(253) 921-2593


 Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting

Over the last decade or so, there’s been a major shift towards healthier buildings due to a better understanding of the positive effects on occupant well-being and productivity. However, people often use the terms, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting interchangeably which can cause confusion when implementing best hygienic practices. This can lead to cleaning practices that are not as effective, resulting in the spread of germs in group situations such as medical facilities, office buildings, schools, gyms, and so forth. Though cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are part of a broad approach to best hygienic practices and the prevention of infectious diseases, they are distinctly different. It’s worthwhile to understand how each contributes favorably to the health of indoor occupants.


Cleaning basically removes germs, dirt, allergens, and microorganisms from surfaces or objects by physically using soap or detergent and water. This process does not necessarily KILL germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and lessens the risk of spreading germs and infection. Cleaning works for low-risk surfaces, such as floors, windows, etc., where the likelihood of pathogen transfer from the surface is low. Cleaning alone can help increase employee productivity.

According to a study conducted by Jeffrey L. Campbell, Ph.D., chair of facilities management at Brigham Young University, 88% of 1,481 people polled noted that productivity and learning were hindered by dirty environments. This included visible dirt and dust in corners and along walls, or dirt, dust, fingerprints, and marks on vertical and horizontal surfaces, among other visible messes. Though cleaning helps reduce the number of germs that can lead to infection and therefore has a positive impact on the health of indoor occupants, it does not necessarily kill any germs when a disinfectant or germicide is not used.


Sanitation uses an antimicrobial agent on objects, surfaces or living tissue to reduce the number of disease-causing organisms to non-threatening levels.  A practical method of sanitizing hands is to wash them with soap under running hot water for at least 20 seconds. Sanitizing reduces germs on surfaces to levels considered safe by public health codes or regulations. Sanitizing should be applied to food contact surfaces, which is required as part of the food code. Sanitizing does not affect some spores and viruses.

There are a few different methods used to achieve a sanitary surface: heat, radiation, and chemicals. To sanitize through use of heat, steam, hot water, or hot air can be used at the appropriate temperature for the recommended amount of time. Chemicals that are effective sanitizers at the proper concentration include chlorine, iodine, and quaternary ammonium. A chemical sanitizer must also be allowed to sit for its recommended dwell time to be effective.


Disinfection uses antimicrobial agents on non-living objects or surfaces to destroy or inactivate microorganisms. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects and works by using chemicals. However, disinfecting doesn’t necessarily mean that dirt, germs, and impurities are being removed from the surface, but by killing the germs, the risk of spreading infection is lowered.

Disinfection is appropriate for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces likely to harbor pathogens. Disinfectants may not kill all bacteria, viruses, fungi, and spores, but since sanitizing doesn’t make antiviral claims, it offers no confidence of killing viruses commonly found on surfaces.  

Best Hygienic Practices

Implementing best hygienic practices should include routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects that are touched often. Typically, this means daily cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and objects such as desks, computer keyboards, countertops, doorknobs, faucet handles, wastebasket lids, elevator doors and controls, handrails, and so forth. Surfaces and objects that are visibly dirty should be cleaned right away.


Cleanstart Commercial Cleaning & Janitorial Services – Call us today or fill out the online contact form for a FREE quote! 253-921-2593

If surfaces or objects are soiled with body fluids or blood, gloves, and other standard precautions to avoid coming into contact with the fluid should be utilized. The spill should be removed and then the surface cleaned, sanitized and disinfected. If a surface is not visibly dirty, it can be cleaned with an EPA-registered product that both cleans (removes germs) and disinfects (kills germs) instead. Properly disinfecting usually requires that the product remains on the surface for a certain period of time such as letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes.

It a good idea to use disinfecting wipes on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones, keyboards, and computers. Make sure the electronics can withstand the use of liquids for cleaning and disinfecting. You also want to pay attention to directions and hazard warnings on product labels. Some cleaning products and disinfectants should be used only with gloves such as working with products that contain bleach solutions. You never want to mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels indicate that it’s safe to do so. Combining certain products such as bleach and ammonia cleaners can result in serious injury or even death.


Sustainability has branched into a new trend of creating healthier buildings, and cleanliness is part of making the world a healthier and safer place by improving air quality, helping to reduce the spread of disease, and positively impacting the physical and mental wellbeing of indoor occupants. For any of your commercial cleaning and janitorial needs, our trained and knowledgeable cleaning staff at Cleanstart is ready to assist you at any time. Give us a call today for a FREE Quote! 253.921.2593

Cleanstart Commercial Cleaning Services 

Our full range of commercial floor cleaning and restorationoffice cleaning & maintenancewindow cleaningfinal clean servicespressure washing, and overall building cleaning services are competitively priced, fully insured, and come with quick response times! Please give us a call, send us an email or fill out the online contact form today for more information and a FREE quote! 253-921-2593

Cleanstart services the following PNW areas, but not limited to: Auburn, Bellevue, Bremerton, Factoria, Fife, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Olympia, Puyallup, Renton, Seattle, Tacoma, Tukwila, King County, Kitsap County, Pierce County, and Thurston County.

5013 Pacific Hwy E unit 16 Fife, WA 98424 • Phone: 253.921.2593 • Email:cferling@thecleanstart.com