There are cleaning products that advertise themselves as disinfectants, some that bill themselves as sanitizers, and others that claim to be cleaners. But what are the distinctions between these? What makes disinfecting and sanitizing different from just cleaning? And which is best?

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Knowing the Difference Between Cleaning Products Will Help You Combat Germs and Dirt Better

Cleaners are just that: cleaners. They remove visible dust, dirt, and other stuff from surfaces. They make the surface look better and smell better. This is plenty more than enough for low traffic surfaces, where people are not regularly touching or handling them. However, the biggest risk with cleaners is that they do not kill off germs or pathogens – meaning cleaners can cross-contaminate surfaces. So if you wipe a surface that has salmonella on it with a cleaner, then use the same rag on another place, the salmonella could potentially spread to the new surface.

Sanitizers Are Used to Reduce Fungi and Bacteria

Sanitizers are better than cleaners when it comes to killing off pathogens. Most sanitizers will reduce the number of pathogens present on whatever surface you are cleaning but may not necessarily neutralize everything. That is the purpose of sanitizing – it is meant to reduce, rather than kill, the fungi or bacteria present. They also do not kill off viruses most of the time, so these types of pathogens will still be present on these surfaces.

Disinfectants Will Kill the Pathogens and Bacteria

Disinfectants are the real deal. These are the most effective when it comes to killing pathogens and bacteria – most of the reputable name brands eliminate at least 99% of all common bacteria and viruses. This does not mean that cleaners are not as good as disinfectants. They serve a different purpose, so they are formulated differently. So, when is it best to use each of them? That depends on the surface you are working with.

Knowing If It’s Bacteria, Virus Or Just Dirt On Your Surface Will Help You Choose What Product To Use

For areas where bacteria transfer possibility is low (like floors or windows), a common cleaner will be just fine. Think about it – unless you are working in a hospital or in food service, most cleaners you put in a mop bucket are not disinfectant solutions. People are not often licking the floor, so the possibility of picking up a virus from this type of location is less likely.

Sanitizers Are Best Used Where Food is Present

Sanitizers are best used in places where food is regularly being handled. Most of the pathogens found in food are bacteria, so this is going to be the most appropriate use of this type of cleaner. It’s possible you do not even have any sanitizer in your home, as it is not a common household product and is more likely to be used in a professional setting such as a kitchen or cleaning company.

Final Thoughts

Anywhere people regularly touch, sit, eat, or otherwise exist, it is best to use a disinfectant. Disinfectants can be toxic to humans, so you will generally want to keep these away from places where you prepare or cook food. However, sinks and tables will always benefit from a disinfectant cleaning. These are the kinds of areas where pathogens and viruses thrive, so a good disinfectant in these types of spots will keep the home or workspace happier and healthier.