Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial: What’s the Difference?

Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between an antimicrobial vs. antibacterial?

Chances are, you’ve come across these terms on the labels of your disinfectants and household cleaners. Maybe you’ve investigated the difference. Or maybe you thought the two were interchangeable. 

In reality, the definition of antimicrobial and the definition of antibacterial have some important differences. And, in a time when we are increasingly concerned about finding the right cleaning products that will keep our loved ones safe, it’s more important than ever to know what those differences are. 

Antimicrobial vs. Antibacterial

Antimicrobial and antibacterial agents may seem relatively similar at the core, but they have different properties and applications that make them useful for targeting specific microorganisms. 

The biggest difference is that they don’t kill the same types of germs.  

To help you know which one you need – or if a multi-action cleaner would be better – let’s take a closer look at each one’s ability to kill bacteria, viruses, fungi and other disease-spreading germs that may be lurking on the surfaces of your home. 

Antibacterial Definition 

As the name suggests, the definition and application of an antibacterial is centered on one very specific type of germ: bacteria. defines an antibacterial as something that can destroy or suppress the growth of bacteria. But it is not an effective way to kill viruses and fungi.

While an antimicrobial includes chemicals and multiple active ingredients, many things have antibacterial properties. For example, boiling water at a certain temperature could kill certain bacteria. This is the reason it’s encouraged to boil your water if you are ever unsure about its drinkability.

When it comes to cleaning products, you’ve likely seen antibacterial hand soap promoted to help avoid illnesses and stop the spread of germs. This is one of the more common applications of antibacterial agents and is often used in children’s soaps to help stop the spread of illnesses.

An antibacterial agent can be in a hand soap, but not all soaps are necessarily antibacterial. Be sure to research which option is best for you.  

Antimicrobial Definition 

According to the EPA, an antimicrobial, is a “substance or mixture of substances used to destroy or suppress the growth of harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or fungi on inanimate objects and surfaces. Antimicrobial products contain about 275 different active ingredients and are marketed in many types of formulations including: sprays, liquids, concentrated powders, and gases.” 

Antimicrobial agents have the ability to kill both bacteria and viruses and suppress their future growth.

This last point is important to note. An antimicrobial’s ability to suppress future growth is key when it comes to providing longer-lasting protection for families, essential workers, businesses and more. For this reason, you’ll see the term antimicrobial show up often in cleaners and places where sanitation is important, such as public swimming pools and even some sporting apparel. 

What’s more, they must undergo approval by the EPA in order to advertise as any type of antimicrobial product. So, if you see a product labeled as an antimicrobial and it has an EPA registration number, you can trust its ability to help protect you from the spread of illnesses caused by viruses.

When looking for safe cleaning products for your home, there are multiple types of antimicrobials that protect against infectious microbes and are available to the public: 

– Sterilizers
– Sporicides
– Disinfectants
– Sanitizers
– Germicides

Sterilizers, disinfectants and sanitizers are the most common ones you might find in the cleaning aisle of your local store. Sterilizers and disinfectants are the strongest types of antimicrobials available, but sterilizers may have restricted use that makes them difficult to buy. 

That means that disinfectants are the best – and safest choices – for killing germs and viruses that are lingering on the surfaces of your home.

One important thing to note is that an antimicrobial spray needs to remain on a hard, non-porous surface for some amount of time in order to kill the harmful viruses and germs that may be living there. If you’re spraying down countertops, bathroom surfaces, doorknobs or any other area of your home, you’ll want to make sure the surface is visibly wet and let it set for a few minutes before wiping off. The exact time may vary depending on which product you are using, so it’s important to read the instructions carefully.

Advantages of Multi-Action Cleaners

You now know the significance of antimicrobial vs. antibacterial. You now know that both antimicrobial and antibacterial cleaners are proven to be effective in killing germs, but it depends on the type of germs you want to kill. 

Because antibacterial products have limitations when it comes to killing viruses – and it’s impossible to see and know whether there are viruses or bacteria on a surface – antimicrobial solutions that also disinfect tend to be the better option when protecting your home against harmful microorganisms.

To ensure you are effectively killing and prohibiting the future growth of viruses and bacteria, you also want to make sure you buy a disinfectant antimicrobial. Many people don’t know that disinfectants only kill microorganisms on contact, but as soon as they dry, and someone touches that light switch, doorknob or other surface, it’s immediately re-contaminated. 

Meanwhile, antimicrobials bond to surfaces and destroy or suppress the growth of microorganisms after the application dries, providing longer-lasting protection for families, essential workers, businesses and more.

So, if you’re looking for solutions to protect your family and home from unseen viruses, bacteria, fungi and other germs, check out MicroGold®. When the pandemic took hold here in the U.S. we just so happened to be in the final stages of testing a new product, initially called MonoFoil D, that was exactly what consumers needed – a cleaning spray that was both a disinfectant and antimicrobial in one. We recently rebranded it as MicroGold® Multi-Action Disinfectant Antimicrobial Spray, and it is tested and proven effective to kill the COVID-19 virus.

We brought this to market last spring in about three weeks with two specific objectives in mind: help our retail partners put the right products on their shelves to meet consumer demand, and help consumers protect their families and homes against harmful bacteria and viruses — particularly the virus that causes COVID-19.


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