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The terms disinfecting and cleaning are generally in use so interchangeably that they have come to mean almost the same thing in most people’s minds. However, it is nothing less than a misconception, and any business operator needs to understand the distinction. Whether you are maintaining an office, hospital, or school, cleaning and disinfecting must be a crucial part of the maintenance routine. It is one of the most effective ways to keep germs and viruses away from your facility’s hard surfaces.

So, before you start looking for the right professionals to get the job done, here’s outlining the five significant differences between cleaning and disinfecting.


  1. The Objective of Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning helps you remove germs, crumbs, dust, and dirt from objects and surfaces. While cleaning, you will be using detergent or soap and water for physically cleaning off the objects and surfaces. Though it will not necessarily kill all the germs, it will remove some of them. There will be fewer germs to spread the infection to you because you have removed some of them. Besides, cleaning is not to remove all the germs but to remove the dirt and dust.

On the other hand, disinfecting involves the use of chemicals for killing germs on objects and surfaces. Alcohol and bleach solutions are among the most common disinfectants. In most cases, the chemical is left on the surface for a while to kill the germs. Also, disinfecting is not meant to clean dirty or dusty surfaces but only to remove germs.


2. The Products Used For Cleaning and Disinfecting

Cleaning involves the mechanical removal of visible surface contaminants, usually with water, soap, and enzymatic detergents, through hand scrubbing or sophisticated ultrasonic cleaning machines. It is a crucial element and the first step to effective control of the spread of infection.


The products used by disinfection services are known as disinfectants. The professionals apply these products to inanimate objects or surfaces to kill all microorganisms, except the extremely resistant bacterial spores.


Disinfectants are usually bought in their concentrated form and mixed with water to create a usable, strong, and effective solution. Some disinfectants are useful for a particular purpose, like removing the germs from instruments or surfaces. So, it is essential to read the information given on the label beforehand.


3. Cleaning Comes Before Disinfecting a Surface

Cleaning is the step that comes before disinfecting a surface. It is crucial to remove or clean any visible soils and dirt before disinfecting. Cleaning helps to remove loose soils and prepares the object or surface to get disinfected. 

Disinfecting kills the germs on the surface so that they do not spread. But disinfectants can work the best on a thoroughly cleaned surface. Imagine putting disinfectants over a surface that remains covered in dirt or dust: it defeats the purpose of using the chemicals. When the surface is not clean, germs remain hidden below the dirt and reduce the disinfectant’s effectiveness.


4. The Areas to Disinfect And Clean Are Different

Based on your industry and facility, different areas in your business premises might have specific protocols regarding whether they need to get disinfected or cleaned. Generally, the high-touch points are the ones that need disinfection, though cleaning is vital for the entire premises. Based on the facility and surfaces, some premises might need to disinfect high-touch areas several times every day.

Some of the common areas that need to get disinfected are:

  • Handrails
  • Doorknobs
  • Soap dispensers
  • Light switches
  • Chair handles

The physical removal of dirt and grime is crucial for the entire building. Neither would you want to work in a dirty office nor eat in a dusty restaurant, right?


5. Removing the Germs vs. Killing the Germs

If used correctly, Cleaning agents remove all soils and germs from the surface, but it does not kill them. If you are trying to kill the harmful germs using a cleaner, you are not killing anything. So, the germs that did not get removed will keep spreading and reproducing. It would be best if you had a quality disinfectant and the right technique for killing the germs.

Disinfecting helps to kill germs, but it doesn’t remove clean soils from the surface. The disinfectants usually have peroxide (Hydrogen-Peroxide-based), hypochlorite (bleach-based), or quaternary ammonium chloride (QUATS). Most good quality disinfectants can kill a hundred percent of germs. Their use must be as per the direction of the manufacturer. 

The kind of disinfectant you use also determines its effectiveness on a particular surface. So, something that works for the hospitals would not work in a regular office setting.


The Bottom Line

So, these are the five differences between disinfecting and cleaning. Going through them will help you opt for the right service. Remember that different business facilities will need various cleaning and disinfecting producers and products based on the surfaces, frequency, cleaning needs, and business expectations. Regardless of the type of business facility, cleaning and disinfecting are crucial for all the premises, especially under the given circumstances. It will help in making sure that the employees are healthy and more productive in their duties.