What Are The Types of Commercial Disinfectants? Pros and Cons

Illness-causing germs, also known as pathogens, can easily spread throughout your facility. Regular disinfection can be the most effective method to reduce the spread of bacteria.

However, you must use the right disinfectant to ensure that the germs (bacteria and viruses) on surfaces throughout your building are being killed.

Using the correct disinfectant will keep your facility clean and ensure occupant health and safety.

There are different types of disinfectants to pick from. Given that, it’s crucial to know how they work and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Chemical disinfectants vary in the different pathogens they seek to kill and target. Other aspects should also be considered when selecting the most effective chemical disinfectant for your facility.

The most effective disinfectant for you will not just be efficient in killing bacteria and germs that can put your guests in danger but also be safe to use around surfaces and people in your building.

Below, we’ll discuss the various chemical disinfectants and their advantages and disadvantages to help you select the best one for your facility.

Commercial Disinfectants: What Are The Different Types?

What is a Commercial Disinfectant?

One of the primary uses of disinfectant is to kill harmful bacteria and viruses on surfaces. When used correctly, disinfectants eliminate 100% of bacteria and viruses mentioned on the manufacturer’s label.

To be considered a commercial grade disinfectant, it must be registered and tested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA-certified disinfectants have undergone extensive testing to assess their effectiveness against the germs and bacteria listed on the product’s label.

What Are The Different Types Of Commercial Disinfectants?

There are six popular chemical ingredients that are commonly used in commercial disinfectants.

The most common chemical disinfectant ingredients include:

  1. Quats
  2. Iodophors
  3. Hypochlorites
  4. Peroxide
  5. Phenolics
  6. Alcohols

Each of these ingredients has distinct characteristics. We’ll look at the various chemical used in disinfectants to help you understand which would be the best solution for your particular situation.


Quats, also known as quaternary ammonium compounds, are widely used in disinfecting products because they’re extremely efficient against a variety of bacteria and viruses.

Some disinfectants that contain quats can be used as cleaner/disinfectants, which means they can be used to complete 1-step disinfection.


Quat-based disinfectants are non-corrosive, odorless, and won’t stain your surfaces.

If your facility is searching for an environmentally friendly disinfectant, quats are biodegradable, but they may be harmful to marine animals.

Quat-based disinfectants are widely used for disinfection in hospitals and institutions since they’re an affordable option.


The efficacy of quat-based disinfectants is influenced by the number of soil present on the surface. As mentioned, some quat-based disinfectants may be used as a cleaner/disinfectant, but if a surface is heavily soiled, the effectiveness of the disinfectant will be reduced.

The disinfectant’s effectiveness may also be reduced if the quats are used with the wrong cleaning method or cloth type. This is called quat-binding.

Quat binding is when quats are absorbed by the cloth used to apply them. This can be dangerous since the disinfectant is no longer effective in killing bacteria on surfaces, leading to an increased spread of germs.

Quat-based disinfectants must only be used with disposable or non-woven cloths. Some disposable single-use microfiber cloths may also reduce the risk of quat-binding.

Using the spray and wipe method can also help to reduce the risk of quat binding during surface disinfection.



Iodophors consist of iodine as well as a carrier detergent. To use an Iodophor-based disinfectant, the solution needs to be diluted.

Iodophor-based disinfectants are typically used in medical facilities to decontaminate specific kinds of medical equipment, including blood culture bottles, thermometers, and hydrotherapy tanks.

Some iodophor-based disinfectants can be used as cleaners or disinfectants in a one-step disinfection process.


One benefit of iodophors is that they aren’t negatively affected by the presence of hard water. This makes them suitable for use in some facilities that don’t have access to soft water.

Iodophors effectively eliminate bacteria and germs by penetrating the cell walls.


Iodophors can stain surfaces, particularly plastics when they are used as disinfectants. So, iodophor-based disinfectants should not be used on plastic surfaces or surfaces that are easily stained.

Iodophor-based disinfectants are more costly than other types of disinfection.



Hypochlorite-based disinfectants are extremely effective against a variety of bacteria and germs.

The most popular hypochlorite disinfectant is sodium hypochlorite, commonly called household bleach.

Hypochlorite-based disinfectants are beneficial for many different facility types.

If you’re using a hypochlorite-based disinfectant, it must always be used with the two-step cleaning and disinfection procedure. Hypochlorites lack cleaning power, so the surfaces must be cleaned before applying.


If used properly, hypochlorites can be a powerful tuberculocidal agent. Tuberculocidal refers to a disinfectant that can be beneficial against tuberculosis.

Hypochlorites are also safe for food preparation and other food service surfaces, given that the correct dilution proportion is used.

Sodium Hypochlorite can be a cost-effective option for disinfection and is suitable for various types of facilities.


Though effective in eliminating bacteria and microbes from surfaces, hypochlorites are easily affected by the presence of soils. So this means that if there are soils present on a surface, a hypochlorite-based disinfectant will not be able to kill germs effectively.



Peroxide-based disinfectants are relatively recent to receive U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval.

When used in a disinfectant, peroxide-based chemicals have bactericidal, germicidal, and virucidal characteristics that make them a powerful disinfectant.


Disinfectants with peroxide as their active ingredient are more effective in killing germs than conventional disinfectants.

Peroxide-based disinfectants are environmentally friendly since they can break down into natural elements, making them suitable for use in facilities with sustainability goals.


In some situations, such as during floor disinfection, the peroxide chemical may result in surface etching. Surface etching can result in a dull floor finish and requires an additional floor care procedure to prevent it from happening.



Phenol, the primary ingredient in phenolic-based disinfectants, has a wide range of bacteria and germ kill claims and is tuberculocidal.

Many disinfectants with phenolics as an active ingredient can be used as a cleaner/disinfectant. This means many of these disinfectants can be used with the one-step disinfection procedure.


They can also be used on various surfaces in different kinds of facilities, including healthcare facilities.


Phenols should be used with the correct PPE. Phenols have strong odors and may cause dangerous situations if your janitorial personnel isn’t properly protected.

Phenols are extremely harmful to humans and aren’t used in facilities except potentially in hospital operating rooms. Most hospitals do not use phenols because of the health risks associated with them.

Disinfectants with phenols should also never be used around children. In some instances, they may cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.


Alcohol-based disinfectants usually contain alcohols such as ethyl or isopropyl as active ingredients. To ensure the best germ kill, alcohol should be used diluted since absolute alcohol isn’t very effective.


Alcohol-based disinfectants possess germicidal properties.

Apart from their germicidal properties, alcohols are also tuberculocidal, virucidal, and bactericidal though they don’t kill bacterial spores.

Disinfectants that have alcohol as their active ingredient are highly effective and help to achieve germ kill quickly.

7. Disadvantages

The main drawback of using alcohol-based disinfectants is that though they can disinfect a variety of surfaces, they can damage some surfaces.

Surfaces such as plastic, shellac, and glue may be damaged or melted when they come in contact with alcohol-based chemical disinfectants.

When using an alcohol-based disinfectant, surfaces may need to be rinsed several times to meet the dwell time since alcohols evaporate quickly.

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