High-Level Disinfectants vs. Low-Level Disinfectants: Which One Does Your Business Need?

Posted on July 9, 2024

More individuals are conscious about stepping into clean spaces with minimal germs and a low risk of germ transmission. That’s why disinfectants play a crucial role in maintaining a safe and healthy environment in commercial spaces. Understanding the types of disinfectants and their appropriate usage is essential, whether it’s an office, a healthcare facility, or a public space.

Commercial cleaning services can offer high-level and low-level disinfection. When seeking cleaning solutions, businesses should know which type is appropriate for their industry and facility.

Here is what you should know about the difference between low-level and high-level disinfection examples and applications.

Introduction to Disinfectants

Disinfectants are chemicals that significantly reduce or eliminate harmful microorganisms on surfaces. These microorganisms can include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores, posing health risks.

Disinfectant products are different from general cleaning products. Cleaners remove visible dirt and organic material, while disinfectants target and destroy pathogens. Depending on their potency and formulation, these products can have various low-level and high-level disinfection examples.

Low-Level Disinfection

Low-level disinfectants eliminate most bacteria, some viruses, and some fungi. However, they are ineffective against more resilient organisms, such as bacterial spores and certain viruses.

Low-level disinfectants are commonly used in environments where the risk of infection is relatively low and thorough sterilization isn’t necessary. Some low-level disinfection examples include:

  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Cetylpyridinium chloride
  • Hypochlorites (bleach)
  • Alcohol
  • Low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide

Examples of Low-Level Disinfection Use

  • Office Spaces: Regular cleaning of desks, chairs, doorknobs, and other frequently touched office surfaces typically involves low-level disinfectants. These environments generally don’t require the stringent measures needed in medical settings.
  • Schools and Daycares: While hygiene is critical, the primary aim is to reduce the spread of common colds and flu rather than eliminating every possible pathogen. Low-level disinfectants are adequate for cleaning toys, desks, and common areas.
  • Retail Stores: Low-level disinfectants are often used in stores to clean checkout counters, shelves, and floors and maintain a sanitary environment for shoppers and staff.
  • Restaurants and Cafes: Daily disinfection of countertops, sinks, and food preparation areas prevent the spread of common bacteria and viruses. Disinfection at the front of the house can also maintain hygiene and cleanliness for diners.

High-Level Disinfection

High-level disinfectants are much more potent and eliminate all microorganisms. This includes bacterial spores, which are notoriously tough to kill with low-level disinfectants.

High-level disinfectants are essential in settings where the highest hygiene standards are necessary to prevent the spread of infections and ensure safety. Some high-level disinfection examples include:

  • Glutaraldehyde
  • Peracetic Acid
  • Chlorine Dioxide
  • Ortho-phthalaldehyde
  • High concentrations of hydrogen peroxide

Examples of High-Level Disinfection Use

  • Healthcare FacilitiesMedical facilities such as hospitals and clinics must use high-level disinfectants for sterilizing surgical instruments, endoscopes, and other medical devices. This level of disinfection is critical in preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
  • Laboratories: In labs where experiments involve dangerous pathogens, high-level disinfection ensures that work surfaces, equipment, and waste are free from contamination, protecting both workers and the environment.
  • Food Processing Plants: High-level disinfectants are used on equipment and surfaces that come into direct contact with food products to prevent foodborne illnesses and cross-contamination.
  • Spas and Wellness Centers: Disinfectants are used on surfaces, tools, and equipment in various treatments to prevent infections and ensure client safety. Disinfection of hot tubs, pools, and hydrotherapy baths eliminates pathogens and maintains hygienic conditions for clients.

Comparison: High-Level vs. Low-Level Disinfectants


High-Level Disinfectants Low-Level Disinfectants
Potency Capable of killing all microorganisms, including bacterial spores. High-level disinfectants offer a higher degree of protection and sterility. Effective against most bacteria, some viruses, and fungi. Low-level disinfectants aren’t effective against bacterial spores or more resistant viruses.
Usage Environment High-level disinfection is necessary in high-risk environments such as hospitals, laboratories, and food processing areas. In these cases, complete elimination of all pathogens is required. Ideal for general public spaces like offices, schools, and retail stores where the risk of severe infection is low.
Cost and Application It is often more costly and may require special handling, as well as professional services for application procedures to ensure safety and effectiveness. Generally less expensive and easier to apply, making them suitable for routine cleaning tasks.
Health and Safety Can be hazardous if not used properly. These often require special handling, the use of PPEs, and adherence to strict guidelines to prevent harm to users and the environment. Pose lower health risks to users and can often be used with minimal personal protective equipment (PPE).


Suitable Disinfection Solutions for Your Spaces from JAN-PRO Cleaning & Disinfecting

Choosing the right disinfectant is more than just a matter of preference; it’s about ensuring safety and hygiene in various settings. Low-level disinfectants are suitable for everyday cleaning and maintaining general cleanliness. On the other hand, high-level disinfectants are indispensable in high-risk environments where any microorganism could have severe consequences.

JAN-PRO Cleaning & Disinfecting understands the critical role disinfectants play in commercial cleaning. Whether you need a routine cleaning service for your office or specialized disinfection for a healthcare facility, you can trust our certified franchisees to meet your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Cleaning services provided by independently owned and operated JAN-PRO Commercial Cleaning franchisees.