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Sanitizing vs Disinfecting

With COVID-19 cases on the rise, people are rushing to stockpile cleaning supplies, but not all cleaning supplies accomplish the same things. There are hundreds of cleaning products claiming to either sanitize or disinfect different viruses and bacteria. While many people would consider those two words synonyms, there is actual a pretty big difference in sanitizing and disinfecting. With cleanliness on everyone’s minds more than ever, we wanted to explain the difference in the terms sanitize and disinfect as well as share some common uses for each. After reading this post you should be better prepared to identify the right cleaner for you and better understand claims made by products and service providers.

cleaning - sanitize vs disinfect


Before we can get into the differences in sanitizing and disinfecting, we need to cover the technical definition of cleaning. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cleaning is the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities using soap or detergent. Typically, water and scrubbing are used to remove the germs from surfaces and objects. While removing the germs reduces the overall numbers of germs, it doesn’t actually kill the germs. Cleaning is typically the first step in any effort to reducing and remove germs on a surface or object.

disinfect - sanitize vs disinfect


According to the CDC, when a product makes a claim to disinfect it is using chemicals to kill the bacteria and viruses specified on its label. Disinfectant can be applied in many different ways and is typically most effective on hard, non-porous surfaces. Disinfecting typically doesn’t actually clean a surface or even remove the germs, but instead focuses on killing germs in place. Disinfecting is most effective when applied after cleaning to kill any remaining germs that were not removed in the cleaning process. While all disinfectants use chemicals to kill viruses and bacteria, not all chemicals are equal. It’s important to check the active ingredients and follow all safety information when using any disinfectant to avoid any health risks. It’s also important to check the label because disinfectants can target different types of bacteria and viruses. At Immaculate Restoration, we use a plant-based disinfectant that is safe to use around animals and approved for use in medical facilities. Some regular uses for disinfectants are for areas that come in contact with bodily fluids like a diaper changing area or medical facilities. Disinfectants can also be used on surfaces that are used frequently and that are in contact with many different people.

sanitize - sanitize vs disinfect


Sanitizing is a bit different from cleaning and disinfecting because it refers more to the level of safeness and is not tied to a specific method. Sanitizing refers to lowering the number of live germs on a surface or object to a safe level as judged by public health standards or requirements. This means that sanitizing can use cleaning, disinfecting or both to reduce the number of germs to reach an appropriate level that is compliant with health standards. Different sanitizing products work in different ways so it’s important to read the label and follow all instructions for any claims to be valid. Most people sanitize dishes and utensils after using them or they may sanitize toys that children play with frequently.

Knowing the difference between these common cleaning terms will help you make better informed decisions when choosing your next cleaning product. You should also now understand terms used by companies that offer professional disinfecting and sanitizing service and be able to better identify the right service for your situation. Immaculate Restoration offers both sanitizing wipe-downs and application of disinfectant for any home, office, hotel or public area. We also offer treatments for air conditioning systems and can assist businesses with providing peace of mind for their customers. Immaculate Restoration gives free estimates and we are available for emergencies 24 hours a day.

Find out more about our sanitizing service and application of disinfectant on our Disinfecting and Sanitizing page.