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A chemical or physical treatment that inhibits or kills microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoans). By the mid-19th century, disinfectants, such as phenol (carbolic acid) and iodine, were recognized for their ability to reduce infractions. Currently the following major classes of chemical disinfecting compounds are used:

- Heavy metals and their compounds: copper, silver (silver sulfadiazing, silver nitrate), and mercury (merthiolate, mercuric chloride)

- Halogens: iodine (Betadine®), and chlorine compounds (chlorine gas, sodium sodium hypochlorite, chloramine, hexachlorophene, chlorhexidine)

- Alcohols: ethanol, isopropanol

- Coal tar compounds (cresol, creosote, phenol, phenolics) and pine oil

- Surfactants: both cationic and anionic detergents

- Gas phase disinfectants: ozone, ethylene oxide, sulfur dioxide, formaldehyde, chlorine gas

- Ammonia: quaternary ammonia compounds kill gram positive bacteria

- Oxidizers: ozone, ethylene oxide; hydrogen peroxide

- Aldehydes and organic acids: formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, sorbic acid, citric acid, benzoic acid Physical methods of disinfection include:

- Radiation: infrared (heat sterilization) and ultraviolet light (surface only)

- Moist heat: boiling or steam autoclaving

- Pasteurization: heating and cooling cycles

- Filtration: laminar flow fume hoods

- Low Temperature: stops growth but does not kill all spores

- Desiccation: prevents growth and replication but does not kill spores

- Osmotic pressure:

Synonyms and Related Terms

antiseptic; germicide; biocide

Hazards and Safety

Mercury compounds are poisonous. Many antiseptic cause skin irritation.

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 271
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • A Glossary of Paper Conservation Terms, Margaret Ellis (ed.), Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York City, 1998
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Website address 1 Comment: swyslwyg://76/htp://mindquest.net/biology/microbiology/outlines/u_cgrwth.html