What Is the Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting?

Posted on March 3, 2023

Plenty of cleaning service providers offer several types of services. However, while most people may use terms like “cleaning,” “sanitizing,” and “disinfecting” interchangeably, it helps to know the difference between the three when hiring a cleaning team.

Knowing the answer to: “What is the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting?” can help you manage your expectations when hiring commercial cleaning services. Here are some of the key differences and a look into what service providers mean when they provide any of the three.

What Is the Difference Between Sanitizing, Disinfecting, and Cleaning?

When it comes to cleaning in general, the terms “cleaning,” “sanitizing” and “disinfecting” are thought to mean exactly the same thing. While they generally refer to removing unwanted items like dirt from your spaces, they can have different implications.

What Does Cleaning Do?

Out of all the three, cleaning is the most straightforward process. If a service provider claims to provide cleaning services, they’ll remove all visible dirt, grime, dust, and other particles in your spaces. Typical cleaning services include the following:

  • Vacuuming
  • Sweeping
  • Mopping
  • Wiping
  • Scrubbing

While your spaces will be visibly clean, these steps won’t remove most microscopic germs. Some cleaning services stop here, while others clean away the visible debris before sanitizing and disinfecting.

What Does Sanitizing Do?

Sanitizing involves removing most of the bacteria, but it doesn’t extend to everything. This means using any chemical product that decreases the bacteria count to safe levels. These safe levels must meet public health codes or industry regulations. Important to note that sanitizing also doesn’t kill viruses.

When a cleaning service provider offers sanitizing services, you can expect clean spaces that are safe but not germs-free. Your provider should use sanitizing products registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Using registered products ensures that the sanitizing products they use work effectively for common organisms.

What Does Disinfectant Do?

Disinfection is a step beyond sanitizing as it uses products that kill bacteria and viruses in your spaces. It’s a higher level of cleaning than sanitizing, but it’s still below sterilization – which means eliminating all microorganisms from your areas completely – and are only usually required in medical spaces.

Disinfecting services also require an EPA-registered disinfectant to keep your surfaces safe. For thorough disinfection, your cleaners should perform general cleaning on your spaces before disinfecting, as additional debris can lower the disinfectant concentration on your surfaces.

Do I Need Sanitation or Disinfection?

You might be choosing between sanitizing vs. disinfecting your spaces. Depending on your area’s requirements, your provider can either clean first and then sanitize or disinfect.

While they have their differences, it will ultimately depend on factors like what type of spaces you have, how much foot traffic you see, and if your industry has specific cleaning needs to comply. Your business should be fine with regular sanitizing services if:

  • You want to prevent the spread of bacteria that causes common illnesses like food poisoning, skin infections, urinary tract infection, and more.
  • Your spaces have hard non-porous surfaces.
  • Your spaces have specific high-touch surfaces that can be routinely sanitized.
  • Your business handles raw and cooked food, or you have areas in your office like a pantry, mini-kitchen, or break room.

On the other hand, disinfecting services provide an additional layer of protection for your spaces if:

  • Your business is under an industry with health code requirements that require disinfecting.
  • You handle small children, like daycares and places with diaper-changing stations.
  • Your spaces deal with bodily fluids like urine, fecal matter, blood, etc.
  • Your areas were exposed to individuals with viral conditions.
  • Your business handles raw and cooked food.

Types of Sanitizing Methods

There are several ways your cleaning provider can perform sanitation on your premises. It’s recommended to make sure your provider uses EPA-approved sanitizing methods. The three primary forms of sanitizing include:

  • Heat: Exposing bacteria to a specific temperature can kill and prevent them from multiplying. However, this can only be efficient if they reach the necessary temperature, duration, and contact within your spaces. It can also lead to high energy costs if using ineffective heating methods.
  • Chemicals: Your cleaners should use EPA-registered sanitizing products to ensure your spaces are sufficiently clean and have safe bacteria levels. These chemicals kill most bacteria and should be able to eliminate the most common types.
  • Radiation: This method uses light energy to eliminate microorganisms and is commonly used as ultraviolet (UV) light. However, UV light is only effective for bacteria near the UV light for long exposure periods. Cleaning is also necessary because dust and grease can reduce the effectiveness.

Types of Disinfectants

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists several types of disinfectants:

  • Chemicals: This can range from alcohol, chlorine, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acids, and other compounds. These substances have germicidal characteristics that can kill most bacteria and viruses. However, diluting them below 50% concentration can affect their effectiveness.
  • Metals: Some heavy metals are proven to have disinfection properties. This includes metals like silver, iron, and copper. However, these are normally used in the medical, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries.
  • Radiation: UV light can also be used for disinfecting as it inactivates microorganisms by destroying their nuclei. Factors like organic matter also affect its ability to kill bacteria and viruses, and it’s usually applied in medical spaces for airborne and surface pathogens.

Receive the Highest Level of Protection with JAN-PRO Cleaning & Disinfecting

Your commercial and office spaces need regular protection against bacteria and viruses. On top of keeping your areas visually clean, you need services that keep you, your staff, and your customers safe. You can enjoy safe spaces that keep your business going through reliable cleaning and disinfecting services.

Get in touch with your local cleaning franchisee team today for a free quote on our services.

Cleaning and disinfecting services provided by independently owned and operated JAN-PRO Cleaning & Disinfecting franchisees.