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The Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing

The Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing

The pandemic has exposed a gap in many people’s understanding of the differences between cleaning products and disinfectants. Wearing masks, social distancing, and cleaning were the ultimate tools in saving lives by preventing transmission.

But what separates cleaning and disinfecting? Cleaning is often an umbrella term. When we say that we’re cleaning, that could mean polishing, disinfecting, sanitizing, or even picking up your room. Understanding the role cleaning and disinfecting play in safeguarding your home from sickness is more important than ever. Learning the active ingredients in disinfectants and how to minimize your interactions with corrosive elements is also beneficial.

Determining which products can kill germs is a vital step in protecting yourself and your family. Only some cleaning products can safely and effectively remove germs from high-touch surfaces. Utilizing proper methods of disinfecting is important, and knowing how to properly disinfect a room where a sick person has been recovering can stop the spread of illness in your home.

So what is the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing? Learn what separates these terms and the proper methods for killing viruses and bacteria inside your home.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting vs. Sanitizing

Many people confuse the terms ”cleaning,” “disinfecting,” and “sanitizing,” but there are distinct differences between the three. Here are some key differences:

  • Cleaning – Cleaning means you are removing germs from a surface. Cleaning reduces germs on a countertop or doorknob to a level that makes transmission difficult.
  • Disinfecting – Disinfectants are necessary to kill germs from surfaces in your home. Chemicals like bleach and alcohol break down the germs. Typically, disinfectants need to sit for a minimum amount of time to be effective.

Sanitizing – Sanitizing is a more encompassing term that can refer to both cleaning and disinfecting. Essentially, sanitizing reduces viral or bacteria-causing germs to a safe or non-infectious level, either by removing or killing them. For instance, a chemical disinfectant is acceptable to mop a floor, but cleaning with an antibacterial wipe is more appropriate for a table.

State health departments determine safe levels of sanitation for facilities like schools, workplaces, and restaurants.

What Is Sterilization?

Sanitizing or disinfecting are sometimes confused with sterilizing. Sterilization is removing all microorganisms on a surface. Typically, only medical facilities or nail salons use sterilization by cleaning instruments with an autoclave. It is a specialized process with exact standards for temperature, time, and equipment. Sterilization isn’t typically necessary in homes; disinfectants are an excellent way for homeowners to kill viruses and bacteria on everyday surfaces.

Disinfecting Properly

Safely killing germs in your home requires a disinfectant. Here are tips on properly disinfecting surfaces:

  • Clean the surface first, if it’s dirty. Dirt and oil will absorb a disinfectant, reducing its capabilities.
  • Be sure your cleaning product is a disinfectant. Some common active ingredients to look for are bleach, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and aluminum compounds.
  • Natural products often lack the proper disinfecting chemicals
  • Research products to see what they kill. Some only kill bacteria, while others attack viruses.
  • Allow the chemicals to sit on the surface. Read the instructions on the bottle. Removing or wiping the product away will make it less effective, if at all.
  • Wear gloves and protective clothing. Chemicals like bleach and peroxide are skin irritants.
  • Keep away from small children and pets.
  • Store products in a cool and dry place. Discard when they expire.
  • Never combine chemicals, especially bleach and hydrogen peroxide. When combined, many cleaning products can become highly toxic and sometimes explosive.

Natural Cleaning Methods

Using natural cleaning products when you’re not disinfecting can reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals. Look for products labeled “green” or “non-toxic” as a guide. However, both are only marketing terms, which aren’t subject to federal regulations. To ensure that your cleaning products are entirely natural, below are a few household ingredients you can use as cleaning agents:

  • White vinegar
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Liquid castile soap

DIY Cleaning Products

If you’re up for it, making your natural cleaning products is as easy as following a recipe. White vinegar is an excellent astringent, and vitamin E can act as a preservative to extend the shelf life of your products. Essential oils add fragrance and have homeopathic qualities of their own.

Never reuse bottles from commercial cleaning products—repurpose water bottles instead. Be sure to label them with the ingredients so that you can remake them as necessary. Here are a few everyday DIY cleaning product recipes:

  • Bathroom Cleaner – Combine baking soda, distilled water, white vinegar, and liquid soap to make a safe but effective cleaner for your bathroom
  • Laundry Detergent – Mix Sal Suds and baking soda to make a laundry detergent for sensitive skin. Adding white vinegar will make your whites whiter.
  • Glass Cleaner – Combine hot water and rubbing alcohol together. Then, whisk in cornstarch to create a practical but natural glass cleaner.

Everyday Cleaning

Simply cleaning your home regularly can be enough to reduce the spread of airborne illnesses and other bacteria and viruses. Cleaning with dish soap or gentle cleaners will remove pathogens from commonly touched surfaces like light switches, countertops, and bathrooms to reduce the spread of illness. Here are some ways to effectively clean your home:

  • Use cleaning products that are appropriate for the specific surface (i.e., use glass cleaner on glass, floor cleaner on floors, etc.).
  • Be sure to clean surfaces high-touch daily and especially after visits from guests.
  • Clean other surfaces in your home only when they are visibly dirty

Disinfecting After Illness

If someone in your home has been ill, it’s best to disinfect your home to prevent other household members from contracting their illness. Try to limit their interaction to only a bedroom and bathroom. Below are proper ways to disinfect your home after an illness:

  • Read the instructions on the bottle.
  • Clean dirty surfaces before disinfecting.
  • Wear gloves while sanitizing.
  • Open a window or provide other ventilation when using disinfectants in enclosed areas.
  • If the sick person can clean, provide all the necessary supplies.
  • Encourage the ill person to disinfect surfaces after touching them.
  • If the person is unable to clean, only clean areas around them that affect their own sanitation, such as bedsheets.
  • Wait 24 hours to disinfect the room that the person with the illness inhabited.
  • Wash your hands after sanitizing.

Knowing the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing will help you adequately safeguard your home and family from viruses and bacteria. Find disinfectant products online at Quick Supplies Online!

The Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing

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