Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, most people probably thought there really wasn’t a difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. I’m cleaning, so I must be getting rid of all of the germs, right? Most places were just being cleaned for appearance: dust, clean the windows, and mop the floor. What people have now begun to learn is the importance of cleaning for health.
Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting each have their purpose in creating a clean and healthy environment.
Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap or detergents and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. When people are only cleaning for appearance, this is where they would stop. Cleaning is still an important step in creating a clean and healthy environment – you need to remove the dirt and impurities before you can kill the germs.
Going a step further, sanitizing reduces germs to safe levels by killing 99.9% of germs. If you spray a counter top with disinfectant and immediately wipe it dry, you’ve sanitized it. Pre-pandemic and outside of cold and flu season, sanitizing was as far as most places needed to go.
During pandemics and cold/flu season, disinfecting is the crucial next step. Properly disinfecting will kill 100% of the germs claimed on the disinfectant’s label when used as directed. The key point with disinfecting is dwell time. Dwell time depends on the disinfectant and the germs you’re trying to kill. Hard to kill germs might take up to ten minutes of dwell time, meaning the surface has to stay wet with disinfectant for ten minutes in order to properly be disinfected.
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