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Differentiating Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Differentiating Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing are part of a broad approach to preventing infectious diseases. Though these terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that they are actually quite different.

What is the difference:

Cleaning removes dust, debris and dirt from a surface by scrubbing, washing and rinsing.

Sanitizing reduces the bacteria identified on the product’s label on surfaces and in laundry.

Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses identified on the product’s label (like influenza and rhinovirus) on hard, nonporous surfaces.

John B. Everitt, President of Stearns Packaging Corp says "Cleaning alone will always contribute favorably to the health of indoor occupants because allergens and microorganisms are being removed from the surfaces of the indoor environment. The problem, however, is the risk of cross-contamination. The mopping solution and the cleaning tools could be spreading disease in the absence of a germicide."

"When you sanitize, you are killing/reducing the number of bacteria present by 99.9 percent (3 log10) but doing nothing about viruses and fungus. Sanitizing is better than cleaning alone but the reduction of pathogen populations on environmental surfaces is exponentially better when you disinfect."

"The minimum level of effectiveness in a modern-day disinfectant is 100 percent kill of 6 log10 of an organism. A sanitizer is only required to reduce that 6 log10 down to 3 Log10. We can put that into real numbers. If we start with 1 million organisms on a surface then a disinfectant must kill 100 percent of them; zero left. A sanitizer only reduces the number of organisms down to 1,000 and does nothing about virus and fungus."

Here is the list of EPA approved disinfectants against COVID-19.

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