Sanitize vs. Disinfect: What's the Difference?

Posted by Ethan Sfera on

Research shows that two of the most effective ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 are washing your hands often (or sanitizing them when water and soap are not readily available) and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces. Now, this seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But, when you start thinking about the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, and which one is best for what, things can become a little hazy.

To help you out, we take a closer look at each method and explain the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. And we also mention a few additional factors to consider when using sanitizers and disinfectants.

The Difference Between Cleaners, Sanitizers & Disinfectants

Of course, we all know what cleaning is, but the terms sanitizer and disinfectant are often used interchangeably. However, these are different and do different things. Instead of thinking of each separately, it's helpful to think about the relationship between all three. Cleaning is the start of the spectrum, and disinfecting is at the end of the spectrum.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting as follows:

  • Cleaning: Cleaners remove germs, dirt, and other impurities from surfaces but don't necessarily kill them. When should it be done? Routine cleaning should be done daily, weekly, or monthly. Basic housekeeping will reduce the growth of potentially harmful organisms and helps to keep things like dust, dirt, grime, and pests under control.  See our selection of general cleaning products.
  • Sanitizing: Lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects—either by killing them or removing them—to a safe level. When should it be done? Sanitization is essential for overall health and hygiene and is particularly important on high-traffic surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, and light switches.  See our selection of sanitizing products.
  • Disinfecting: Kills the majority of germs, viruses, and bacteria on surfaces or objects. When should it be done? Disinfecting should always be done when a family member or colleague is ill or if someone has a compromised immune system.  See our selection of disinfecting products.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines sanitizers as chemical products that can kill at least 99.9% of germs on hard surfaces, and disinfectants kill 99.999% of germs on hard surfaces or objects. So, this means that sanitizing solutions aren't as strong as disinfecting solutions.

A Few Things to Consider

Think About Timing

The time it takes to kill germs (known as the dwell time) should also be considered when choosing and using sanitizers and disinfectants. Some chemical formulas kill germs in 5-10 minutes and others in less than a minute–this information should be listed on the packaging or available on the brand's website.

Consider Food Prep Safety

Sanitizers are often used in food service industries, but disinfectants might be too strong to use on areas that come into contact with food. If a product is labeled a "food contact" sanitizer, it can be safely used to clean surfaces that will later touch food. These sanitizers should be applied according to instructions and allowed to dry entirely before any food comes in contact with them.

Read Instructions Carefully

Always read and follow the instructions carefully to get the most out of your sanitizers and disinfectants. Failing to use these products correctly can often mean you don't get the full benefits and desired results. Also, look at the ingredients used and the list of various germs and bacteria various products are proven to kill. Always opt for EDA approved sanitizers and disinfectants as there are many subpar products on the market. If you are sensitive to the ingredients, wear a mask and glove when using these products.

We hope this information has been useful when it comes to protecting your home and your loved ones from viruses such as COVID 19. Together, let's help curb the spread of this pandemic and follow safety precautions and proper hygiene practices.

Contact Us Today

Florida Supply & Cleaning Products (FSCP) offers a wide range of cleaning products for personal and commercial use. Whether you need supplies for yourself, your family, or your business, FSCP has you covered. We are confident that you will value our competitive pricing, personal customer service, and availability of high demand products.

To shop our full range of general cleaners, disinfectant sprays, disinfectant wipes, sanitizing sprays, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizers, hand wipes, and more, today. 

Stay safe!

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