There are a number of products available for killing germs and figuring out what all is different about them can be challenging. Let’s begin with two main categories where germs need dealt with, hand care and hard surfaces. Under hand care there are hand sanitizers and soaps, while under hard surfaces there are disinfectants and sanitizers.
In the United States, hard surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers are governed by two separate bodies. Hard surface disinfectants are governed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while hand sanitization products are governed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As you can imagine, each organization has different requirements for products to qualify and we produce products that comply with them.
On key difference between EPA and FDA regulations is that the EPA calls for specific testing on certain bacteria/viruses in order to qualify as a registered product and the FDA does not. Therefore, no specific kill claims can be made regarding antibacterial soaps or hand sanitizers; but they can be made for hard surface disinfectants.
In order for a product to be labeled as a disinfectant, it must pass a broad range of tests performed by a third party laboratory – particularly efficacy tests. The test results are then submitted to the EPA. After review of the application and the efficacy test results, the EPA will then approve or deny the product as a disinfectant. If approved, the product can then be sold with all the relevant disinfection and kill claims. This process can take up to a year or more to complete!
So what exactly is a disinfectant? In short, it is an antimicrobial agent that destroys micro-organisms on hard surfaces. But disinfectants themselves are divided by the EPA into several categories depending on their efficacy:
A sanitizer reduces but does not eliminate all pathogens. The requirements for sanitizers are less stringent than for disinfectants. Sanitizers must kill 99.999% of germs within 30 seconds for food-contact surfaces or 99.9% of germs within 5 minutes for non-food-contact surfaces.
A disinfectant must kill all the organisms claimed on the EPA approved label, when used as directed, on hard inanimate surfaces. There are several types of disinfectant claims: