Types and usage of sanitary disinfectants

When choosing within the wide range of sanitary disinfectants, it is important to consider their performance and the risk of the space to be disinfected.

In previous articles we published a table that showed the performance of the different disinfectant products according to their composition.
Next, we do the same analysis, but in relation to specific healthcare environments.
In this case, the choice of a disinfectant or another will be conditioned depending on the degree of previous cleaning and the level of risk of each space within a hospital or health center.
Sanitary disinfectants are usually composed of sodium hypochlorite, alcohols, quaternary ammoniums, or oxidants. Let’s look at the action each one has.

Sodium hypochlorite, the universal sanitary disinfectant

Sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach, is the most widely used chlorinated disinfectant.
It acts by the oxidation of proteins and ends up destroying cellular activity.
Its use is recommended to remove traces of blood, urine or other body fluids.
Its use is limited on plastics and metals since, it can alter the surfaces.

Alcohols, sanitary disinfectants for low risk areas

The alcohols act by denaturing the proteins.
Its use is recommended for the disinfection of low-risk areas and non-critical environments. This is the case of thermometers, fans, food preparation surfaces, etc.
Its main limitation is that they are irritable, flammable and also dry the skin.

Quaternary ammoniums, sanitary disinfectants of low environmental toxicity

Quaternary ammoniums act by denaturing proteins, inactivating enzymes and destroying the cell membrane.
Its main advantage is that they are low toxicity disinfectants, although, sometimes, they can also be associated with cases of asthma or eye irritation.
Its use is recommended on low-critical or low-risk surfaces since quaternary ammoniums are quite limited against microbacteria.

Oxidants, high-level sanitizers

Oxidizing disinfectants, such as peracetic acid, act by oxidizing the cell membrane by electron transfer.
They are considered high level disinfectants and their use as a sterilizer is recommended for the disinfection of semi-critical tools or surfaces.
Although they have a very low risk of toxicity, the main limitation they present is the risk of irritation.

Previously, aldehydes were also used, such as formalin. But by demonstrating their danger to human health, they have stopped being used to give way to new alternatives.