What is the Difference Between Cleaning Sanitizing and Disinfecting

The main difference between cleaning sanitizing and disinfecting is that cleaning involves removing visible dirt, debris and germs from a surface whereas sanitizing involves reducing germs to a safe level. Meanwhile, disinfecting involves eliminating all disease-causing microorganisms (except spores).

Cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting are three processes that help to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Although we often use these terms interchangeably, they are quite different, as discussed in this article.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Cleaning
     – Definition, Process
2. What is Sanitizing
     – Definition, Process
3. What is Disinfecting
      – Definition, Process
4. What is the Difference Between Cleaning Sanitizing and Disinfecting
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Cleaning, Disinfecting, Sanitizing

Difference Between Cleaning Sanitizing and Disinfecting - Comparison Summary

What is Cleaning

Cleaning is the process of removing visible dirt, debris, impurities and germs from surfaces. It will reduce dirt, allergens and microorganisms from a surface, but it cannot completely eliminate them. It lowers their numbers as well as the risk of spreading infection. Cleaning is done by using a cloth or wipe with soap or detergent and water.

Main Difference - Cleaning vs Sanitizing vs Disinfecting

Moreover, we usually use the word ‘cleaning’ when we are talking about surfaces, such as floor, windows, and countertops. In fact, when we are fighting against infectious disease, cleaning is only the first step in the complete process. However, it is an essential step that should be missed. It is vital to clean visible dust, fingermarks and other impurities before sanitizing or disinfecting and area.

What is Sanitizing

Sanitizing is the process of reducing or lowering the number of germs on objects or surfaces to a safe level, according to public health standards.  Although this process decreases the risk of infection, it cannot kill all germs. Generally, sanitizing can kill many types of bacteria, but sanitization products or techniques cannot eliminate all viruses. In fact, sanitizing can reduce the number of bacteria present by 99.9 percent, although it does not work against fungi and viruses. All in all, sanitizing is better than cleaning alone, but the reduction of microorganisms on environmental surfaces is much better when you disinfect.

What is Disinfecting

Disinfecting is the process of killing pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms, except bacterial spores. In this process, you use chemicals to eliminate germs on objects or surfaces. A good disinfectant can remove 100 percent of the microorganisms on objects or surfaces, thus reducing the spread of infections. However, it’s important to know that disinfecting does not necessarily remove dirt or stains on surfaces. Therefore, you can go through cleaning and sanitizing before you begin disinfecting.

Difference Between Cleaning Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Disinfecting is very useful in preventing the spread of diseases and viruses like colds and flues. If one of your family members has been sick, you can stop the spread of the infection by disinfecting by cleaning high-touch areas like light switches, bathroom faucets and doorknobs.

Difference Between Cleaning Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Definition

Cleaning is the process of removing visible dirt, debris, impurities and germs from surfaces while sanitizing is the process of reducing or lowering the number of germs on objects or surfaces to a safe level, according to public health standards. Disinfecting, on the other hand, is the process of killing pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms, except bacterial spores.

Action against Germs

While cleaning removes germs, sanitizing reduces the number of germs and disinfecting eliminates germs.

Type of Microorganisms or Germs

Cleaning will remove dirt, dust, allergens and some germs while sanitizing can reduce the number of bacteria, but not viruses. Disinfecting, on the other hand, can eliminate most viruses.

Order

Cleaning is the first step, while sanitizing is the second step, and disinfecting is the final step in the process of preventing the spread of infections.

Conclusion

The main difference between cleaning sanitizing and disinfecting is that cleaning involves removing visible dirt, debris and germs from a surface while sanitizing involves reducing bacteria to a safe level and disinfecting involves eliminating all disease-causing microorganisms (except bacterial spores). All three cleansing processes are essential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

Reference:

1. “How To Clean and Disinfect Schools To Help Slow the Spread of Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 July 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Person, indoor, clean, cleaning, cabinet, chore, house, home” (CC0) via Wallpaper Flare
2. “Woman Wearing Face Mask While Cleaning the Kitchen” (CC0) via Pexels

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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