Difference between Disinfecting and SanitizingAlthough people often use “disinfecting” and “sanitizing” interchangeably, they are two different processes with different outcomes. Disinfectants kill 100% of organisms, while sanitizers kill 99.9%.

While this may not seem like a huge distinction, it drastically changes the makeup of each product and how it should be used in certain circumstances.

Whether your building requires disinfection or sanitization depends on the unique requirements of your space. For example, businesses that handle food (restaurants, packing plants, etc.) have specific regulations that define what cleaning products and methods must be used.

It is important to know the differences between these two often confused cleaning products.

Key Differences between Disinfectants and Sanitizers


  • Kill 100% of organisms
  • Fully effective in 10 minutes
  • Need to be rinsed after use, particularly on food contact surfaces
  • Potable water must be used for rinsing after cleaning, otherwise can be dangerous
  • Should be registered by the Environmental Protection Agency and carry proper “kill claims”
  • Quaternary-based products are the most effective, as they are safer and less corrosive
  • Ideal for cleaning medical facilities or hospitals


  • Kill 99.9% of organisms
  • Fully effective in 30 seconds
  • Don’t need to be rinsed on a food contact surface
  • Surfaces must be pre-cleaned before using a sanitizer
  • Sanitizers need to air dry
  • Best practices include using with a microfiber cloth on food preparation boards and dining tables
  • Ideal for spaces such as restaurants

Both of these cleaning agents require adherence to pesticide regulations. The correct use of these products, as well as any cleaning product, will help you comply with health and safety standards.

A knowledgeable, professional cleaning company should always use the appropriate products and tools for your specific environment.

>> Sunshine Building Maintenance provides thorough, appropriate, and environmental cleaning for every type of building and facility. Contact us today to get a quote.

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