Simple Science: Disinfectant Vocabulary
Bacteria – Plural of bacterium. Microscopic, one-celled organisms that can be found everywhere. They may or may not be dangerous.
Bacteriacide – Any chemical agent or substance capable of killing bacteria.
Broad spectrum – A large variety of organisms.
Disinfection – According to the EPA: thermal or chemical destruction of pathogenic and other types of microorganisms.
Efficacy – The ability to produce a desired result. In the case of disinfectants, the ability to kill specific microorganisms in a specific period of time, as approved by the EPA.
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency. The regulatory organization that oversees disinfectant registration, among many other environmental issues in America.
Fungicide – A chemical agent or substance capable of killing fungi.
Fungi – Plural of fungus. A group of single-celled or multi-celled organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic matter in which they grow.
Germ – A disease-causing microorganism.
Kill Claim – The microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, etc.) that a specific disinfectant is recognized to kill within a specific period of time, as approved by the EPA.
Microbe – A microscopic, one-celled organism, especially a bacterium or virus.
Microorganism – An organism that can only be seen with a microscope, especially a bacterium, virus or fungus.
Mildew – A usually white substance that grows on surfaces in wet, warm conditions.
Mildewcide – A chemical agent or substance capable of killing mildew.
Organic matter – Matter, including blood and waste, that comes from any organism.
Organic soil tolerance – A technical term used on disinfectant labels. It means the microorganisms listed have passed the EPA’s testing process for being effective in a 5 percent blood serum. In a practical sense, it means the disinfectant will still work even if all blood or other matter has not been completely cleaned from a surface before application.
Oxidizer – A type of chemical which a fuel requires to burn.
Pathogen – A bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.
Phenol – A corrosive, poisonous, mildly acidic compound present in the tars of wood and coal, used in diluted form in disinfectant solutions.
Quaternary Ammonium (Quat) – A water-soluble disinfecting substance (that has four carbon atoms linked to a nitrogen atom through covalent bonds) often used in disinfectant formulas.
Spore – In bacteria, a rounded, resistant form adopted by a bacteria cell in adverse conditions.
Surfactant – A substance that tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved.
Virucide – A chemical agent or substance capable of killing viruses.
Virus – A microscopic agent that causes infections and can only multiply within the living cells of a host such as a human, animal or plant.