By. Najih - 10 Jul 2024


A large number of such chemical disinfectants are in common use are listed below:

1. Phenol and phenol derivatives

Phenol (5-10%) was the first disinfectant commonly used. However, because of its toxicity and odour, phenol derivatives are now generally used. These include orthophenylphenol, hexachlorophene, triclosan, hexylresorcinol, and chlorhexidine. These agents kill most bacteria, most fungi, and some viruses, but are usually ineffective against endospores. They alter membrane permeability and denature proteins.

2. Acids and alkalies

Acids and alkalies alter membrane permeability and denature proteins and other molecules. Salts of organic acids, such as calcium propionate, potassium sorbate, and methylparaben, are commonly used as food preservatives.

3. Heavy metals

Heavy metals, such as mercury, silver, and copper, denature proteins. Mercury compounds (mercurochrome, metaphen, merthiolate) are only bacteriostatic and are not effective against endospores. Silver nitrate (1%) is sometimes put in the eyes of newborns to prevent gonococcal ophthalmia. Copper sulfate is used to combat fungal diseases of plants and is also a common algicide. Selinium sulfide kills fungi and their spores.


4. Iodine and iodophores

Iodine also denatures microbial proteins. Iodine tincture contains a 2% solution of iodine and sodium iodide in 70% alcohole. Aqueous iodine solutions containing 2% iodine and 2.4% sodium iodide are commonly used as a topical antiseptic. Iodophores are a combination of iodine and an inert-polymers such as polyvinylpyrrolidone that reduces surface tension and slowly releases the iodine.

5. Aldehydes.

Aldehydes, such as formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde, denature microbial proteins. Formalin (37% aqueous solution of formaldehyde gas) is extremely active and kills most forms of microbial life. It is used in embalming, preserving biological specimens, and in preparing vaccines.

6. Ethylene oxide gas

Ethylene oxide is one of the very few chemicals that can be relied upon for sterilization (after 4-12 hours exposure). Since it is explosive, it is usually mixed with inert gases such as freon or carbon dioxide. Gaseous chemosterilizers, using ethylene oxide, are commonly used to sterilize heat-sensitive items such as plastic syringes, petri plates, textiles, sutures, artificial heart valves, heart-lung machines, and mattresses. Ethylene oxide has very high penetrating power and denatures microbial proteins.

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