"Antibacterial" means the product kills or interferes with the growth of bacteria. "Antibacterial" applies to chemicals used to treat surfaces. According to Tufts University, antibacterials generally are either short-acting with no residual chemicals, such as alcohol or chlorine, or are long-acting, such as triclosan.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates how cleaners are classified. A disinfectant must destroy all microorganisms the label lists on the product. Disinfectants kill not only bacteria but also viruses and fungi.
In general, disinfectants are used to clean germs and bacteria off of non-living surfaces.
Antiseptics and antibacterial products clean germs and bacteria off of living things (such as skin or minor cuts and scratches).
According to the Mayo Clinic, hand washing with regular soap is effective and there is evidence that antibacterial cleaners can create some antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
at 4:50 AM on Mar. 7, 2011