Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial - Knowing the Difference

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Braden Norwood

Contributing Author

What's The Difference in Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial Solutions?

At first glance, the antimicrobial vs antibacterial “question” might not seem important. Especially if you don’t work in the cleaning industry or have an overarching reason for choosing one over the other. However, subtle variations between the two solutions might might make the difference for your cleaning and disinfecting activities. And when applied incorrectly, these products can prove harmful to you and the environment. So, knowing the facts in the antimicrobial vs antibacterial debate can do more than prove helpful. It can ensure your safety.

Defining Antimicrobial

Antimicrobial solutions describe products which act upon a wider range of microbes. This includes bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold. In fact, antimicrobial technology sometimes even impacts other forms of micro-life like dust mites. Essentially, these solutions work to inhibit microorganisms’ ability to grow, which eventually eliminates them entirely.

Defining Antibacterial

Unlike antimicrobial technology, antibacterial solutions act specifically upon bacteria. As such, they don’t work to eliminate other microorganisms like viruses, fungi, or mold. So, while antibacterial applications work effectively to kill and prevent further growth of bacteria like E coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, they have no discernable impact on a wider range of illness-causing microorganisms.

Is Antimicrobial or Antibacterial Better?

At first glance, the question of antimicrobial vs antibacterial seems to come out in favor of antimicrobial solutions. After all, they work to inhibit and eliminate a much wider range of disease-causing organisms. They also often include odor-killing capabilities, which not only keeps your space safe but fresh as well. However, there may be other reasons to resist turning to antibacterial solutions in the disinfecting and sanitizing process.

The FDA currently recognizes no benefit of some antibacterial products like antibacterial soap over plain soap and warm water. And while many people often lump in antimicrobials with these products, they’re efficacy remains much higher. Of course, concern remains that overuse of such products could produce bacteria and other microorganisms that resist modern solutions. In fact, some antimicrobial soaps simply don’t work to reduce various bacteria and viruses, as shown in multiple studies. So, it’s important to recognize the limitations and even potential detriments of using some antimicrobial solutions.

Other products, however, have proven incredibly efficacious at eliminating various antimicrobial threats, such as hand sanitizers and surface sprays. In particular, residual sanitizers, like SRFC Bio, which creates a protective coating that doesn’t simply kill on application but continues reducing 99.9% of bacteria for up to 24 hours. However, these types of EPA-regulated products aren’t meant for use as body-cleaning solutions, and can prove harmful if used incorrectly. So, make sure you always follow the provided safety instructions.

In answer to the prime question, antimicrobial solutions come out on top of antibacterial technology, because they have the potential to more effectively reduce the number of dangerous microbes. But you should keep in mind the importance of researching individual products to ensure they actually do more good than harm.

The Conclusions for Antimicrobial vs Antibacterial Products

If you don’t have time for all the details, here’s the TLDR version:

  • Antimicrobial solutions work to reduce a larger number of microorganisms than antibacterial technology, and generally prove more effective.
  • Some antimicrobial products show no discernable difference in reduction from normal cleaning products like soap and water.
  • Other technologies, like residual surface sprays, prove much more effective in reducing the number of bacteria and viruses living on everyday surfaces.
  • Make sure you understand the correct way to handle and apply different products to ensure your personal safety and protect the environment.
When used correctly, antimicrobial products like SRFC Bio’s RS spray can help eliminate threats and protect your space. Our EPA-registered product kills 99.9% of bacteria and viruses for 24 hours on various surfaces*. And it keeps killing bacteria for even longer to help reduce odors and harmful microorganisms. Buy a bottle and see for yourself.

*Hard, non-pouros, non-food contact surfaces

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