What is the Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, & Disinfecting?

Surprise! These terms are not the same!  We tend to use them interchangeably, and there’s no harm in how we use them here and there. But when it comes to purchasing cleaning products, understanding the definitions on the product labels is important. If it comes to being technical, it is important to know what’s a good cleaning product and what is a good disinfectant.

Cleaning removes dirt and grime, while sanitizing and disinfecting deal with the bacteria and germs. Cleaning can’t remove the bacteria or viruses, and sanitizing/disinfecting cannot remove dirt. “Cleaning” is undoubtedly a two-step process. Sanitizing deals with some of the germs on an object, but disinfecting deals with 99.9999% of germs.

Common Myths About Disinfecting & Sanitizing

Natural, Green Disinfectants DO Work: even though there’s a significant difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, it doesn’t mean that green cleaners can’t sanitize or disinfect. They do. It’s simply a matter of researching to know which are great for disinfecting and which are useless.

Vinegar Neither Disinfects nor Sanitizes: vinegar might be useful for cleaning, but it is not a disinfectant or sanitizing agent. What’s more, is sometimes we have to be very careful when using vinegar to even clean. It’s highly acidic and can cause a lot of damage on certain items. Do some quick research before using vinegar on any surface.

Not All Disinfectants are Toxic: this is where cleaning green comes to the rescue! You don’t have to compromise if you want to clean green while disinfecting your home. Settling for chemical cleaners to disinfect or “living with” bacteria for the sake of a green clean doesn’t have to be a choice.

When Should I Disinfect?

It depends on the situation you find yourself in. Disinfecting frequently is important, and it can also depend on the nature of the room being cleaned—or what is being cleaned. If your aim is to kill a pathogen, virus, or bacteria completely, then you want to disinfect. Disinfecting will take care of the viral issue completely, and it will give you the peace of mind you want.

But there are times when it’s okay to sanitize—and disinfect later. A great example of this? You might simply sanitize doorknobs and light switches once a week (unless someone in the household feels under the weather). You can sanitize your kids’ toys every so often if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, but then about every six months or so give them a deep, disinfecting clean.

Disinfecting is preferable in most circumstances, but it doesn’t mean the technical aspect of sanitizing and cleaning is useless. It’s a balancing act. There are times when both have their merits!

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