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Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: What's the Difference?



Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are three distinct processes that are essential to maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Although they are often used interchangeably, these terms have different meanings, and it is important to understand the differences between them.


Cleaning


Cleaning is the process of removing dirt, debris, and other visible contaminants from a surface. It is typically done using soap or detergent and water. The goal of cleaning is to make the surface look and feel clean. While cleaning removes dirt and grime, it does not necessarily kill germs.


Sanitizing


Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of germs on a surface to a safe level. It is typically done using a sanitizing solution, such as bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Sanitizing is effective at killing most common germs, but it may not kill all types of bacteria or viruses. Sanitizing is important in settings where food is prepared, such as kitchens/break rooms and restaurant settings.


Disinfecting


Disinfecting is the process of killing almost all germs on a surface. It is typically done using a disinfectant solution, such as bleach, alcohol,hydrogen peroxide or appropriate EPA registered solutions. Disinfecting is the most effective way to kill germs and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Disinfecting is especially important in healthcare settings, where patients are at an increased risk of infection.


The key differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are the level of cleanliness and the types of germs they target. Cleaning removes visible dirt and grime, sanitizing reduces the number of germs on a surface to a safe level, and disinfecting kills almost all germs on a surface.


When to Clean, Sanitize, or Disinfect


Knowing when to clean, sanitize, or disinfect is important for maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Here are some guidelines:


  • Clean surfaces that are visibly dirty or have visible contaminants.

  • Sanitize surfaces that come into contact with food, such as counter tops, dining table tops, kitchen appliances etc..

  • Disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched, such as doorknobs, light switches, and bathroom fixtures. Disinfecting is also recommended in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and clinics.


It is important to note that cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are not one-time tasks. They should be done regularly to maintain a clean and healthy environment. For example, kitchen surfaces should be sanitized after each use, and high-touch surfaces in a healthcare setting should be disinfected regularly. Any surface that needs sanitizing, must be cleaned first.


Choosing the Right Products


Choosing the right products for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting is important for achieving the desired results. Here are some tips:


  • Use soap or detergent and water for cleaning.

  • Use a sanitizing solution, such as bleach or hydrogen peroxide, for sanitizing.

  • Use a disinfectant solution, such as bleach, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any EPA registered solution that kills 99.99% of microorganisms for disinfecting.

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for dilution and application.

  • Wear gloves and other protective gear as recommended by the product label.


In conclusion, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are three distinct processes that are essential for maintaining a clean and healthy environment. While cleaning removes visible dirt and grime, sanitizing reduces the number of germs on a surface to a safe level, and disinfecting kills almost all germs on a surface. Knowing when to clean, sanitize, or disinfect and choosing the right products for the job is important for achieving the desired results. By following these guidelines, you can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases and maintain a clean and healthy environment.

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