Disinfectant types - how do disinfectants differ?

Put a drop of disinfectant on the palm of your hand, rub it in – and bang! the good feeling of impeccable cleanliness spreads.

But what do we put on our skin – now regularly since the pandemic? And how do the different types of disinfectants differ?

We have highlighted the differences for you.

Desinfektionsmittel-Arten – wie unterscheiden sich Desinfektionsmittel?

Table of contents

Disinfectant differences

Disinfectants differ not only in their ingredients, packaging sizes and design, but also in their areas of application. Depending on the application, different chemicals may have to be added during production or may not be used at all.

Surface disinfection

Hospitals, catering companies, research facilities – in these and many other contexts, perfect cleanliness of work surfaces is urgently required. Surface disinfectants are often sprays or liquid products. Depending on the preparation, the disinfectant is left to act; in the food sector, it is also intended that the corresponding surface is reworked with water. Aldehydes are usually used as the active ingredient in surface disinfectants, as they have a broad spectrum of activity.

Skin disinfection

Surely you too have a disinfectant in your bathroom, on a cabinet in the hallway for visitors, or in your purse. Hand disinfectant rids hands, fingers and interdigital spaces of bacteria or viruses or, in the best case, even both – it depends on the product’s spectrum of activity. The active ingredient is usually alcohol. At a level of 70% alcohol and above, a disinfectant eliminates enveloped viruses such as the coronavirus.

Disinfection of instruments & material

In the dentist’s office as in the operating room, instruments and materials must always be perfectly cleaned – and in addition to the supporting ultrasonic baths, disinfectants are of course also used. For disinfectants for these purposes, chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite or chlorine dioxide are considered the most effective agents.

Disinfection of food or drinking water

Of course, liquids such as drinking water and food can also be disinfected. The necessary processes are carried out with the help of chemical or thermal processes. In chemical processes, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite or calcium hypochlorite are used as active substances.

Individual ingredients of disinfectants

Let us now turn to the individual components that make up disinfectants. We have prepared for you a list of ingredients found in the various types of disinfectants….


When you enter almost any swimming pool, you are immediately hit by the typical smell of chlorine. Sure, because it cleans the bath water. But not only that. Chlorine is also used in the disinfection of drinking water and to eliminate unpleasant odors, among others. In its pure form it is yellowish-green and belongs to the halogens. Chlorine may only be used within permissible load limits. Indeed, if this is exceeded, chlorine can irritate the upper respiratory tract and cause skin rashes.


Iodine is mainly used for wound disinfection and has a killing effect against bacteria, fungi, spores and viruses. However, it is not an ultimate disinfectant against viruses, due to unreliable effectiveness. Attention: in case of hyperthyroidism, it is necessary to pay good attention to the amount of iodine used in order not to provoke a negative effect.


Hydrogen peroxide is known to you mainly because of hair dyes? Understandable, but H2O2 is also used for disinfection. The main field of application is the disinfection of surfaces and utensils. By the way, peroxide can also be used to remove mold stains from the bathroom at home.


The classic alcohol ethanol, familiar from relevant stimulants, is also used for most hand disinfectants. An ethanol content of over 70 percent ensures high efficacy against enveloped viruses. As an alternative to ethanol, isopropanol can also be processed.


Acids are also used for disinfection, but mainly for hygiene in stables. The acids – for example formic, acetic and citric acid – serve in the context to lower the PH value.

Disinfection -effect spectrum

Even within one type of disinfectant, there are different target organisms so that one type of germ can be specifically eliminated. If you are looking for a disinfectant, you will find the following labels on the packages:


This type of disinfectant is effective against bacteria, but not against viruses. What seems to be virtually the same thing to many people, however, makes a big difference in both disease and prevention through disinfectants. So, if you want to protect yourself from contracting the coronavirus, an antibacterial disinfectant is not enough.


A fungicidal product will help you control fungi. With the help of a chemical or biological agent, fungi and their spores are killed so that the fungus cannot spread further.

Limited virucidal

This type of disinfectant is effective against viruses – but not against all of them. This is because limited virucidal disinfectants only combat enveloped viruses. These include influenza and coronaviruses.

Limited virucidal plus

The plus stands for additional types of viruses that can be combated with an appropriate disinfectant. In addition to enveloped viruses, a limited virucidal disinfectant can also tackle adenoviruses, rotaviruses and noroviruses.


Whether coated or not, this type of sanitizer goes all out for the ultimate protection against germs and infection. So if you want to protect yourself not only against infection with SARS-Cov-19, but also against enteroviruses, rhino viruses or astroviruses, it is best to use a virucidal product.

RKI definition list

The Robert Koch Institute has published a list of approved processes for the production of disinfectants and the permitted ingredients. Depending on the type of disinfectant, the procedure is explained here, the exposure time and concentration are specified and a suitable manufacturer is named. Handy if you’re just looking for a disinfectant for a specific context.

Buy reliable skin disinfectant

For private applications, however, we at WIESENBERG still have something very special for you: our disinfectant with care factor and fragrance. We turn hygiene into an experience and replace the unpleasant, acrid odor that makes disinfectants so unpopular with a fresh scent. Our exclusive care ingredient also ensures that your hands do not dry out and feel supple and well-groomed at the same time. Curious? Then give it a try 🙂 .