Within the world of germ-fighting, personal and public hygiene, the number one feud happening today is the performance battle between antimicrobial and antibacterial substances. They are both used somewhat interchangeably in day to day life, but what is the difference?
The primary difference between antibacterials and antimicrobials is the types of microorganisms they inhibit. We will firstly look at defining the main differences between antimicrobial and antibacterial substances, before comparing the two directly.
Definitions listed by dictionary.com: destructive to or inhibiting the growth of bacteria: a full line of antibacterial hand lotions, deodorants, and foot powders.
An antibacterial substance is an active agent that works to inhibit the growth of bacteria from occurring upon a surface or within a product or material.
Definitions listed by dictionary.com: destructive to or inhibiting the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi: an antimicrobial spray to stop the spread of athlete’s foot in the locker room; antimicrobial ointments that suppress the cold sore virus.
An antimicrobial substance is an active agent that works to inhibit the growth, and even entirely eliminate bacteria, fungi, parasites, mould and certain microorganisms (such as house dust mites) from occurring upon a surface or within a product or material.
To put it simply, antibacterial products, such as deodorants and soaps, prevent the growth and development of bacteria. Antimicrobial products, such as (certain) hand sanitisers, will continuously inhibit the growth of bacteria, as well as parasites, mould, fungi and viruses on surfaces for a very long period of time. In short, antimicrobial substances cover a broader scope of protection beyond what antibacterial products offer.
When given the choice between an antimicrobial substance and an antibacterial substance, you will receive greater protection from the antimicrobial option. Although, this isn’t to say antibacterial substances work just as well, they simply do not protect against as much as antimicrobial substances do – both options are effective hygiene products.
Antimicrobials were first discovered by the Ancient Egyptians more than 2,000 years ago who used them for their remarkable cleansing power, by where they treated infections with specific plant entrants and moulds. Of course there is also Alexander Fleming, who in 1928 discovered the natural antimicrobial fungus with an extensive healing power, better known today as penicillin.
Antimicrobial products are used by people around the world every day, in commercial kitchens, schools, hospitals, homes and public spaces.