What’s the difference between clean, sanitize and disinfect?

Most people use the words “clean, disinfect and sanitize” as if they are the same thing. In fact, some cleaning product commercials blend them together, further confusing the issue. But the fact is they are very different and should not be used interchangeably.

Knowing the differences is essential to choosing the right products for the job – and doing it properly. This is especially important as new rules and regulations go into effect – particularly with the food industry. Knowing the differences could not only ensure a true “clean’ process – it could prevent you from getting fined.

Don’t let germs get the best of you

Simply put, the three words are defined as follows:

Clean: When you mix a cleaner with water to remove dirt, making the surface “clean.” The right cleaning product is essential because some of them can’t be used on certain surfaces. While cleaning is a necessary step in sanitizing and disinfecting procedures, it does not kill bacteria, viruses or fungi. In other words, it may look clean, but it’s not hygienic.

Sanitize: When you make something hygienic by reducing – but not eliminating – 99.9% of bacteria to make it safe for public health standards. This can be accomplished by chemicals, heat or radiation. But it is essential that the surface is cleaned first or else the sanitizer can’t effectively work. This is when you want to kill germs that most people could come in contact with – surfaces, utensils, etc. And while 99.9% sounds like you’ve removed all contaminants – that last .1% leaves a lot of room for error.

Disinfect: Killing 99.999% of germs and bacteria. However, you must look at the label to see what types of germs and bacteria are going to be killed. And this depends on the type of environment you are working in: is it food processing; animal care facilities; schools or daycares; health care settings? Each of them poses a different set of risks and requires an understanding of what cleaning product will work most effectively. Generally you only need to use a disinfectant in areas of high touch or risk of germ exposure such as bathrooms and counter tops.

And while “sanitize” and “disinfect” may appear to be the same in terms of reduction of microorganisms, the small percentage makes a huge difference when it comes to the possible spread of infection.

 Let’s keep it clean – and then go from there

So remember: always use a cleaner first – and then either disinfect or sanitize the surface according to the job application. And always follow the instructions carefully according to the cleaner you’ve chosen.

Need it? We’ve got it. DSG Equipment & Supplies has the knowledge, training, products and service to help you always get the job done right – no matter what job you’ve got in front of you. So don’t leave it to chance – leave it to the experts. Trust us. We know clean.