Many household and medical disinfectants are capable of damaging surfaces and textiles during the course of ordinary use.
When an incompatibility occurs between a surface and a disinfectant, outcomes range from minor aesthetic modifications to loss of surface or textile functionality.
In order to determine use instructions and mitigate the risk that a disinfectant will damage surfaces, manufacturers engage laboratories to conduct materials compatibility tests. These tests are required by the FDA for disinfectants which are used to disinfect critical medical devices and recommended for manufacturers of ordinary environmental surface disinfectants.
Due to a lack of standardized procedures for materials compatibility testing, testing is customized based on the anticipated use of the disinfectant. Relevant factors include use type (immersion, spray, or wipe), and exposure or dwell time. Since the process of evaporation can temporarily concentrate the active ingredient or cause it to precipitate, some companies choose to also account for the effects of product evaporation by incorporating drying cycles into the test procedure.
The majority of disinfectants are compatible with most materials, but when incompatibility is evident the damage is often obvious and substantial, a problem that is best avoided by careful testing prior to product launch.