The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting

Clean does not mean sanitized. Here's everything you need to know about the primary differences between cleaning and disinfection.
COVID-19 has put the spotlight on cleaning and disinfection and has made things like cleaning and disinfecting wipes as tough to find as the hottest new toy at Christmas time! From schools to restaurants to amusement parks, if businesses are open, cleaning and disinfecting has to be an integral part of their reopening procedures. However, cleaning something is not the same thing as disinfecting something. What makes them different? Read on to learn more about cleaning and disinfection and the products you need for each.


Cleaning something is not disinfecting it. Cleaning is the process of removing surface dirt, crumbs, spills, etc. Cleaning might be done with soap and water, a cleaning spray, or just water and a cloth. While cleaning does remove things you can see on the surface, it doesn't kill bacteria or viruses lingering on the surface.

One of the problems with cleaning is that certain cleaning tools, such as sponges and cloths, often just move the germs and bacteria from one surface to another.  


Disinfection, on the other hand, is the process of killing bacteria, viruses, and any other microorganisms on a surface.

Disinfectants are not meant for cleaning, so they should be used after you clean the surface. They're not meant for removal of dirt, food, or other messes, so don't use them for that. Different disinfectants are meant for different things, so be sure you are reading the labels on your products.

How to Clean and Disinfect

Cleaning should always come first. Make sure that any dirt or food on the surface you are going to disinfect is first cleaned off. Or, you can use a combination cleaner and disinfectant to do the cleaning and disinfecting in one step.

To do this, you might use disinfectant wipes, a disinfectant spray, or home-made water and bleach disinfectant.

Whichever method you use, you need to follow the instructions on your product. To work effectively, disinfectants have something called "dwell time." This is the amount of time they need to remain wet on the surface to actually disinfect the area.

Don't simply wipe down your counters with a disinfectant to kill bacteria or viruses. You need to spray it and let the disinfectant dry. If you don't follow the directions, you cannot be confident that your disinfectant is working as it should be.

What Needs to Be Disinfected

COVID-19 has people cleaning and disinfecting things they didn't pay much attention to before. High-traffic areas should be cleaned and disinfected daily. These areas include:

  • Doorknobs and door handles
  • Light switches
  • Bathroom and kitchen faucets
  • Handrails
  • Kitchens  
  • Remote controls, computer mice, cell phones

If these items are shared or taken out of the house, they should be disinfected daily.

Cleaning and Disinfection is Necessary To Stay Healthy

Even though the new focus on cleaning and disinfection has focused primarily on preventing COVID, these practices can also help protect against the flu virus and the common cold. Regular disinfection helps keep you healthy all year long, particularly during cold and flu season.

For even more peace of mind, our company provides residential and commercial disinfection and sanitizing services. Contact us today for an appointment.

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