What are the three types of sanitizers?

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Sanitizers and disinfectants are regulated by the environmental protection agency (EPA). Many people have been asking what the difference between sanitizers and disinfectants is, but basically, they are the same thing. Golin, Choi, and Ghahary (2020) stated that the main ingredients used in sanitizers to eliminate pathogenic microorganisms are disinfectant chemicals. But the chemicals used in sanitizers are classified as low-level disinfectants, so that’s where the difference is. Still, it doesn’t mean sanitizers are not as effective as disinfectants, and they are pretty effective against a large variety of pathogenic microorganisms, including the novel coronavirus.

The three types of sanitizers

There are three types of sanitizers that are usually used around but not limited to the home. Mostly these sanitizers are used in foodservice places to disinfect food contact surfaces. Still, it’s always important to follow instructions given by the manufacturer to ensure that you are using it appropriately. Atolani et al. (2020) pointed out that the instructions usually are stuck at the side of a product container. The three sanitizers are Chlorine (popularly known as bleach), Quaternary Ammonium, and Iodine.

  • Chlorine (bleach): this substance has strong disinfection properties, making it one of the most influential and commonly used sanitizers. Chlorine can kill pathogenic microorganisms and purify water hence making drinking and swimming pool water safe. Its chemistry is used to make household bleach that is mostly used on laundry and household cleaning. To make it brief, Chlorine is a chemical used widely, and it has kept people safe for centuries. Concentration should be 50 to 100 ppm.
  • Quaternary Ammonium compounds (QUATs): are disinfectant chemicals commonly used in disinfecting wipes, spray, and household cleaners. Jain et al. (2016) pointed out that the substances are very effective against germs and other pathogens and are also used as antibacterial as they are certified by the EPA as pesticides. It should be mixed in a concentration specified by the manufacturer (check the label) and are odorless and colorless in a diluted form. Also, they are proven to be stronger than Chlorine.
  • Iodine: iodine compounds are effective against many pathogenic microorganisms, including bacteria, yeasts, and molds. The most effective iodine compounds used in food processing industries are iodophors. They are non-irritating to the skin, non-toxic, and very stable. However, iodophor solutions may stain some plastics and porous surfaces. Concentration should be 12.5 to 25 ppm.

These sanitizers are widely used, especially now that we are dealing with a coronavirus pandemic, and the good news is that they can keep your home germs and virus free. But another question arises, what about alcohol? Well, that does not mean alcohol has been forgotten. Alcohol is used to make hand sanitizers. It’s not listed among the three is because it can’t be used to disinfect surfaces. But when it comes to killing pathogens on your hands, it’s instrumental. Notably, it can only be useful in the right concentration. That is from 60% alcohol and above as suggested by the CDC. Below that, Oluwatuyi et al. (2020) noted that it can’t do anything to the germs and viruses that you may have come in contact with often. Coincidentally, three alcohol types are used to make hand sanitizers, including Isopropyl Alcohol, N-propanol, and Ethanol. All have been tested and approved by the EPA. And finally, as a reminder, before you use any chemical (disinfectant), please ensure that you read and understand the instruction displayed on the product label.



Golin, A. P., Choi, D., & Ghahary, A. (2020). Hand sanitizers: a review of ingredients, mechanisms of action, modes of delivery, and efficacy against coronaviruses. American journal of infection control48(9), 1062-1067.

Atolani, O., Baker, M. T., Adeyemi, O. S., Olanrewaju, I. R., Hamid, A. A., Ameen, O. M., … & Usman, L. A. (2020). COVID-19: Critical discussion on the applications and implications of chemicals in sanitizers and disinfectants. EXCLI Journal19, 785.

Oluwatuyi, S. V., Agbele, A. T., Ogunrinde, M. E., Ayo, A. T. V., Ayo, A. M., Fayoke, A. B., … & Deborah, A. A. (2020). Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers: Review of Efficacy and Adverse Effect. Alcohol81.

Jain, V. M., Karibasappa, G. N., Dodamani, A. S., Prashanth, V. K., & Mali, G. V. (2016). Comparative assessment of antimicrobial efficacy of different hand sanitizers: An in vitro study. Dental Research Journal, 13(5), 424.

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