Cleaning, Disinfection, and Sanitization

Cleaning, Disinfection, and Sanitization

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, everyone has been learning to adapt to the new normal, which means frequently washing hands, wiping down surfaces, spraying off shoes, as well as doing laundry, sometimes daily. The COVID-19 outbreak has also made many question cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing – whether in your own home or in the businesses you frequent. Today, let’s explore the differences between cleaning, sterilizing, and disinfecting, as well as how they overlap and the best practices in all three categories.


Cleaning is probably the most familiar of the three, as simply the practice of realizing an area free of debris and dirt and maintaining the area for extended periods of time. Generally cleaning refers to ensuring an area is dirt-free by the removal of any dirt, trash, food, dust, organic debris, and other impurities that are visible. Cleaning reduces the trash and waste, which often provides areas for germs, bacteria, and viruses to live and thrive. So, cleaning, can actually help reduce the spread of these germs. 

Cleaning’s best practices utilize cleaning tools – vacuums, brooms, mops, scrubbers, cloths – and cleaning agents – often simply soap and water. Cleaning products are available in sprays, liquids, powders, and granules. In some cases, these materials clean while eliminating bacteria. Washing is a form of cleaning, as is dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing, and any other activity which removes visible debris, dirt, odors, clutter, and other contaminants and prevents them from spreading.

Cleaning is the first step, always taken before disinfecting and sanitizing. A clean, decluttered area is much easier to disinfect and sanitize effectively. 

Disinfecting versus Sanitizing

Disinfecting, along with sanitizing, are often used interchangeably, even though they are different. And when it comes to choosing which products to buy for the job you need to accomplish, it is important to know the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing so you can keep your home or business both safe and clean. Now, you just learned that cleaning is the removal of dirt, debris, and other contaminants from surfaces, disinfecting and sanitizing take the process a step further, eliminating germs, bacteria, and viruses.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs to what is considered a safe level (according to current public health standards) on your surfaces. In most cases, sanitizing is a gentler process than disinfecting. Sanitizing can be accomplished through cleaning or disinfecting, but unlike cleaning which can reduce the number of germs, disinfecting is killing approximately 100 percent of the germs on your surfaces.  Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs, but doesn’t always clean those surfaces.

Sanitizing should be performed on surfaces or objects (kid’s toys, kitchen utensils, etc.) which you don’t want exposed to the powerful chemicals needed to kill germs. Sanitizers are labeled with the claim to reduce bacteria by a minimum of 99.9 percent. Water and bleach is a common sanitizer, but can also be a disinfectant with higher concentrations of bleach.

Disinfecting is more intense and isn’t typically a major part of a home cleaning routine. Generally, disinfecting in the home is reserved for sinks, toilets, and touchpoints like faucets and doorknobs which can come in contact with bodily fluids. Disinfectants are most common in medical settings. To be labeled as a disinfectant, a product must kill 99.999 percent of germs.

Wrapping it Up

Sanitizing, then, lessens of kills germs on surfaces making them safe for contact. It is a process you’d use in kitchens where food safety is a concern or in kid’s rooms where toys often make their way into little mouths. Disinfecting is a process which requires the use of powerful chemicals to destroy germs completely. It is the process you’d use in bathrooms or diaper changing areas, where bodily fluids are a concern.

Both sanitizing and disinfecting are different from one another and from cleaning which removes visible dirt and debris, not necessarily germs and bacteria. The good news is, Signature Maids can help you with all three, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting – call today!