The Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting

by Lawton Brothers | Sep 28, 2020


This year, the world was hit with a highly infectious disease, resulting in health organizations around the globe promoting cleaning practices to reduce infection rates. Since March of 2020, businesses and homes in the United States have been instructed of the importance of daily cleaning regimens, including sanitization and disinfection of surfaces. While many of us know it is important to both sanitize and disinfect, there is a huge gap in awareness of the difference between these products. 

Know the Difference

Cleaning refers to the removal of dust, debris, and dirt from a surface. It usually involves washing, rinsing, and/or scrubbing. This is the ‘physical dirt’ we typically see with our eyes, such as a liquid spill or debris from shoes.

Sanitizing is the reduction of bacteria on surfaces and in laundry. Typically, you can find the bacteria that a specific product targets by reading the product’s label.

Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses on a product’s label on hard, nonporous surfaces.

Disinfecting hard, nonporous surfaces is one of the most effective ways of decreasing the spread of germs. To help prevent the spread of diseases, like Covid-19, it is important to regularly disinfect your facility. The most important difference between sanitizers and disinfectants is that EPA-approved sanitizers can only reduce bacteria, while disinfectants can reduce bacteria and viruses. Additionally, Disinfectants are only for use on hard, nonporous surfaces; therefore, you will never disinfect carpets, chairs, or clothing.

When Should I Disinfect?

While infection rates are still fairly high in the United States, the CDC is continuing to recommend daily disinfection of facilities open to the public. It is best to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, including tables, door handles, light switches, bathrooms, and chairs, especially between customers. Common surfaces should be disinfected at a frequency that relates to the volume of customers, at the very least every four hours.

How to Disinfect

Before beginning your cleaning and disinfection process, be sure to read all product labels and use adequate protection. Most often, you will need to clean a surface prior to disinfection or sanitization. For all cleaning purposes, be sure to wear gloves, a mask, and additional protective equipment as needed, and always wash your hands (and other exposure points) after use.

Looking for a disinfectant for use against Covid-19? Click here.

Check what concentration level the product is, what its intended application is, and the wet contact time required. It is important to note that the product will not work as intended if the disinfectant is wiped off the surface too soon. Allow the product to completely air dry or wipe with water, as directed on the label.

Hillyard Disinfectants

QT Plus Disinfectant Cleaner - 3 minute kill time

Re-Juv-Nal Disinfectant Cleaner - 10 minute kill time

Vital Oxide Ultra Safe Disinfectant

Need help?

We understand how confusing the world of cleaning can be. That’s why we are committed to assisting our businesses and families in Central Florida. Still unsure about your chemicals? With over 67 years of experience in the cleaning industry, we’ve got the answers to your questions. Give Lawton Brothers a call today at: 800.432.0813.

Checklist and guidelines for sanitization and disinfection. Very easy to read and follow. From the Washington Health Care Association.

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