While cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting could be interchangeable or step in for another at times, they do not necessarily mean the same. It’s recommended you give your living space a full-fledged cleaning treatment once every season. You should also consider disinfecting all nooks and corners to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading. And while disinfecting and sanitizing might seem similar, there are quite a few major distinctions between the two.
What is Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting?
The term “cleaning” denotes the process of wiping down and organizing surfaces, such as countertops, to make them look clean and spotless. Washing dishes and toys in water and soap, vacuuming upholstered furniture and carpets, dusting fixtures and shelves, washing and rinsing surfaces, etc. also go down as cleaning.
Cleaning products are designed to help trap and remove visible spots, smudges, debris, and stains from surfaces. These cleaning solutions could eliminate germs from surfaces, but their primary objective is to make the target surface look and feel clean.
The process of sanitizing or disinfecting usually kicks in after the cleaning process is complete. There are certain places in any house – such as kitchen counters, doorknobs, and faucet handles – where a disinfectant or sanitizer should be used after the cleaning so that germs such as viruses, bacteria, or fungi could be killed. Cleaning alone wouldn’t kill these germs.
These high-traffic areas in the house should be sanitized at least once every week. Disinfection should be the norm if there is an illness in the house or during seasons when specific viruses are on the spread. And where there is no apparent medical scare, disinfectants can be used at least once every few months.
You may disinfect or sanitize surfaces using disinfectant wipes, bleach, or other designated solutions. Surfaces could be sanitized with a disinfectant wipe. For proper disinfection, the wiped surface should look wet with the disinfectant for at least a couple of minutes. If the disinfected surface is a dining tabletop, it should be thoroughly rinsed or “cleaned” with water after the disinfecting period elapses. Disinfecting solutions, such as bleach, could be toxic. Therefore, you should ensure any disinfectant traces are removed before the table could be used again.
Comparing Sanitizing and Disinfecting
Sanitizing and disinfecting are terms with very similar connotations. However, the differences between the two lie in semantics. Both procedures aim to decrease the level of contamination on any given surface by slaying germs. However, disinfecting does a much better job of killing the pathogens.
Agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and product manufacturers use the term “sanitizing” when a device or solution can kill 99.9 percent of the germs on any surface. The term “disinfecting” is used to denote chemical products that can virtually kill all surface-level germs.
Sanitizing may not always entail the use of chemicals. For instance, an appliance such as a steam cleaner can use extreme heat to kill different bacteria and viruses. Steam cleaning is, in fact, recommended for eliminating germs from permeable surfaces – such as carpets, upholstery, and fabric – which cannot be disinfected with chemicals meant for hard surfaces.
When Should You Disinfect?
Disinfectants are usually employed when the goal is to clear all forms of contamination within a space. Any good disinfectant spray would easily remove all surface-based microscopic organisms. Unlike cleaning solutions, a disinfectant may not help make a surface look spotless or stain-free. But it would certainly help put an end to the spread of viruses and diseases such as colds and flu.
A disinfectant is recommended for treating high-touch spots such as light switches, doorknobs, and bathroom faucets, particularly if a member in the house is sick. For maximum efficacy, disinfecting solutions should stay on the target surface for a particular time period.
However, disinfecting doesn’t mean you can skip the cleaning part. Cleaning dirt and grime is imperative for a disinfectant to do its job. Cleaning is more like prepping a wall for a paint job. The paint here is the disinfectant.
Disinfect with Precaution
Disinfectants should be employed only when it’s absolutely necessary, such as when there’s a rising public health concern. According to the EPA, excessive use of certain disinfectants may lead to the creation of microbes, which could mutate into forms resistant to specific disinfectants or turn into superbugs. Not to mention, these resistant germs would be extremely difficult to execute with antibiotics.