A picture of magnified cells to demonstrate sanitizing and disinfecting cleaning.

Sanitizing vs Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting? Did you even know that there’s a difference? Well there is, and understanding the difference can make all the, er, difference when providing a clean and safe work environment for your employees.

There are a lot of different cleaning products out there, and even more things to clean with them. So it’s easy for the line between where to use sanitizer and where to use disinfectant can blur.

Whether your cleaning program is handled internally or is outsourced to a professional office cleaning company like MOM, you want to make sure that every space and surface is cleaned in an appropriate way, ensuring the health and safety of everyone that comes into contact with them. It may seem complicated, but in reality, you just need the right information and to follow a few simple guidelines, and you’ll be on your way to maintaining a clean and safe workspace in no time.

Misconception: Reduction vs. Destruction

The biggest misconception surrounding sanitizing and disinfecting is the tendency to think of them as meaning the same thing. True, they are similar in the sense that they are both surface cleaners. They are different, however, in regards to their specific functions.

Where the purpose of a sanitizer is to reduce the number of microbes to a safe level, a disinfectant will completely destroy them. To be considered effective, a sanitizer must significantly reduce the bacteria count of the surface it is applied to within 30 seconds. Disinfectants, on the other hand, must completely kill all organisms listed on its label in a time frame greater than 5 minutes but less than 10 minutes.

Another way of looking at it, is that disinfectants are capable of killing viruses, whereas sanitizers are not. Its all about intensity.

How We Mistake Them

While sanitizer and disinfectant have different definitions, they tend to come in very similar forms, which only lends to the confusion. Whether packaged for household or more commercial use, sanitizers and disinfectants both come in the form of a liquid ranging along the concentration spectrum that most other cleaning products do.

Especially in commercial cleaning situations, appearances can be deceiving. For instance, just because a liquid is blue and comes in a spray bottle, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s glass cleaner.

In fact, sometimes sanitizer and disinfectant are not different cleaners at all; they may be the same chemical, but at different concentration levels. Bleach, for example will act as a sanitizer if mixed at a 1:8 ratio with water, but acts as a disinfectant if mixed at a 1:4 ratio. In other words, determining whether you need a sanitizer or a disinfectant, and how strongly it should be mixed depends entirely on the nature and requirements of the cleaning job at hand.

Ask The Expert

Knowing your way around sanitizers and disinfectants is crucial to choosing the right cleaning product but it’s still only the first step. You also have to choose the right cleaning for the job at hand. For example, where a disinfectant is the ideal solution for a medical facility, a less harsh sanitizer is often more appropriate for an office environment and other everyday workspaces.

Not every situation, however, is so cut and dry. There are countless cleaning tasks out there, all with their own special needs, so it’s important to have your cleaning program shaped by a professional. Expert opinion will ensure that floors are disinfected when necessary, and that staff room countertops aren’t smothered in toxic levels of cleaner residue when they simply need to be sanitized. With the help of a cleaning professional, then, you can create a workspace that’s not only clean, but safe, as well.

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