| FAQ - Practice Safety/Patient Safety - Archived Through 2012
What classification is alcohol in terms of its ability to disinfect: high level, intermediate level, or low level? Does ethyl alcohol kill TB? If soap is added to ethyl alcohol, will it become a more effective disinfectant? Is ethyl alcohol a sufficient disinfectant for dental office surfaces such as countertops, cupboards?
Ethanol in concentrations of 70% and higher is considered an intermediate-level disinfectant and is considered broadly virucidal and tuberculocidal. The virucidal activity of isopropanol is limited primarily to lipid-containing viruses.
Ethanol is tuberculocidal. Adding ethanol to a disinfectant formula can shorten the required contact time for inactivation of benchmark organism Mycobacterium tuberculosis but may have no effect on contact time for other organisms.
Because alcohols are poor cleaners and evaporate rapidly, they may not be the best choice for use on environmental surfaces(1). Adding soap to alcohol may improve its usefulness as a cleaner but will not increase its germicidal efficacy.
1) Ali Y, Dolan MJ, Fendler EJ, Larson EL. In Block SS., ed. Disinfection, Sterilization, and Preservation, 5th edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2001