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  • Writer's pictureJeremiah Heffron

Coronavirus - Cleaning, Sanitizing, Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

An essential part of running a successful business is maintaining a clean environment. Whether you stay on top of your cleaning by using a cleaning checklist or schedule, ensuring that your location is cleaned regularly can help keep your staff and customers healthy.

It’s important to understand the different depths of cleaning to decide what method and practices you should take in your location to slow the spread of diseases and viruses. We’ll be exploring the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and sterilizing so that you can best incorporate them in your janitorial regimen.

*Click here to see the CDC's recommendations for preventing the spread of Coronavirus.


To clean something means to remove all of the visible contaminations on the surface, including dirt, spills, food particles, dust, etc., by washing, brushing, or wiping the area. This process is surface level and does not eliminate germs but can help reduce their numbers. This is expected to be the first step in the cleansing process. Common cleaning products include:

SoapsDetergentsVacuumsDustersDegreasersGlass Cleaners


Sanitizing means to reduce the amount of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi on a surface after it has been cleaned. The sanitizer used must reduce the number of bacteria to the level that is deemed safe by the public health standards. To meet CDC requirements, sanitizing chemicals must kill 99.999% of the test bacteria in under 30 seconds.

Although sanitizing reduces the growth of harmful bacteria, it does not kill all of the viruses on a surface. Sanitizing is meant to be used as a preventative measure and is an extremely important practice in restaurants, schools, corporate offices, and hospitals. Every surface that comes into contact with food should be sanitized regularly, often several times a day.

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