What’s the Difference Between a Disinfectant and an Antimicrobial?

What’s the Difference Between a Disinfectant and an Antimicrobial?

In 2021, in the continuing wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, “disinfectant” and “antimicrobial” have become trendy marketing buzzwords. Why?

Consumers know they need their environments to be clean in order to be safe from viruses and bacteria. Companies know that and use it to their advantage by putting COVID-combating language on their products.

Therefore, when we go to purchase cleaners, as we’re standing in the cleaning aisle of our store or browsing the Internet, we’re faced with a wall of products all claiming to be antibacterial, antimicrobial, disinfecting and, generally, all-powerful.

They’re actually all part of the antimicrobial family. As a consumer, you might be wondering: What does it all mean?

We’ve got your back. Here’s a quick primer on the different action words you’ll find on your cleaning products – and a guide to help you figure out which products are best for you.

What is a disinfectant?

According to the CDC, a disinfectant is a substance that kills microorganisms.  They kill microorganisms on contact, but as soon as they dry and someone touches the surface, it’s immediately re-contaminated. Disinfectants are meant for use on nonliving surfaces, such as your countertops, vertical panels, technology and other inorganic pieces of your environment. (A substance meant for living surfaces, such as a hand sanitizer, is termed an antiseptic).

A disinfectant is a general class of substances; depending on the active chemicals used in the disinfectant, it may target viruses, bacteria or fungi. For more specificity, you’re better off looking for a specific antiviral, antibacterial or antifungal agent.

What is an antimicrobial substance?

An antimicrobial substance is precisely what it sounds like: It’s a disinfecting agent that targets unwanted microbes in your environment. 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.” The EPA recently announced it is expediting testing and review on the long-lasting properties of antimicrobials, which can remain effective for several days, even weeks, against viruses. That’s exciting news for consumers using our technology, knowing it kills the virus that causes COVID-19 and it includes antimicrobials.

Where a disinfectant kills these types of microorganisms, an antimicrobial prevents the viability and future growth of unwanted microbes in a more long-lasting way. Antimicrobials leave a surface coating or become integrated into your countertops (or other hard, non-porous surfaces) to prevent future microbe growth and viability.

Your strategy for keeping your environment safe should involve both disinfectants and antimicrobials for the most comprehensive, all-encompassing clean sweep of anything you don’t want on your premises.

Since these can be overwhelming and confusing distinctions, we recommend finding a good multi-action agent that can take care of all of these concerns simultaneously. (Look for one that’s registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reliable, trustworthy claims.)

Tip: What NOT to use in your home

While it may be tempting, it’s a good idea to avoid DIY cleaning solutions; particularly those containing high concentrations of bleach or vinegar. Both of these substances appear in countless household hack articles across the Internet, but here’s the truth: Bleach and vinegar are exceedingly strong, even your personal health.

It’s a far better (and safer, and more efficient) plan to select a good multi-action spray to take care of your surfaces gently, yet effectively.

A quick primer on how to keep your home clean and safe

  1. Use the right solution. Consider your goals and pick a disinfecting, cleaning or antimicrobial agent to get the job done. Cleaners and antimicrobial sprays are different solutions, so remember that it might be necessary to use a couple of different products to get your environment clean and
  2. Spray the surface, not the cloth. Your solution will work its magic on the first surface it touches; so, if you spray your cloth before using it to clean a surface, all you’re going to end up with is a really clean cloth. Spray the surface you’re targeting from 4-6 inches from the surface allow the solution to sit, or dwell, on the surface as directed.
  3. Let the solution sit. A good disinfectant or antimicrobial solution will take a couple minutes to affect a surface fully; so, read the instructions of your spray and be patient for optimal results.

(Remember to disinfect all high-touch surfaces such as your phone, your door handles, your remote controls and your technology, as well – we touch all of these things often but tend to forget to clean them regularly!)

If you are looking for a reliable antimicrobial disinfectant that is easy to use, it’s time to try MicroGold® Multi-Action Disinfectant Antimicrobial Spray. Its technology uses both a disinfectant and a Si-Quat antimicrobial. What’s that mean? The silane base anchors to the surface for long-lasting protection; positively charged nitrogen attracts negatively charged microbes, and microscopic molecular spikes puncture membranes of the microbes – terminating them. It’s safe to use in your home; it’s non-abrasive, phosphate-free, bleach-free, alcohol-free and has been tested and proven effective to kill the COVID-19 virus in 3 minutes when properly applied to hard non-porous surfaces.


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