We talk a lot about cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. These words are often used interchangeably when discussing cleaning, but there are differences. Here are the differences, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Cleaning: removes germs, dirt or soil from a surface or object. That includes crumbs, dust and other visible forms of dirt. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but can lower their numbers by removing the germs.
- Disinfecting: kills microorganisms that can cause illnesses, bad odors or spoilage. Disinfecting does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove the germs. Disinfecting reduces the risk of spreading infection.
- Sanitizing: lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces.
As you can see by the above definitions, there are differences. That is why it is important to sanitize your home, business, school and other facilities. While cleaning or disinfecting will reduce the number of germs, performing both tasks will greatly decrease the number of germs on the surface and reduce the chances of spreading them.
The most important procedure when it comes to cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing is reading the labels on your products. Some can do multiple tasks, while others are good for only cleaning or only disinfecting. When you buy a cleaning/disinfecting/sanitizing solution, you need to look for these six things on the label:
- How to apply the product.
- How long you need to leave it on the surface to be effective. This is also known as “contact time.” For example, you might need to let a disinfectant spray sit for 10 minutes before wiping it off so it can kill all of the germs on your surface,
- Do you need to clean your surface first and rinse after? Some disinfecting products do not clean your surfaces. They might kill germs but won’t do a good job getting rid of all that built-up dirt. Check the procedures to see if you’ll need additional products.
- Is the product safe for your surface? Some chemicals will damage certain surfaces. Make sure you’re buying the best product to meet your needs without damaging anything.
- Whether you need to dilute the product with water before use.
- Precautions during application. Should you wear gloves, aprons or a ventilated mask when using the product? Is it dangerous for kids or pets? Can it be used to clean foodservice areas?
Looking for the above information on a product label could save you a lot of time and money down the line. If you’re looking to save, consider a product that will both clean and disinfect your surfaces. Just beware, some of those require multiple applications in order to accomplish both (for example, spray and wipe off to clean; spray again and let sit for 5 minutes before wiping to disinfect.)
Another consideration is what cleaning tool to use with each cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing solution. For heavy cleaning, especially in foodservice, industrial and other professional applications, you’ll likely use a chemical cleaning solution. That means you need mops, brooms and brushes that won’t get damaged by the chemicals. In kitchens, you might need brushes and squeegees that are heat-resistant.
Taking the time to know and understand the products you use will help get your surfaces cleaner and healthier.