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  • Writer's pictureClean Team USA

Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting. What's the difference?

Many individuals use the terms cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting interchangeably, however, you may be surprised to learn that there is a difference. Confusion when implementing hygienic practices can lead to cleaning practices that are not effective and can ultimately result in the spreading of germs.

Protect your family from harmful germs, viruses, and bacteria by learning when to use sanitizer or disinfectant in your home or office building.


We all know cleaning to be the act of eliminating dust, debris, dirt, marks, or messes by washing, wiping, or brushing surfaces. We are taught to clean low-risk surfaces where the likelihood of pathogens transferring from the surface is very low and the appearance of cleanliness is important.

Cleaning differs from sanitizing and disinfecting in that it does not use harsh chemicals to eliminate germs from surfaces, and can oftentimes spread germs around. However, cleaning does reduce the number of allergens, dust, dirt, debris, and microorganisms that are tracked in from outside.

What should you clean?

  • Tables

  • Chairs

  • Floors

  • Hard Surfaces


Sanitizing is a chemical process that kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi on surfaces in order to make them safe for contact. Sanitizing reduces the number of germs on surfaces, however, it does not eliminate them entirely. In the United States, sanitizers are agents that destroy 99.999 percent of bacteria in 30 seconds when put through the Official Detergent Sanitizer public health test. Sanitizing is mostly used to clean up any surfaces where food may come into contact. Sanitizing does not offer anti-viral claims and does not kill the flu, or other viruses found on surfaces.

What should you Sanitize?

  • Food contact surfaces

  • T.V Remotes

  • Computer Keyboards

  • Dishes/utensils

  • Cutting boards

  • High Chair Trays

  • Children's Toys

  • Your hands

Did you know that when you flush a toilet with the lid up microbes can travel up to 6 feet landing on all surfaces in your bathroom? According to WebMD, 60% of toothbrush holders contain fecal particles due to the "plume" phenomenon.


Disinfecting a surface requires a stronger solution in order to kill the microscopic organisms that, in return, can make us sick. Disinfectants destroy and inactivate organisms in 10 minutes. This means the disinfecting solution must be left wet on surfaces for 10 minutes to completely lift the germs from the surface. After the 10 minute cycle, the surface can then be wiped clean with a paper towel and disposed of properly. Frequently touched surfaces should be disinfected often in order to eliminate the pathogens and kill viruses.

While it’s very important to make sure you are disinfecting surfaces in your home, it’s also important to understand that if you disinfect too much you can actually lower your body’s defenses against germs and viruses.

What should you Disinfect?

  • Frequently touched surfaces (light switches, door handles, car steering wheel, etc.)

  • Surfaces likely to harbor pathogens

  • Dog/Cat Bowls

  • Cell Phone

  • Kitchen Sink/Counter / Bathroom Surfaces

  • Toilets

With the fear of Covid-19 running rampant, it is important to select a disinfectant that can be effectively used against the virus. Ensure a product is EPA-approved by looking at the label for an EPA registration number. You can confirm a product is effective against Covid-19 by checking the EPA's website here.

Questions?! Comment Below!

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