Statistics in brief - Disinfectants

Disinfectants are ready-to-use products containing one or more substances with biocidal effects. They are used to reduce the number of micro-organisms on surfaces, on skin and in water.

Number of disinfectants 1992 - 2010

Graph. Number of disinfectants in Sweden 1992 - 2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

The number of disinfectants is growing steadily. Particularly during the last three to four years the increase has been large, probably a result of the recurring outbreaks of pandemic influenza recently. The use of hand rub has become very common in many situations.

Groups of substances commonly used as disinfectants in 2010

Graph, Groups of substances commonly used as disinfectants in Sweden 2010.

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

About 43,000 tonnes of disinfectants were used in 2010. The most common types of substances in disinfectants are shown in the chart.

Alcohols, hypochlorites and peroxides account for 73 per cent of the active substances. They are substances that act by breaking down the entire micro-organisms. The proportion of alcohol as disinfecting substance has grown whereas the shares of quaternary ammonium compounds and acid/bases have decreased.

The biggest substances with biocidal effects in disinfectants
NameQuantity in disinfectants, tonnes
Sodium hypochlorite 4,153
Ethanol 1,724
Isopropanol 1,101
Didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride 766
Hydrogen peroxide 547
Formaldehyde 199
Calcium hypochlorite 197
Trichloroisocyanuric acid 167
Sodium chlorite 108
Sodium hydroxide 77

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

Hypochlorites and peroxides oxidise the microorganisms to disintegration. Ethanol and isopropanol act physically and the quaternary ammonium compounds e.g. didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride are toxic to microorganisms.

The sectors handling the largest numbers of different disinfectants in 2010
SectorNumber of productsQuantity of product, tonnes
Retailers 158 2,257
Cleaning activities 147 561
Manufacture of food products 143 830
Human health and social work 105 2,977
Agriculture 71 1,223
Hotels and restaurants 47 71
Other service activities 25 761
Water collection, treatment and supply 25 3,841
Sports activities 24 58
Veterinary activities 16 41

Source: Products Register, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

Most disinfectants are handled by trade. These products are traded to the end users in different industrial areas and also to consumers. There were 306 consumer available disinfectants in 2010 with a total quantity of 6,500 tonnes.