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The Differences Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

Did you know it takes 4 minutes to properly disinfect.

Two spray bottles pointed towards each other
Cleaning vs. disinfecting.

As we slowly head back to work and life as it used to be, we're more mindful of the things we're touching and cleaning. As a general habit, it's a good idea to maintain proper hygiene and to clean your living and working spaces every season or so. Now more than ever you will want to disinfect all surfaces to reduce the spread of harmful bacteria, but what does disinfecting really mean? Does it call for wiping down areas with a wet wipe and calling it a day or scrubbing surfaces down to the nitty gritty?

Believe it or not, it takes disinfectant solutions 4 minutes to properly disinfect a surface. Now that you know that, here's what you should also know about cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting.

What is Cleaning?

Cleaning means taking care of the general cleanliness of an area or surface. This could mean decluttering, reorganizing, or removing some level of germs, dust, or grime. Picking up toys off the ground, washing the dishes, vacuuming the carpets and reorganizing your living space are all forms of cleaning. If a surface has visible signs of dirt and dust on it, cleaning involves the removal of that.

Cleaning is the simplest action you can take to maintain a general cleanliness for your household surfaces and around your living space.

What is Sanitizing?

Sanitizing reduces the growth of bacteria and viruses to safe levels. It's important to sanitize the high-traffic areas of your house such as the bathroom and kitchen, almost weekly. An easy solution for sanitizing can be disinfectant wipes or other disinfectant solutions. Wipe the surfaces with the wipe and leave it wet for at least 10 seconds for it to dry.

All-natural cleaning solutions such as vinegar and lemon juice can reduce the growth of harmful bacteria due to the acids in the liquids. Cleaning surfaces with that homemade solution will clean and sanitize but it will not disinfect.

What is Disinfecting?

Disinfecting aims to destroy the harmful bacteria and viruses that could make us sick. After sanitizing it's important to add a disinfection step to your routine especially if there is an illness in your home to prevent any viruses from spreading. If possible, try to disinfect your home every few months.

A common solution for both sanitizing and disinfecting is using bleach, however it's important to read the instructions carefully and to be careful with what you mix it with. Bleach is powerful solution which can be toxic so it's important to rinse the surface with water after bleaching to remove any traces of the disinfectant.

It's important to leave a disinfectant solution on the surface for four minutes for it to properly disinfect. If the surface is used for food, rinse it with water after using the disinfectant solution.


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