The proper cleaning and sanitizing of any space begin with understanding the difference between sanitizing, cleaning and disinfecting.
It is important to know and understand the difference between the three. This will help you put into place the kinds of procedures that produce your desired outcome, whether it is keeping a clean home, or if it is reducing the risk of disease and spreading infection.
Once you understand the difference, you can better determine for yourself what areas need what level of cleaning.
For example – sanitizing walls or certain floors at home is probably unnecessary since proper cleaning alone likely will effectively reduce germs in those areas.
Conversely, sanitizing high touch areas such as counters, desks, and doorknobs by cleaning and disinfecting is quite important.
Understanding the differences in terms
This lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level as judged by public health standards. This process works by cleaning and/or disinfecting to lower the efficacy of spreading germs.
This removes germs, dirt, and impurities from the surface of objects. It does not necessarily kill germs. Cleaning works to physically remove the germs by using detergents and cleaners, reducing their numbers.
This kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill the germs but doesn’t necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. By killing them on the surface after cleaning, it further reduces the risk of spreading infection.
How to reduce the spread of infection with proper cleaning.
Typically, whether at home, work or school, a proper sanitizing routine means sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often. This includes countertops, doorknobs, tables, desks, light switches, faucets and more.
Always follow product instructions and start by washing surfaces with a household cleaner to remove the germs. Rinse with water and then follow your cleaning with an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill remaining germs.
The first step of cleaning removes germs, and the disinfecting step kills those remaining.
If the surfaces to be cleaned are not visibly dirty, you can sometimes clean with an EPA-registered product that has both a cleaner and disinfectant in one.
Keep in mind however that most disinfectants require that the product stay wet on the surface for as long as 10 minutes for full efficacy and may damage some surfaces, including specialty stone, wood floors and even stainless steel.
One of the most effective and readily available disinfectants is bleach (sodium hypochlorite). To disinfect with bleach, you must first clean the surface and then apply your bleach solution to that surface. Let it dwell 2-6 minutes depending on the strength you are using, and then rinse.
Bleach will damage some materials (especially fabrics). So be very careful throughout the process that it only comes in contact with the surfaces you intend to clean. Remember that the bleach solution must be made fresh daily for sanitizing.
More robust disinfectants that are not commonly available to the average consumer can often be found at your local janitorial supply store. Products that are safer for your specific needs may be found there too. Generally speaking, these stores will be knowledgeable about their application and can advise you about how to use them safely.
The proper cleaning and disinfecting plan that is right for you will depend on the areas you have to clean, the circumstances, and the goal.
If the goal is to prevent the spread of infection, high touch areas that frequently come in to contact with other people should be sanitized regularly.
If the goal is to prevent food poisoning, then the areas you clean and disinfect should be treated according to the demands of pathogens that come into contact with surfaces used for food preparation.
I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions about how to effectively sanitize your home or workspaces, or if you need professional help, give us a call. We would love to help!