Understanding the Difference between Cleaners, Sanitizers, and Disinfectants

We all want to live and work in clean environments, but what does clean really mean? Cleaning a desk can mean tidying clutter and wiping down surfaces, though other areas – including kitchens and bathrooms – deserve more careful attention. Should you clean, sanitize, or disinfect them?

It’s important your cleaners use the right cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products and tools in the right situations to wipe out illness-causing germs and deliver a thorough clean.

Check out our guide to better understand the difference between cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants

What Does Cleaning Really Mean?

If organized as a triangle, cleaning would occupy the bottom spot as it’s the most elemental piece.

Cleaning a surface means removing any visible debris, dirt, or dust usually using a cloth and detergent, soap, or solvent.

Thorough, regular cleaning will help improve appearances, although basic cleaning alone isn’t effective at killing bacteria or germs. Over the long run, it needs to be complemented by regular sanitizing and disinfecting measures to keep everyone in your building healthy and happy.

What Does Sanitizing Really Mean?

Sanitizing reduces surface-dwelling germs, cutting down on microorganisms by 99.9% within thirty seconds of application. It’s especially important to sanitize high-traffic, grime-prone touch points like kitchen counters and door handles.

When sanitizing a surface, it’s important to remember:

  • Sanitizers need to be mixed to proper concentrations. If they’re too weak – whether from the outset or because they’ve been left unused too long – they’ll no longer be effective at combatting germs.
  • Some sanitizers need to remain on surfaces for specific amounts of time to take full effect. Food contact sanitizers, for example, commonly need to linger for at least sixty seconds.

Sanitizing, however, still won’t take you to the top of the pyramid. You need to climb just a little bit higher to reach the peak of cleanliness.

What Does Disinfecting Really Mean?

Disinfectants kill, destroy, or deactivate almost 100% of disease-causing germs, bacteria, and viruses. They must reduce levels of microorganisms by 99.999% in 5-10 minutes in order to meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. Disinfectants are especially important in high-traffic, high-risk environments like healthcare institutions.

The difference between a sanitizer and a disinfectant might seem small, but those few hundredths of a percent can make a big difference. On average, there are 102,465 planes going from Place A to Place B around the world every day. If 99.9% made it to their destination safely, 1,026 would crash. At 99.999%, that number shrinks to 10.

Your professional cleaning company should work to identify which areas need to be cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected – getting rid of harmful germs and helping your building look its best.

Sunshine has been providing professional cleaning services throughout Southern Ontario since 1952. Our team members are all fully bonded. Contact us today to discuss your office cleaning needs!

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Mark Brouwers

Mark Brouwers is the Operations Manager at Sunshine Building Maintenance. He specializes in working collaboratively with clients to meet the specific cleaning needs of their building or facility.
Mark Brouwers

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