What’s The Difference? Cleaning, Disinfecting, & Sanitizing.

In the age of COVID-19 you’ve probably heard the words cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing more than you could imagine. But what is really the difference? Read up on what each of these means, their typical processes, and how it impacts germs and bacteria. 


Cleaning refers to the more basic or simple version of tidying up. Cleaning removes things like dust, dirt, crumbs, and germs off of surfaces. This typically occurs through rags, dusters, vacuums, and soap and water. The important thing to note is that cleaning through these processes doesn’t kill germs, but instead lessens the amount on the particular surface that you cleaned. Keeping up with cleaning on a daily basis is still crucial in creating a healthy atmosphere that helps eliminate risk of getting sick, alleviating allergies, and reducing the spread of germs and bacteria. 


Disinfecting is done to kill bacteria through the use of chemicals. Bleach and solutions with alcohol are commonly used to disinfect areas and surfaces and should typically be left to sit to allow time to kill the bacteria off. However, just because you disinfect something doesn’t mean it isn’t clean. After you disinfect, you should clean down the same objects and surfaces to clean off the killed bacteria and excess chemicals. The bathroom and kitchen are great places to start when it comes to disinfecting! Always make sure to wear extra protection like gloves and a mask when handling chemicals and never mix with other chemical solutions at the same time. 


Sanitizing is a mix of both cleaning and disinfecting, but ultimately means you are getting rid of bacteria and germs to meet a safe level or government requirement. Restaurants, schools, and more all have sanitization requirements in place to ensure that the area is safe for the public. Sanitizing may look different to each place, person, and object. For example, you might use a dishwasher to sanitize dishes, hand sanitizer for your own hands, or an antibacterial wipe for your phone. Sanitizing is the overall lowering of germs which can be achieved through both cleaning and disinfecting methods. 

It’s important to see the difference between each term while we live in a time where it is thrown around so often, but it’s also important to see why each of them need to be practiced. Bacteria and germs should be killed, removed, and reduced to a safe and healthy level in order to best keep a safe space to live, work, and be in. Whether it is the grocery store, an office, a classroom, or your own home, utilizing all three practices is the best way to keep yourself and others protected and healthy!