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Not only is it important to keep our hands clean, but we need to keep our homes free of harmful germs as well. The question becomes, do we clean, sanitize, or disinfect? Even though we use these terms interchangeably, they are very different. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • Cleaning uses soap and water with a method of friction or rubbing to remove germs from the surfaces. Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. It does not kill germs, but it helps to mechanically remove or lessen them.
  • Sanitizing is a chemical process or device (such as a dishwasher or steam mop) that reduces germs to a level considered safe by public health standards or requirements. Sanitizing kills most germs but not all of them.
  • Disinfection is a chemical process that kills 99.9% of germs.

When cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • You should always clean dirty surfaces before sanitizing or disinfecting.
  • It is recommended that you wear gloves and eye protection when using sanitizing and disinfecting chemicals. You should also ensure that you have proper ventilation during use.
  • Always read and follow the instructions on the back of the cleaning label.

Read The Disinfectant Labels Carefully

  • Sanitizing and disinfecting instructions usually require a “hang time”. This is the time the manufacturer recommends the product sits on the surface to work properly. Sanitizing takes less time than disinfection.

The product you use and the method of cleaning will depend on the surface you are cleaning, the frequency of its use, and the type of germs that you are trying to reduce or eliminate. Proper cleaning procedures will help keep your family stay safe from the invisible germs that are always around us. For coronavirus-specific information on cleaning and disinfecting, visit