Often, the words sanitize and disinfect are used interchangeably, especially when it comes to cleaning. However, there is a significant difference between the two terms. When you are equipped with the correct knowledge of what the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting is, you will choose right when you go shopping for cleaning products, and also know how to use them to make your home a safe and clean environment.
While the term "cleaning" refers to removing dirt and impurities from surfaces, sanitizing and disinfecting go way beyond this to kill germs.
The term "sanitizing" means minimizing the number of germs that are on a surface to a safe level. The process of sanitizing works through cleaning (physically removing germs from surfaces) or through disinfecting (killing germs). Generally, sanitizing is a bit more gentle than disinfecting.
While sanitizing lowers the number of harmful bacteria to a safe level through cleaning or disinfecting, disinfecting itself kills almost 100 percent of harmful bacteria and other germs on objects or surfaces. It works by killing germs with chemicals. Disinfecting may not necessarily clean dirty surfaces, but it kills germs and lowers the risk of infection.
When to Sanitize
You are to sanitize surfaces and objects that don't normally come in contact with dangerous bacteria and other germs or those that will become unsafe when powerful chemicals are used on them. For example, cooking utensils and children's toys.
What is a Sanitizer?
Before any product can be considered a sanitizer, it must reduce bacteria on a surface it is being used on by a minimum of 99.9 percent. Depending on the concentration of bleach that is in a solution, a water and bleach solution can be either a disinfectant or sanitizer. Solutions that have higher bleach concentrations are disinfectants, while solutions with lower concentrations of bleach are more likely to be sanitizers.
When to Disinfect
Disinfecting doesn't necessarily have to be a daily cleaning routine. It is meant for serious messes especially those that involve body fluids, which makes it more common in medical spaces.
For your household cleaning, you may want to disinfect your toilets or sinks, as those can come in contact with harmful bacteria. You should also disinfect areas and surfaces that have a high touch, such as faucets and doorknobs. It is important not to overuse disinfectants as they can lead to harmful health consequences.
What is a Disinfectant?
Compared to 99.9 percent for sanitizers, before any product can be considered a disinfectant, it must kill 99.999 percent of germs on any surface or object it is used on. Although this difference seems minimal, it can make a world of difference in reducing the spread of infection.
What About Sterilizing?
Sterilization is a different process. An average person will not need to do this in their home. Sterilization is the process of destroying every form of microbial life.
Often, it is done in health-care facilities with physical or chemical methods which include: dry heat, steam under pressure, EtO gas, liquid chemicals, and hydrogen peroxide gas plasma. It is necessary to use these extreme forms of decontamination for surgery, or in laboratories.
The major difference between disinfection and sterilization is that disinfection eliminates all harmful microorganisms, while sterilization kills all microorganisms (harmful or not).