Bactericidal agents, such as the aminoglycosides, kill their target organisms and are thus distinguished from bacteriostatic agents, which only inhibit or delay the reproduction of bacteria, according to Michigan State University. As these agents approach their target infections differently, their effectiveness can vary considerably from one case to another.
Depending on their effects and relative safety, bactericides half multiple uses including being used as antibiotics, disinfectants or antiseptics. Antibiotic-class bactericides are a diverse group that includes penicillin, cephalosporins and the fluoroquinolone family. Bactericidal antiseptics are not strictly medicines in the way antibiotics are, but they can be used in contact with the human body. Some antiseptics that reliably kill bacteria are ethyl alcohol, peroxide and organic acids such as sorbic acid and lactic acid. Disinfectants are not intended for use in contact with human bodies, and so their effect on organic tissue is of less concern. Some of the most commonly used bactericidal disinfectants include bleach and active oxygen compounds, such as potassium persulfate and urea perhydrate.
Also in common use are phenol, also known as carbolic acid, and strong alkalis such as sodium, potassium and calcium hydroxide. Alkali-based bactericides are especially effective at temperatures greater than 60 degrees Celsius.