The Third Level of Clean: Disinfecting
Cleaning, Sanitizing & Disinfecting
What's the Difference?
CLEANING – Cleaning is the removal of visible soil and food debris from surfaces.1 Cleaning is a prerequisite for effective sanitization or disinfection 2
DISINFECTING – Disinfecting is the elimination of pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms.1
If the elimination of pathogens and disease-causing microorganisms is crucial, a disinfectant must be used after surfaces are cleaned. While sanitizing reduces the number of germs present to levels considered safe, disinfecting effectively eliminates organisms. Additionally, by definition, a sanitizer cannot make antiviral claims or claims against spores; only EPA-registered disinfectants can. Many viruses can be extremely resistant to many antimicrobial treatments and are unlikely to be inactivated by common food-contact surface sanitizers.2 When these viruses may be present, disinfection becomes necessary.
Germs on surfaces spread easily to hands and vice versa. This fact is especially important as it relates to cleaning high-touch surfaces. If a sickened employee touches a surface with their contaminated hands, cross-contamination can occur leading to a disease outbreak. This is why all surfaces, especially those considered “high touch,” should be disinfected regularly to reduce outbreaks and decrease absenteeism among workers.3 A surface must be properly cleaned prior to disinfection to ensure the efficacy of the disinfectant.
When choosing a disinfectant, remember that these products must be registered with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and with each state’s EPA. Also consider formulations appropriate to the surfaces you want to disinfect. Bleach, Alcohol and Quaternary Ammonium Chloride are common disinfectant ingredients; however, some may cause deleterious effects on surfaces.