What’s the Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing?




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a woman in apron and rubber gloves cleaning a kitchen counter

Did you know that cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing are not the same thing?

Picture this: You’ve got your hair tossed up in a bun with your favorite, upbeat cleaning playlist blaring. You’re tackling the house chores room by room, feeling proud of your craft.

By the time you’re through with your home, you feel 100% okay with the fact that your toddler may or may not eat spilled snacks directly off the floor later on. We see you, and we’re proud of you too. You are a wonder woman, but we also have to be honest with you.

That multi-purpose cleaner that you love? Sure, it may clean your home, but how well is it sanitizing or disinfecting your home (yes, there is a need for all three!) Can you be confident that you have sufficiently sprayed the germs away?

If you’re one of the many busy people out there wanting a worry-free clean, TLC Cleaning Fargo has your back. We offer a quality home cleaning that you can trust. Call TLC to schedule a recurring cleaning service to make sure everything is getting cleaned and sanitized correctly.

The catch-all phrase

someone wearing yellow rubber gloves and cleaning with spray and microfiber cloth

When you’re referring to ‘cleaning your home,’ it’s easy to think of these words as a tidying catch-all phrase. While using this phrase isn’t necessarily wrong, it also makes it easy to forget the types of cleaning your home may need.

If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty (see what I did there?), technically cleaning refers to just a surface level tidying. Think of this as your vacuuming, dusting, wiping surfaces of visible dust and debris, etc. There are so many great products to help you achieve a better clean, but not all of these products may disinfect or sanitize.

Cleaning your home merely removes the germs from the area you are tending to without killing them.

Disinfecting vs. sanitization

a woman applying hand sanitizer

So little Suzie comes home with the sniffles and complains that her body hurts. Your mind automatically goes to every mom’s worst nightmare – the flu. Not today, Satan, you think to yourself as you bust out the sanitizing spray. Not in my household!

I get it. Spray away girlfriend, but I promised honesty, remember? While sanitizing is essential, you may be missing a lot of critical germs out there.

When you sanitize, it reduces the bacteria to a safe level and lowers the risk of it spreading. While you are helping to keep the bacteria and germs at bay, you aren’t eliminating them.

Enter disinfectant — the germ killer.

Disinfectant is the powerhouse that kills most germs and bacteria, while sanitization lowers the levels of them.

To disinfect or to sanitize? That is the question.

someone holding a bucket of cleaning tools and supplies

I know what you might be thinking. If sanitizing is the wimpier contender here, what’s the big deal with using it? It may be tempting to clean with just your surface-level products and douse your home in disinfectant, but let’s not get hasty.

Think of food prepping areas. That perfectly sliced chicken that you just cut up leaves some major bacteria behind, but we all can imagine that the next set of food to prep may not taste as delicious with a hint of disinfectant. In this instance, a gentler product will do the trick in keeping your prep area clean and safe.

Another example would be flooring. While disinfecting your floor is not required when mopping up your entryway, your bathroom would have a much greater need for a solid go around with a disinfectant.

Sanitizing comes to play for surfaces that aren’t usually in contact with heavy-hitting bacteria or areas where you may be in close contact with and not want powerful chemicals left behind.

Disinfectant, however, is excellent for bigger messes such as ones left behind in restrooms or after a medical blunder. I’ll spare you the flowery verbiage (hint hint: that flu you might be worried about or a nasty knee scrape).

Home clean routine

a couple laying back and relaxing on their couch in their clean home

In any case, always start with a standard good cleaning. This step isn’t going to eliminate pathogens that can cause illness, but it will help achieve a squeaky clean look, and it is essential before disinfecting or sanitizing your home.

Cleaning works with soap of choice to remove any grime from the surface area and preps the area for the real work. Once cleaned, determine your high-touch places or areas that may come in contact with bodily fluids. These may be the places you’d want to disinfect.

When using a disinfectant, be sure to follow the label directions, allowing for the proper time to pass before coming in contact with the area again.

A good sanitizer will be sufficient in most cases as it does help the spread of germs. Once using a sanitizing product, be sure to allow for the proper dry time before coming in contact with the area again.

Bleach makes for a great sanitizer and disinfectant depending on the quantities of bleach and water. For a sanitizing astringent, use one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water. For a disinfectant, bump the bleach amount up to ⅓ cup to one gallon of water. When sanitizing or disinfecting, allow areas to completely dry naturally for best results.

We have you covered

a woman with cleaning supplies and holding a broom making the 'okay' sign with her hand

Whether you’re needing a hunkered down disinfecting, a simpler sanitization, or even a tidying up, TLC has you covered. Call TLC to schedule a recurring cleaning service to make sure everything is getting cleaned and sanitized correctly. We offer different levels of surface catered to your specific wants and needs.

We understand your time is valuable, so let us save you the time to focus on what matters in your life, and we’ll focus on what matters when it comes to your cleaning needs. Call TLC Cleaning today!

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