When it comes to cleaning, there are many different terms with various meanings that most people don’t even think about. Do you know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing? The word clean is an easy way to name many different things in different environments.
Here’s a simple breakdown:
Clean – The removal of soils from a surface
Sanitize – The use of chemical agents to remove bacteria
Sterilize – The killing & removal of all forms of life and biological agents from an object or surface
In different environments, these terms all mean different things. For example, in a hospital you would find a clean floor, a food prep surface would be sanitized, and anything that is related to blood is disinfected. Surgical instruments, however, are sterilized.
When it comes to other types of surfaces, there is an order in which things must be done. First, you have to clean a surface before you can disinfect it. It is important, when disinfecting, to pay attention to dwell times. It is not unusual for a disinfectant to have a 10 minute dwell time. Something else to consider is what the kill claims are on the disinfectant. What are you trying to kill and what would you like to protect against? Certain diseases require stronger disinfectants.
It is important to know your environment when you’re cleaning. If you’re simply tackling your house kitchen, you don’t need to worry about sterilizing surgical equipment. Regardless if the area you’re working on, it’s good to know what these terms mean and how they affect your daily cleaning routine.