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The Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfection

Jan 14, 2022 7:03:00 AM / by The Pegasus Team

Although the terms cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are generally used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings when it comes to products designed for janitorial or residential usage. 

While each of these are essential for cultivating a healthy and clean environment, it's also important to understand the difference between the three terms - particularly now as employees begin to return to the workplace after working remotely for most of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding what each word means promotes best practices for minimizing the spread of bacteria and viruses in the office environment. 

 A clean, sanitized, and disinfected environment generates increased employee confidence, results in fewer sick days, and reduces liability. Here's what you need to know about the different roles of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, and how they work together.

What Is Cleaning? 

Cleaning is the process of physically removing surface dirt, dust, and other assorted debris and is the first step in creating a healthy environment. Although cleaning isn't designed to kill germs, it does remove the impurities that cause and contain them. Ideally, surfaces that have been cleaned have fewer germs than before, but it should never be assumed that they're completely or even mostly germ-free. Cleaning solutions are typically mild or semi-mild detergents that contain surfactants designed to dissolve debris and make it easy to wipe away. 

What Is Sanitizing? 

Sanitizing is the step that comes after cleaning. Sanitizing agents don't necessarily remove dirt, dust, or grime — their main job is to reduce the amount of bacteria on any given surface. This helps prevent the spread of bacteria-borne diseases and reduces common infections. 

It should be noted that sanitizers, even those approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), don't claim to kill or minimize viruses. Furthermore, although sanitizing should ideally remove a significant amount of bacteria from surfaces, it doesn't necessarily remove them all. 

What Is Disinfecting?

Disinfection is the final step in the cleaning process. Disinfecting agents are designed to eliminate virtually all microbes on any given surface, including viruses as well as any bacteria that remain after the sanitizing step. These are the only products approved by the EPA to destroy viruses on hard nonporous surfaces such as desks, chairs, tables, floors, bathroom fixtures, and other staples of the average office environment. The risk of contracting viruses via touch is substantially lowered when these surfaces have been professionally disinfected.

If the word "disinfect" doesn't appear on the label of janitorial or cleaning solution, it's safe to assume that the product is not registered with the EPA as being formulated to eliminate viruses.

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What Are the Differences Between the Three?

The differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are small but significant. It should never be assumed that cleaning and sanitizing by themselves, for instance, create a germ-free surface. By the same token, using a disinfecting agent alone won't get rid of dirt and dust.

Why All Three Are Important

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are designed to work in tandem with one another. Each plays a different — but vital — function in creating a healthy, sanitary working environment. The first step, cleaning, prepares surfaces for sanitizing and disinfecting by clearing them of debris. The second step, sanitizing, removes the majority of bacterial microbes, while disinfecting provides the finishing touch that results in a safe, germ-free surface.

How Pegasus Can Help

It's more important than ever that employees and other building occupants have clean, safe environments. Pegasus brings state-of-the-art expertise as well as customized solutions to the table. With over 50 years in the business, we've had plenty of time to fine-tune our cleaning strategies to meet the individual needs of our customers. We have a strong commitment to customer service and to providing our commercial clients with the peace of mind they need. Our services include the following:

  • Hydrogen peroxide decontamination
  • Cleanroom contamination control
  • Data center cleaning
  • Standard janitorial
  • Day porters

We also assess facilities on an individual basis to identify their needs and help them develop cost-effective cleaning solutions that don't involve compromising on quality and safety. 

Contact Pegasus for More Information

Please feel free to contact us for more information on how we can help you create and maintain a safe and secure working environment. We also can maintain your Hybrid Workplace Cleaning. We help businesses throughout the states of California and Arizona with all of their business cleaning needs. Get an instant quote today! 

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Posted in: Hybrid Workspace Cleaning

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