin are two top used urinary antiseptics, these are used worldwide as antiseptic in urinary places.


Disinfectants and antiseptics are very close to each other in their application. The difference between disinfectant and antiseptics is very narrow and specific. Many times disinfectants and used in place of antiseptics and antiseptics can be used in place of disinfectants in specific conditions. Since the disinfectants are highly concentrated chemically, they should not be used in place of antiseptics. The selection of antiseptic is very important as per it’s application.

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Darshan Singh

The author has 20 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Companies. Have exposure to all audit documents for WHO-GMP, PIC/S, USFDA, Export documents, US-FDA documents, Validation of Pharma machinery, and Quality Control Instruments. Expert in Pharma Plant Setup and sale and acquisition of running pharma company.

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