Sanitize vs Disinfect: What’s the Difference?
Germs are part and parcel of our daily lives and can be found
everywhere. They are in our air, soil, water, and even on the skin
of our bodies. Germs can also be found on the surfaces and objects
we touch daily.
The main way of eliminating germs is cleaning through sanitization
Though often used interchangeably, there's a significant distinction
between these two terms. Knowing these differences can help you
purchase the correct cleaning products and use them effectively.
When to sanitize?
Sanitization is a vital decontamination or cleaning process for
killing all microorganisms at a safe level. Sanitization can reduce
99.99% of bacteria on surfaces within 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
Fundamentally, it is advisable to sanitize surfaces that do not
typically come into contact with highly dangerous bacteria. Or those
that can be cleaned without the need for powerful chemicals.
For instance, cooking tools or children's toys, as you do not want
such items coming into contact with powerful chemicals.
What is sanitize?
A sanitizer is a specialized chemical that reduces the number of
surface microorganisms but doesn't entirely eliminate them.
Typically, sanitizers aren’t 100% effective against viruses and
fungi. However, sanitizers must reduce the bacteria count by a
minimum of 99.999% in food service situations.
Generally, standard sanitizers should kill 99.999% of infectious
organisms present on surfaces within 30 seconds.
When to disinfect?
Unlike sanitization, disinfection isn’t a common part of most
people’s daily cleaning routine.
Disinfection is a cleaning process that targets serious messes such
as those involving bodily fluids, making it more conducive for
As such, it is usually not recommended for daily household cleaning.
This is because the overuse of disinfectants poses harmful health
and environmental consequences.
However, it is suited for areas like toilets or sinks that typically
have dangerous bacteria. In some instances, disinfection can also be
carried out on high-contact areas like doorknobs and faucets.
What is a disinfectant?
A disinfectant is a specialized chemical that wholly and
exhaustively destroys all microorganisms listed on its label.
The microorganisms it kills are typically disease-causing bacteria
and pathogens. However, some may or may not be able to kill
viruses and fungi.
Generally, standard disinfectants reduce the level of pathogenic
bacteria by 99.999% in a time frame of fewer than 10 minutes.
How often should I disinfect vs sanitize?
Sanitization is suited to simple home cleaning procedures like
cleaning groceries or surfaces like dinner tables and should be done
Disinfection can be done on a weekly basis, on average. However, it
is better to sanitize than disinfect surfaces used for food
preparation like countertops. This is because disinfectants
typically contain powerful chemical residue that is potentially
harmful to humans.
Sanitize vs. Disinfect: Which is cleaner?
Sanitizing and disinfecting goes beyond simply removing dirt and
impurities from surfaces to eliminate harmful bacteria.
Sanitization focuses on physically removing germs (lowering the
number of germs to a safe level) while disinfecting thoroughly
eliminates germs. As a result, sanitizing is a little gentler than
However, disinfection doesn’t completely result in clean surfaces
but completely kills germs, lowering the risk of any infection.
For practical purposes, there is no evident difference between
sanitizers and disinfectants as both chemicals kill pathogens.
So, the question is, how fast do they work?
For reasonable contamination levels, disinfectants take about 20
minutes to eliminate germs to undetectable levels. In contrast,
sanitizers can work within less than 30 seconds.
Sanitize vs Disinfect vs Sterilize
Sterilization is essentially the process of completely
destroying or eliminating all forms of microbial life.
Sterilization typically occurs in healthcare facilities
employing physical and chemical methods like steaming under
pressure, dry heat,
peroxide, and liquid chemicals.
Sanitization aims to lower the number of germs on surfaces or
objects. This is either by killing them or eliminating them to a
safe level, according to public health requisites. Sanitizing is
typically performed after cleaning.
Prioritising expertise is important. And the only way you can
assess expertise is by having the freedom to interrogate the
company's technicians. This can help you evaluate if the company
is established and really offers numerous years of experience
and a positive reputation.
Why is proper cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting so important?
Sanitizing and disinfecting reduce the occurrence and growth of
viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Generally, all surfaces that come into
direct contact with food should be regularly cleaned and sanitized
to avoid disease outbreaks and public health emergencies.
Can rubbing alcohol kill COVID-19?
The outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered a considerable uptick in the
purchase of sanitizing and disinfection products.
Generally, alcohol-based disinfectants and sanitizers are arguably
the most effective against COVID-19. For instance, most hand
sanitizers contain 60% alcohol (ethyl
alcohol or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.
However, rubbing alcohol alone targets bacterial spores and phenolic
coagulate fluids containing protein which can sometimes protect
organisms. So, it may not be fully effective against all viruses.
Furthermore, they are a fire hazard. So, it’s advisable to wash
hands with soap and water, even after using sanitizer to kill
What is the best household disinfectant for surfaces during
Generally, regular household disinfection products can effectively
eliminate COVID-19 from household surfaces. Particularly, surface
virucidal disinfectants that contain 0.05%
(NaClO) and products based on ethanol (at least 70%) are
In summary, sanitizing solutions are not as strong as disinfecting
solutions. For instance, disinfectants typically contain hydrogen
peroxide, while sanitizers mainly constitute alcohol. However, some
products can be both sanitizers and disinfectants.
Furthermore, sanitizers tend to work faster than disinfectants.
Disinfectants typically take an average of 10 minutes to kill the
germs. On the other hand, sanitizers can kill germs in less than 30
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