Cleaning vs Sanitizing


The words cleaning and sanitizing might be used interchangeably but they are not the same thing, in fact, there is a big difference between the two. Just because something is clean doesn’t mean it’s been sanitized and likewise, you can sanitise something without it being particularly clean.

Why does the distinction make a difference? The distinction is important because cleaning something doesn’t kill germs such as viruses, bacteria and fungi although many will be removed by the process. So while your home may be sparkling and dust-free it could still be harbouring nasty little micro-organisms that can make you sick.

There is also a difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. Sanitizing will reduce the level of micro-organisms to what is considered a safe level. Whereas disinfecting or sterilizing will kill everything.

With this in mind, it is important to think about whether you need to clean, sanitize or both, but also the types of micro-organisms you are wanting to get rid off. For example, in food preparation areas sanitizers will often be used to kill bacteria quickly, and they are very efficient for this purpose. However, many are not designed to kill other pathogens such as viruses.

What Does Cleaning Do?

Cleaning is the removal of dirt, food, grease and other contamination and impurities from an area, object or surface.

There are a number of methods most people are familiar with when it comes to cleaning. Each of which has its place in cleaning different items and areas.

For example, you may use soap or detergent and water to physically remove dirt from your hands or your kitchen surface, or you might use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and other debris from your floor, you might dust your ornaments and you might scrape the dirt from mucky boots. Abrasion is also often required when cleaning.

Cleaning will physically remove a certain number of bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms as well as dirt, grime and food. Plus it generally creates an inhospitable, clean, dry environment in which micro-organisms are less likely to thrive.

We all know that washing our hands properly with soap (even if it’s not antibacterial) and water is sufficient to keep us transferring any bacteria on our hands into our systems. The combination of detergent, abrasion and water literally washes them away, yet cleaning alone does not actually kill germs.

For many low-risk areas cleaning alone will be all you need. For example, you are unlikely to need to sanitize chairs, shelves, floors, walls, doors or windows on a regular basis. Unless of course, you have young children in which case anything goes.

On the other hand cleaning alone may not be enough for food preparation areas, the bathroom, or high traffic items such as door handles or the TV remote.

What Does Sanitizing Do?

Sanitizing kills germs lowering the number of them on objects or surfaces to a level that is considered safe (as opposed to disinfecting which kills everything).

It is worth noting that in the United States products sold as sanitizers contain agents that will kill 99.9% of bacteria, however, they are not required to be effective against viruses or fungi.

This means that if you are dealing with a viral infection at home or work and wish to stop it spreading, you may need a different product to your standard kitchen sanitizer.

EPA registered disinfectants, household bleach, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol at 70% proof or above will all work to kill viruses as well as bacteria.

Why Cleaning & Sanitizing Are Important

Because cleaning and sanitizing provide different functions both are important and often go hand in hand.

Cleaning is a vital part of the sanitizing process as surfaces need to be clean before you can effectively sanitize them. Without removing physical dirt, bacteria and viruses can remain without coming into contact with the sanitizing agent.

In a commercial kitchen or your kitchen at home, cleaning and sanitizing is often considered a 4 step process:

  1. Clean the surface.
  2. Rinse.
  3. Sanitize.
  4. Air Dry.

For certain surfaces such as door handles that don’t really get that dirty you may just wish to sanitize. Disinfectant wipes are often popular for this purpose.

Tips for Cleaning Your Home

  • Clean high traffic areas more frequently. For example, you might clean the bathroom sink every day but mop the floor only once a week. Or the oven might go weeks or months between cleans whereas your kitchen surfaces will be cleaned after each use.
  • As cleaning alone doesn’t kill germs it’s important to prevent cross-contamination. So wash cleaning cloths frequently and disinfect your mop head after you use it.
  • There are many different cleaning products available for different jobs but hot soapy water, elbow grease and a slightly abrasive cloth are a great place to start.
  • Be methodical. Clean from top to bottom and left to right. This will stop you missing areas or spreading dirt and germs back to areas you have already cleaned.

Tips for Sanitizing Your Home

Read below for tips on how to sanitize your home. Find more here.

  • Prioritise high traffic areas where germs are likely to be. Toilets, sinks, taps, faucets, handles, kitchen and food preparation areas, TV remotes, computer keyboards, phones etc.
  • Read the instructions on the bottle. You need to make sure the full contact time is reached, otherwise you may not have killed the germs you were expecting to, giving a false sense of security.
  • Make sure surfaces are clean before sanitizing and allow them to air dry.
  • If you wish to destroy viruses, as well as bacteria, opt for an EPA registered disinfectant, bleach, hydrogen peroxide or 70% alcohol.
  • Heat is also an effective sanitizer.

Brighthouse Chem-Dry offers a hospital-grade sanitizer registered by the EPA proven to kill germs, bacteria and enveloped viruses in homes on surfaces including carpet, upholstery, tile, wood, vinyl and high touch point areas such as door knobs, appliances, cabinets, remote controls, light switches and more! Call (651) 358-2226 for information on our sanitizer and healthy home services today!

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