Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial: What Are the Differences?

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What’s the difference between antimicrobial vs antibacterial?

The terms “antibacterial” and “antimicrobial” are often used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. Both can be used to prevent the spreading of germs.

However, antimicrobials have special abilities that antibacterial products can’t provide. This article will explore how these terms differ and why you need to know which one is right for your needs!

Read on to learn more about antibacterials vs. antimicrobials!

What Antibacterial Is All About

First, let’s get into what antibacterial means. The word antibacterial is a combination word. It combines the prefix “anti-“, which means against.
Next, it has the word “bacterium”, which is the singular form of bacteria. This means that antibacterial products can kill or stop the growth of certain forms of bacteria on living tissue.

They can be used for both medical and non-medical purposes, like washing your hands to prevent the spread of disease. Antibacterial products are more common today than ever before.

How They Make Antibacterial Products

Next, let’s look inside antibacterial products, to see what their ingredients are. Antibacterial products contain active ingredients such as Triclosan and Benzalkonium chloride. These active ingredients work by breaking down the cell walls of bacteria and stopping them from reproducing.

However, antibacterial products don’t provide much else beyond this. They can’t help prevent viruses or stop fungi from growing. For this reason, antibacterial products are best to prevent bacteria from spreading. However, they aren’t concerned with other types of germs. According to the FDA, antibacterial soap isn’t necessary to prevent the spread of COVID. Instead, you can rely on normal soap and water, just make sure you wash for at least 20 seconds.

What Does Antimicrobial Mean?

As we continue exploring antimicrobial vs antibacterial products, let’s shine the spotlight on the antimicrobial side of things. The word antimicrobial is also a combination of the prefix “anti-“, which means against, and the word “microbe”.

Remember, antibacterial refers specifically to bacteria. Whereas, antimicrobial refers to all types of microbes. These include viruses as well as fungi.

You can use antimicrobial products for both medical and non-medical purposes too. There are even antimicrobial paper products for health-conscious offices.

Antimicrobials can kill bacteria, viruses, and other organisms. They can prevent the spreading of germs too. They do this by preventing these microbes from causing infection, illness, or disease in living tissue.

Making Antimicrobial Cleaners

What chemicals will you find in antimicrobial products?

Antimicrobial cleaners can contain a variety of chemicals, depending on the type and purpose of the product. Common antimicrobials include chlorine compounds and mercury.

Be careful whenever using any type of cleaning product, but especially with antimicrobials. Inhaling these toxic chemicals or ingesting them through contact with skin is dangerous for humans and animals alike.

To stay safe, make sure you always clean in a well-ventilated area. Open up a window, turn on a fan, and take frequent cleaning breaks.

What Should You Buy?

Now you know the difference between antibacterial and antimicrobial products. So, which one do you need?

From killing bacteria to preventing it from spreading, antibacterial vs antimicrobial products has different functions. However, both types of products are necessary for controlling the spread of germs in your home.

If you want to prevent bacteria from spreading, almost any type of antibacterial antiseptic or disinfectant will do. These can be used to kill the germs that are already there or stop them from spreading in the first place.

If you need to prevent bacteria from spreading and want to kill all types of microbes, including viruses, then antimicrobial products are going to be your best bet.

Whatever you buy, play it safe. Always read the directions on the label to check if a product is safe for use around children and pets before applying it to any surface.

Avoid Cleaning Wipe Mistakes

Are you using antibacterial wipes? Wipes with “disinfectant” on the label should kill bacteria, viruses, and mold. Wipes with “antimicrobial” on the label might not work as well on viruses.

However, to get the most out of any type of cleaning wipe, you have to know the best cleaning practices. One of the biggest mistakes people make is drying the surface they’re cleaning before it’s time.

If you don’t wait long enough before you dry it, then some germs might not have died. That’s why you shouldn’t use a towel to wipe the surface dry. You could just smear the germs around instead of getting rid of them for good.

Instead, let the antibacterial wipe do its job while it’s still wet. Use the whole sheet or half a sheet if that’s all you need. If there are two of your cleaning, let one person keep the wipes wet while the other concentrates on removing bigger messes.

Clean Before You Wipe

Next, you should clean the surface before wiping it down with a wipe. For instance, let’s say you’re cleaning your kitchen counters. You’ll want to remove all of the garbage and food with a damp, soapy rag. Dry off the countertop completely, and move any appliances out of the way.

Then, use a disinfecting wipe to clean the countertops. Remember to wait, and let the countertop dry naturally after using an antibacterial wipe.

Protect Your Hands

Are you cleaning your hands with antibacterial wipes? Be careful! That’s not the best way to remove germs from your skin.

Some ingredients in antibacterial wipes can irritate the skin. You could end up with redness, itchiness, and swelling also called contact dermatitis.

Instead, you’ll want to clean your hands with regular soap and water. If you don’t have access to running water, use antibacterial sanitizers made for the skin.

Choose Between Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial

Now you know all about antimicrobial vs antibacterial products, and how they serve different functions. Which cleaning agent do you think you’ll be using?

Do you need to prevent bacteria from spreading and want to kill all types of microbes, including viruses? Then choose antimicrobial products.

Since you’ll need to clean the surface area with soapy water first, put surface cleaning on your to-do list. Wipe down all of your countertops with a soapy rag. Then you can use an antibacterial or antimicrobial wipe to kill the germs! For more tips, read another article.

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