What Are the Differences Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting?
Keeping the environment around you clean and germ-free is an important step in staying healthy. However, do you know the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting? It’s essential to know the variations between these methods so that you can take the proper steps to keep items and areas clean.

If you want to learn about the various methods of cleaning, we can help! We will go over what each term means, what you can do to help maintain a spotless environment whether you are at work or home, and why this information is important. With this knowledge, you will know more about maintaining a germ-free environment and keeping yourself and the people around you healthy.


Cleaning is a term for when you are removing visible dirt, grime, germs, pests and more from the surface of an object. One way that you can accomplish this task is by using water, various cleaning solutions, and a rag or sponge. Cleaning does not always have to involve liquids, though. Dusting surfaces, organizing drawers and throwing away trash also fall under this category.

While sanitizing and disinfecting are also critical steps, cleaning is the most common practice. The most important part of cleaning is preparing the environment, or item, for the next stage. Sanitizing and disinfecting go a few more steps into creating a healthy environment. Remember, just because you are cleaning does not mean the object or area is clear of germs or bacteria. Sanitization and disinfecting are critical steps, as well.


The term “sanitizing” refers to minimizing the number of bacteria and germs on an object or in an area to an acceptable level determined by the public health department. Sanitizing can have a varying degree of effectiveness on bacteria and other unhygienic elements, since the chemical reaction changes from product to product.

While artificial cleaning products are helpful, sanitizing items is not always completed with the use of chemicals. Certain degrees of hot water can be considered sterile enough to clean floors, dishes and bathrooms sufficiently. However, many organizations such as restaurants have to follow strict sanitizing rules to maintain their license, so sanitization products can be helpful.

Proper sanitizing will also help minimize the transfer of bacteria to other surfaces. When you sanitize after cleaning, you reduce the health risk of contracting illnesses or spreading harmful substances.

When you are finished cleaning and are now ready to sanitize, make sure to use products specific to the surface type or bacteria you are trying to remove. Ensure you read the labels on the chemicals you are using both in your home and at work so you are aware of the health risks they pose if mishandled. Many people think that sanitizing is the peak of cleanliness. However, this method is a moderate form of decontamination. Disinfecting is a more intense cleaning procedure.


Some of these disinfectant tools are designed specifically for getting into the cracks and crevices that ordinary items have a difficult time reaching.


Disinfecting is the primary source of killing most viruses and bacteria. When you are disinfecting items or surfaces, you use chemicals made for certain germs, bacteria and viruses, to remove or reduce their effectiveness in an environment or on the surface of objects. Depending on the type of area you need to clean, you may use different forms of disinfectants. You can even use specialized machines designed to disinfect hard-to-reach areas or large open spaces with ease.

Some of these disinfectant tools are designed specifically for getting into the cracks and crevices that ordinary items have a difficult time reaching. When you combine cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, you are effectively maintaining appropriate levels of hygiene in your life. Having this knowledge can help your day-to-day experiences, especially during times of sickness and in areas with many germs, such as hospitals.

Doing a routine cleaning of surface areas such as countertops will help maintain a clean space and a healthy place for people to occupy. To have the cleanest countertops, you must first wipe the counter down with water and soap and dry it completely. After that, you should apply your disinfectant solution and wipe down the counters again for confirmation that all germs are removed and the space is clean.

There are quite a few places and appliances that, due to the germs accumulating on their surfaces, need frequent disinfecting. Some of these items include:

  • Doorknobs
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Cellphones
  • Light switches
  • Remotes
  • Handles
  • Sinks
  • Toilets
  • Counters

Areas that are constantly open to moisture, such as bathrooms, need special attention and should be disinfected often. There are many facets within the bathroom that can cause unwanted bacterial growth, ranging from shampoo residue to puddles of water. Keeping the bathroom adequately cleaned and disinfected will keep these to a minimum and provide a healthier environment. Complete disinfection of the bathroom should happen at least once a week, while basic cleaning or sanitization should probably happen daily.

Why It’s Important to Know the Difference

Many people clean their homes on a regular schedule to ensure their environments are hygienic. Have you cleaned enough and used the right products? If you are unsure of the three avenues that combine to make the healthiest of living environments, you may be wasting your time with so much surface cleaning. Breaking down the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting will help you realize if you have adequately removed germs.

Disinfecting is a significant player in making your home the cleanest it can be. At the very least, cleaning and disinfecting are necessary to do regularly. To create the best possible healthy environment to live in, you will need to finish off with sanitizing.

The difference between sanitizing and disinfecting is that sanitizing focuses more on bacteria while disinfecting removes both bacteria and viruses. Also, disinfecting normally has to do with hard surfaces, like sinks and tables, while sanitizing covers a broader range of applications. Improve your lifestyle and living space by knowing the proper way to clean and which products to use.

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Choose National Janitorial Solutions to Help You Clean

Many of us have hectic lives and don’t have the time to constantly sanitize to the degree of cleanliness we want. At National Janitorial Solutions, we are here to help relieve the stress of keeping up with cleanliness in your business with services such as AmplifyClean™

Cleaning is essential to maintaining a safer workplace. By properly sanitizing areas, you can safeguard the well-being of your workers. Specializing in industries from automobiles to urgent care, National Janitorial Solutions can ensure your workplace environment is safe and healthy. 

The services we provide range from pressure washing to construction cleaning and everything in between. Take the stress away from learning how to properly clean everything and ask for a consultation today. 

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