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Industrial Cleaning Supplies FAQs: Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing

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What’s the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing?

Though these three industrial cleaning supplies are often used interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing. Cleaning is an action performed to remove dust, dirt and residue from a soiled surface. While surfaces may appear hygienic after a thorough cleaning, basic cleaning does not address harmful microorganisms.

Disinfecting on top of cleaning adds another layer of safety because it’s performed to remove 100% germs and bacterial that can spread disease or infection. Like disinfecting, sanitizing works to remove harmful microorganisms, however, it’s not quite as strong. Sanitizing reduces the number of microorganisms to a safe level, but it does not eliminate all of them. Sanitizers also cannot kill viruses or fungi.

In general, disinfectants are frequently used in healthcare settings, while sanitizers are often required in the food service industry.

How are germs spread?

Germs are spread through three different mechanisms: direct contact, indirect contact, airborne spread.

1) Direct contact means that germs are spread from one infected person to another. An example of this is when an infected person coughs or sneezes into his or her hands and then touches another person before washing.

2) Indirect contact means that germs are spread from an infected person to another person through a common surface or object. An example of this is when an infected person shares eating utensils with another person.

3) Airborne spread means when germs are spread through the air from an infected person to an uninfected person over short distances. When someone coughs or sneezes, small germ-filled droplets are sprayed into the air. Anyone within a three foot radius can be infected.

Is it possible to clean and disinfect at the same time?

The short answer is sometimes. In order to properly disinfect, the disinfectant must come into direct contact with the target surface area. This may not be possible if there is a heavy barrier of dirt, grime or grease present. In other words, it’s possible to simultaneously clean and disinfect, but only under slightly soiled conditions. An industrial cleaner containing bleach may be able to clean and disinfect at the same time.

What does it mean when a disinfectant is “EPA-registered”?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the production and sale of all  disinfectants. All EPA-registered industrial cleaner disinfectants must comply with several regulations regarding raw materials, label strength, processing, safety, efficacy and shelf life.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons