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Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting - Important Differences

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting - Important Differences

Germs are undoubtedly a part of our daily life and are everywhere (in the air, soil, and water). While some of them are beneficial, others are dangerous and can make us sick. 

They are found on surfaces and objects that we come in contact with. For instance, there could be germs on the doorknob, and it may infect you if you touch the doorknob and then rub the same hand on your eyes or nose or eat with it without washing. The world is currently experiencing the deadly pandemic caused by Coronavirus – an airborne virus found on surfaces and objects.

It's wise to avoid becoming infected by germs such as the deadly Coronavirus by often washing your hands. But it can be quite challenging if you have to wash your hands every time you touch something. Hence, it's also essential to frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and objects.

The Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfection.

Many people believe disinfecting means the same thing as cleaning or sanitizing. But the truth is that they are different. Let's examine them. 


This involves removing dirt, allergens, dust, crumbs, and germs from surfaces or objects. It is usually done with a cloth or wipe, soaked with soap, detergent, solvent, or water to clean off the surfaces and objects physically. However, cleaning doesn't kill the germs; it only helps in reducing the number of germs.

Cleaning is the initial step in a complete process, and it is an essential step that cannot be skipped. Even if you want to sanitize or disinfect the area, you must first wipe away visible dirt, dust, fingerprints, and other marks beforehand. Cleaning makes it easy and more effective to remove microscopic germs with other intensive methods such as disinfecting and sanitizing that will be done later.


Involves using chemicals (disinfectants) to kill pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms, germs on surfaces and objects. Some of the common disinfectants contain bleach and alcohol solutions. Normally, you have to leave the disinfectant on the surfaces and items for a specific time to eliminate the germs, but the time of elimination depends on the product.

The significant difference between sanitizing and disinfecting is the type of chemical used, and its length stays on a surface. For several disinfectants, 10 minutes is the suitable time. Nevertheless, you must read the instructions on the chemical product to ensure proper disinfection.


This means that you reduce the number of germs or bacteria to a safe level to reduce the risk of infection, but it may not kill all viruses.

A safe level depends on the public health standards or requirements at a workplace, healthcare center, school, etc. For instance, there are sanitizing procedures for restaurants and other food-producing facilities that prepare food. The objects or facilities that you want to sanitize will differ, depending on your needs. For instance, you may use an antibacterial wipe on a tv remote or use a dishwasher to sanitize the dishes.

Sanitization is more effective than cleaning. It kills a massive number of bacteria, and it's applied to any object that comes into contact with food. Sanitizers can kill certain kinds of bacteria, but their techniques and products cannot eliminate all viruses alone.

How to Safely Clean and Disinfect?

  • It's vital to stay safe whenever you are using cleaning and disinfecting products. 
  • Store the products in the container they come in. Ensure you follow the instructions and read the warnings on the label carefully. 
  • Avoid mixing cleaners and disinfectants unless the label instructs it's safe to do so. For example, combining certain products like Ammonia cleaners and chlorine bleach can be fatal or cause serious injury. 
  • Check to see if the label requires you to use eye protection or hand gloves when using the products.
  • Peradventure you inhale, swallow or mistakenly pour the product on your skin, follow the instructions on the label or seek medical help.
  • Make sure you keep the products out of the reach of children. 

Final Thoughts

To ensure that you have a super hygienic and safe environment, you have to complete the full package of all techniques from cleaning to sanitizing and disinfecting appropriately
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