There are so many disinfectants in the market right now when one searches for disinfectant sprays online. It is very confusing and sometimes dangerous to not know what exactly they are used for.
Disinfecting agents are used to control, prevent, or destroy harmful microorganisms (i.e., bacteria, viruses) on inanimate objects and surfaces, depending on their concentration and chemical types. However, some disinfectants do not kill virus, and thus it should be claimed as antibacterial disinfectant.
Disinfectants are not interchangeable. Incorrect concentrations and inappropriate disinfectants can result in unforeseen excessive costs, particularly with occupational diseases among cleaning personnel and client's asset damage due to incorrect use of chemicals. End users should read safety labels carefully to ensure the correct product is selected for the intended use and applied appropriately.
Here are the top 3 non-alcoholic chemicals that are commonly used in the market.
1) Sodium Hypochlorite
This is what your typical household bleach are made of. It is made up of a very powerful oxidizing agent which is used to kill microorganisms by denaturing their lipids and proteins. They are generally unstable. When exposed to air or stored incorrectly, free chlorine within the solution evaporates rapidly and reduces its concentration. Also, you must avoid combining bleach and ammonium-based disinfectant, since this mixture can release potentially fatal gases or cause respiratory irritation.
It is a very economic and effective solution if only used properly and with the right knowledge.
2) Peracetic acid and Hydrogen Peroxide
These are also strong oxidizing agents but they are much safer than chlorine. It is safe to use on surfaces but avoid metal surfaces as acid corrodes metal. This combination is widely used in the medical field and consider one of the lowest toxicity disinfectants. At sufficiently low concentration, it is relatively eco-friendly due to its by-product composition of water, oxygen and acetic acid (which is what your vinegar is made from!).
However, when diluted, the solution will have a short shelf life due to its unstable nature when combined with water. It will release oxygen as part of its hydrolysis process and there is a risk of exploding due to high pressure of oxygen content created within the container when the opening is sealed completely. Combining this with improper storage (near heat source) may create a potential fire hazard and explosion risk. Also, exposure to UV will reduce its efficacy as well.
3) Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC)
The quaternary ammonium compounds (QAC) are widely used as disinfectants. There are a lot of different types of QACs, some more advanced than the other. Each of them has different efficacy and some may have additional functionalities comparing others.
QACs may be applied at different concentration ranges, depending on the industry and application use. At different concentrations, they can inactivate or denature the cell wall of the microorganism. They are usually odourless, non-staining, non-corrosive, relatively non-toxic to users (depending on concentration) and function well over a broad temperature and wide pH range.
QACs are widely used in the food manufacturing sector and F&B industry. QACs are commonly applied at minimum level concentrations to food contact surfaces, and the disinfectant solution is left to dry.
However, QACs do not work well with soap and detergents. They will counteract with each other and render both useless when mixed together. There are also some rare cases of occupational asthma when working with concentrated QACs. It is often advised to thoroughly clean the premise after disinfection phase so that residual QACs do not accumulate up to a dangerous level of amount.
There isn't a one-solution-fits-all and each disinfectant chemical have their pros and cons. It is always advisable to have a disinfection plan in place to avoid costly mistakes. Always seek professional advice on this if you are not sure.