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What exactly are antibacterial disinfectants, anyway?

In a nutshell, antibacterial disinfectants help kill germs on the surfaces in our homes. They’re pretty easy to recognize because their labels say they disinfect, kill bacteria or sanitize. Their active ingredients and formulations go beyond simple cleaning. They kill or control the growth of microorganisms, including food borne bacteria like Salmonella; the cold virus; and fungus that causes athlete’s foot. Antibacterial disinfectants have been available for more than 100 years and are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Something else you should know is that the words antibacterial and antimicrobial are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Antimicrobial means activity against a wide variety of microorganisms, while antibacterial refers to activity against bacteria.

Here are some reasons why disinfecting your surfaces is important:

  • Regular cleaning products do a good job of removing soil, but only disinfectants or disinfectant cleaners kill the germs that cause many illnesses.
  • Surfaces like kitchen and bathroom counters, doorknobs, toilet seats and children’s toys may be contaminated with bacteria even when they’re not visibly soiled.
  • Salmonella can survive freezing and can survive on dry surfaces for at least 24 hours.
  • An estimated 60 million days of school and 50 million days of work are lost annually because of the common cold.
  • Some germs can live on dry surfaces (such as toys) for several hours, and on moist surfaces (like bathroom sinks) for up to three days.
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