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Cleaning, Sanitizing,
& Disinfecting Defined

Cleaning, Sanitizing,
& Disinfecting Defined

We have all been overwhelmed with those three little words, cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, but do we really know the difference and when they should be done? Owning a cleaning business makes it ever important to know and understand the difference between these three words. We are providing a service for our clients whereby they are expecting to see a visual change in what we are cleaning, but we may also expect to reduce the unseen (virus, bacteria, germs, mold, etc.) with the ultimate goal of reducing the spread of COVID, flus and other types of illnesses. So what are the differences and when are they appropriate?

Cleaning: The removal of visible soil from objects and surfaces using water, soap and at times some "elbow grease". Cleaning does NOT kill but removes germs, bacteria, allergens, biological material and soil and depending on the type of cleaning, washes them down the drain, throws them in the garbage, or redistributes them in another location. Cleaning must be done, according to the EPA and the CDC prior to disinfecting because the remaining soil interferes with the disinfectant or sanitizers ability to do their job.Cleaning should be done on a frequent, consistent basis not only but especially if touched by multiple individuals, remembering that we all touch or come in contact with multiple objects or other individuals.

Sanitizing: Sanitizing sometimes used interchangeably with disinfecting, although different, they both kill germs. The difference lies in the kill level. Sanitizing reduces the number of germs either through removing or killing them. Sanitizing does not kill all, or even a majority of germs but meet a level of 99.9% killed on hard surfaces (99.99% killed on food surfaces).The FDA regulates and determines the rules and roles of hand sanitizers which were created as a convenience when soap and water are not available.

Disinfecting: Uses chemicals that kill 99.999% of germs, viruses, microbes, bacteria, etc. and they are regulated and tested by the EPA. It is important to note that all disinfectants are not alike and must be used according to their label and not interchanged. It is also important to note that they should not be used as an alternative to hand sanitizer. Disinfectants are regulated as antimicrobial pesticides and can contain or can contain harsh chemicals that can be very damaging to your skin AND they kill bacteria indiscriminately, including the protective or good bacteria.


Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/cleaning-disinfecting-decision-tool.html

https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/whats-difference-between-products-disinfect-sanitize-and-clean-surfaces

Leonard, V., C. Westinghouse, and A. Bradman. "Green Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: A Curriculum for Early Care and Education." University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing Institute for Health and Aging (2013).

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