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What’s the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing?

Cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing – you might hear these words used synonymously, but now more than ever, it’s important that we learn the differences between them. We’ve already broken down the importance of both cleaning and disinfecting on the blog, but what does it mean to clean or disinfect something rather than sanitize it? The CDC lays it out perfectly – cleaning removes germs, disinfecting kills germs and sanitizing lowers the number of germs. 

While they’re frequently used interchangeably, sanitizing and disinfecting are different methods of germ removal. Sanitizing lowers the number of germs and uses a lower-grade solution that isn’t as chemical-heavy, while disinfecting kills them entirely using solutions, like bleach for example, that contain many chemicals.

Let’s focus on a surface like the top of your office desk. You’ll begin by cleaning it with soap and water. This eliminates debris that you can see like food, dirt and dust. Then, you’ll eliminate germs by using a strong solution like these EPA-recommended products – this is disinfecting. Alternatively, you can sanitize a surface, which doesn’t kill germs, but removes the majority of them. Sanitizing is accomplished using a slightly less powerful solution, such as bleach that is significantly diluted with the appropriate amount of water, as recommended by the CDC.

Although we might be inclined to kill germs rather than remove them, disinfecting is really only necessary for the highly trafficked parts of your home or office, or places in which you know bacteria exist, such as bathrooms or the bedroom or desk of someone who has recently been ill. As for the rest of your home or office, sanitation will suffice, as it still gets rid of most germs and lowers the amount of time you’ll have to spend using harsh chemicals in your home or around your facility.

As you approach cleaning at home or the office, or you hire a commercial cleaning company to service your facility, remember that while killing germs is necessary, sanitation can be just as effective, and perhaps more practical. But above all, don’t forget to use all three actions we discussed in tandem because you can’t disinfect or sanitize without cleaning first. Need help? Our team is ready to assist. Give us a call at (856) 502-1632 to get a free quote today.