What is a Germicidal Cleaner?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A germicidal cleaner is a cleaning product that is designed to kill microorganisms associated with disease. This includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists. Germicidal cleaners are manufactured by a wide range of companies and they come in an assortment of styles designed for different settings. Medical supply catalogs can be used as a source for these products and they can also be purchased in some drugstores, as well as stores that sell cleaning supplies.

Cleaning products function as germicides.
Cleaning products function as germicides.

Germicidal cleaners can act in a number of different ways, depending on their ingredients. They may actively kill microorganisms, or focus on damaging them so they cannot reproduce. Many products use synthetic chemicals developed to address a broad spectrum of microorganisms but some are based on natural compounds known to have germicidal properties, such as plant ingredients like tea tree oil.

Bleach wipes can kill bacteria on household items like doorknobs and keyboards.
Bleach wipes can kill bacteria on household items like doorknobs and keyboards.

Many companies produce concentrated germicidal cleaner. To use the product, people must follow dilution directions. Others may sell packaged cleaners that are ready for use. Germicidal cleaners can be used for activities like sterilizing treatment rooms after use, maintaining clean environments at home for people who need home health care services, wiping down common and public areas to limit the spread of disease, and cleaning commercial kitchens.

Germicidal cleaners may be used on kitchen surfaces where bacteria from uncooked food may be present.
Germicidal cleaners may be used on kitchen surfaces where bacteria from uncooked food may be present.

The product may be sprayed onto an area for cleaning or it may be blended with mop water or applied directly to a cleaning tool like a sponge. Directions for use vary, depending on the product and how it is designed to act. The germicidal cleaner may be colored to help people identify it more easily and some products include scents that may be intended to mask the chemical odors of the cleaner, or to deodorize spaces being cleaned. It is important to be aware that some germicidal cleaner products can cause skin and eye damage.

Using antibacterial wipes can help prevent the spread of germs.
Using antibacterial wipes can help prevent the spread of germs.

Such products need to be used with care. Using germicidal cleaners improperly can result in the development of resistance among the microorganisms these products are designed to kill. In addition to causing problems in the facilities where they originate, these microorganisms can also spread and lead to the development of disease in other locations. Highly resistant Staphylococcus bacteria, for example, are a growing problem in many medical clinics and hospitals around the world, forcing companies to develop new medications and germicidal products to combat them.

Hospitals and clinics commonly have specific protocols in place to dictate how their germicidal cleaners are used, with the goal of reducing the development of resistance and other problems. People using a germicidal cleaner at home as part of a home health care program should follow directions carefully and ask questions if they are not sure about how to use the product safely and effectively.

Germicidal cleaners are sometimes used to sanitize bathrooms.
Germicidal cleaners are sometimes used to sanitize bathrooms.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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