Phenolic Solutions: Are They Cleaners or Disinfectants?


THOUGH PHENOLIC SOLUTIONS are often referred to as “cleaning solutions,” they actually deviate somewhat from the typical cleaning solution. Generally, cleaning solutions are characterized by their ability to remove soils (contaminants) from surfaces. Phenolic solutions don’t really do this.

Cleaning solutions remove soils from surfaces by lowering the surface tension of the thin water layer that exists between the soil and the surface, thus permitting easy removal of the soil and leaving the surface clean. Phenolic solutions, on the other hand, do not lower the surface tension of water sufficiently have this effect. Hence, they are better described as “disinfectants.”

When To Use Both A Cleaner And A Disinfectant

If both cleaning and disinfection of a surface is required, then one employs a liquid containing both a cleaning agent (typically, a detergent) and a substituted phenolic disinfectant (o-phenylphenol, for example, which avoids the toxicity, carcinogenicity, and corrosive nature of pure phenol). At the 2- to 5-percent concentration level, the substituted phenolics have been shown to be bactericidal, tuberculocidal, virucidal, and fungicidal.

While a phenolic solution does “clean” — that is, it kills surface pathogenic agents — it can’t be truly effective unless the phenolic constitutent is unimpeded in reaching the surface by soils. If the solution is impeded, then you need a soil-removing cleaning agent (detergent) to enable the phenolic constitutent to do its job at the surface.

How To Use A Cleaner-Disinfecting Solution

The combined cleaner-disinfecting solution is used with either knitted polyester wipers or non-woven polyester-cellulose blended wipers —both of which are structurally and chemically resistant to the cleaner-disinfectant. The wipers ensure the soils and dead pathogens are effectively removed from the treated surfaces.

Phenolic solutions are most often employed by the biological, pharmaceutical and biomedical industries, which must ensure surfaces remain pathogen-free.

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