Antibacterial vs. Disinfectant

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Difference between Antibacterial and Disinfectant

An antimicrobial is a substance used to kill or to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi or protozoa parasites. The first to have discovered their effects were Pasteur and Joubert but further research has revealed more of their properties. Penicillin and tetracycline – two popular antimicrobials – are extensively used to treat a large number of diseases. Their discovery is noted as a major breakthrough with effects which continue to be felt.

Antibacterial and disinfectant products are two very important tools widely used to protect us from harmful bacteria. Used on a wide scale, they ensure a thorough process of bacteria removal, guaranteeing more safety in the home, on the go, in the office and in medical facilities.


An antibacterial compound is designed to kill bacteria or impede their growth. It is also known as an antibiotic administered to patients who are afflicted by bacteria caused diseases.

A disinfectant compound is a substance applied on non-living objects with the purpose to destroy microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and archaea.


There are antibacterial products which target the bacterial cell walls like penicillin and cephalosporin or cell membranes like polymixin. Bacteriostatic antibiotics take action on protein synthesis such as aminoglycosides, macrolides, and tetracyclines. There is a narrow spectrum antibacterial products which target Gram-negative or Gram-positive bacteria and a wide spectrum of ones applicable for a broader range of bacterial infections. New antibiotics have been synthesized in the past few years such as cyclic lipopeptides, glycylcyclines and oxazolidinones.

Air disinfectants take action on microorganisms suspended in the air. They are propylene glycol and triethylene glycol. Alcohols like ethanol and isopropanol can also be used as disinfectants. Aldehydes such as formaldehyde and glutalardehyde have sporocidal and fungicidal killing effect. Oxidizing agents are widely used to destroy microorganism such as sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite, chloramines, chlorine dioxids, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, ozone, peracetic acid, lactic acid, performic acid, potassium permanganate and potassium peroxymonosulfate.

Phenolics can be found in disinfectant shop and hand washes. They include phenol, chloroxylenol, hexachlorophene and thymol. Quarternary ammonium compounds can also be used as low level disinfectants. Other disinfectants include sodium bicarbonate and high intensity shortwave ultraviolet light.


Antibacterial compounds can be administered as oral antibiotics. Intravenous antibiotics are used in severe bacterial infections. Topical antibiotics are sometimes prescribed.

A disinfectant can be dispersed in the air or be applied on a surface using cotton rags or disposable cellulose-based wipers. The efficiency of a product greatly depends on the materials used to disperse as on the solution itself. Only quality certified materials should be used.

Similarities and Differences

  • An antibacterial compound is designed to kill bacteria or impede their growth. A disinfectant compound is a substance applied on non-living objects designed to kill microorganisms.
  • Antibacterial compounds include narrow and wide spectrum antibiotics. Disinfectants include propylene glycol and triethylene glycol, alcohol, oxidizing agents, phenolics.
  • Antibacterial products can be administered orally, topically or intravenously. Disinfectants can be dispersed in the air or locally applied with cotton rags.

Antibacterial and Disinfectant Video

Which cleaner is more useful in the bathroom?
  • Antibacterial
  • Disinfectant

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