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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:

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


Mercury compounds are poisonous. Many antiseptic cause skin irritation.

Resources and Citations

  • 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: swyslwyg://76/htp://mindquest.net/biology/microbiology/outlines/u_cgrwth.html