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Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting

What is the difference between cleaning products and disinfectants?


Recently COVID-19 became the worry over many people affecting our health, how we live, daily life choices, and proper disinfecting practices within our environment. Did you know there is a huge difference between  cleaning and disinfecting? Did you know that only certain products disinfect and have certain methods in order to be effective? 


As we go about our daily lives we are constantly in contact with one another, touching within our environments and ourselves. We are constantly touching and spreading microorganisms that are good and harmful.  Some microorganisms can live on surfaces for a very long period of time. 




How is cleaning different from disinfecting?


Cleaning is picking up dirt, grime, and polishing up an area. It is making an area look presentable. Typically cleaners you would use for cleaning are mild soap, polishes, all purposes cleaners, window cleaner, floor cleaner, toilet cleaner. These are just many different types of cleaners we use on a regular basis to clean our spaces. 


Disinfectants are different from cleaners and do not have the same effect. Disinfectants actually kill germs and microorganisms while reducing the risk of spread. Many disinfectants kill only certain types of microorganisms depending on the chemical inside of the solution. Depending on the type of disinfectant, it will kill certain germs types and with a certain percentage ratio. Most disinfectants that are used to kill germs contain a base such as quaternary ammonium chloride (QUATS), peroxide (Hydrogen-Peroxide based), or hypochlorite (bleach-based).  

Disinfectants that are tested to their claims are registered by the EPA. The EPA lists  antimicrobial products that are registered and what common pathogens it is effective against as indicated in the list titles. EPA-registered antimicrobial products may not make efficacy claims against these pathogens unless the Agency has reviewed data to support the claim and approved the claim on the label.  

Different disinfectant chemicals require different dwell times based on the EPA registration and contact time required for each organism. While some can be left to sit or what I like to call “marinate” for only a minute, others may take up to ten minutes to sit on the surface. It is important to read the disinfectant label to the manufacturer's instructions or look on the EPA site. 


Key steps to remember:

1. First wear your proper PPE for cleaning practice. 


2. Clean the surface area with your cleaner removing debris.


3. Choose the proper disinfectant and know its dwell time it needs to remain on the surface.


4. Spray the surface area so it’s wet and let the disinfectant remain according to the proper manufactures or EPA listed time. 


5. Wipe the area clean 


6. Discard cleaning rags and properly remove PPE by using proper donning and doffing techniques.


Sometimes some products can be a 1-step process meaning they are a cleaner with a disinfectant within the same product. 


Cleaning and disinfecting is an important part of the maintenance routine. Keeping your space clean will reduce the spread of illness and enhance your space’s overall appearance.  It is highly recommended to disinfect high touch areas in your environment such as light switches, lamps, door handles, electronics, remotes, thermostats, food surfaces, and bathrooms. 














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