Does cleaning up a closet get the same level of clean as disinfecting a kitchen or sanitizing your dishes? We all like to think that we live in a clean home. We might look around and see a tidy house and think that we do in fact live in a clean home. Of course there are varying degrees of clean.


The Difference: Disinfecting, Sanitizing, and Cleaning


So just how clean is your house? Is it disinfected, sanitized, or clean? Perhaps different areas have different levels of clean. What is the difference between those terms anyway?  Let’s say you’ve got a big mess to clean up. You spilled raw meat in the kitchen and need to know how to clean it up. Should you disinfect it, sanitize it, or clean it? Can you wait and let the maid service take care of it or do you need to clean it right away?


Definition of Disinfecting

Disinfecting, by definition, is a cleaning act that destroys all organisms in ten minutes.  Disinfecting requires a stronger solution because the goal is to completely wipe out all germs instead of reduce them as in sanitization.  In hospitals, for example, it is more important to kill all germs even if it takes a longer time.  Blood or bodily fluid messes call for a high degree of cleaning, and disinfecting is appropriate.  Even if you have the time to disinfect everything, it is not always necessary or appropriate.  You wouldn’t want to disinfect items that come into contact with your mouth because the cleaning solution is very strong.  You might observe your maid service disinfecting toilets or baby change tables.

To disinfect something, you can mix a quarter to three quarters of a cup bleach to one gallon of cool water. Always clean any debris or dirt from the surface first. Let it stand for two minutes and then wipe or air dry. Disinfecting is particularly important for hospitals and bathrooms where germs are highly prevalent.  Messes involving raw meat or bodily fluid also probably require disinfecting to properly clean.


The Definition of Disinfecting


If you don’t like using bleach you can use a natural alternative. Natural alternatives to bleach for disinfecting include vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and sunlight.


Definition of Sanitizing

Sanitizing, by definition, is a cleaning act that destroys 99.99% of bacteria in thirty seconds or less.  It is a chemical process that quickly kills most bacteria and makes the surface safe for contact.  Hand sanitizer is a great example.  You want to kill most of the germs, but you don’t want to rub your hands together for more than about thirty seconds.  Sanitizing works for baby toys, dishes, and utensils.  It is a step up from regular cleaning because cleaning only removes visible dirt.  When sanitizing, you remove potentially harmful bacteria that aren’t visible to the human eye.  When you observe your maid service cleaning kitchen surfaces, they are sanitizing.

In order to sanitize something properly, mix one tablespoon of bleach with one gallon of cool water.  Always clean any debris or dirt from the surface first.  You can soak or wipe surfaces with this mixture.  Let it stand for two minutes and then wipe or air dry.  If you are sanitizing baby toys or dishes, you can just fill a sink with your bleach water and soak them for a couple minutes.  Rinse and dry!

There are a few different natural alternatives of bleach for sanitizing. They include vinegar, lemon juice, castile soap, and tea tree oil.


The Definition of Sanitizing


Definition of Cleaning

Cleaning is defined as the physical removal of dirt and debris.  It is often accompanied by the use of some sort of soap and water and can remove some portion of germs on the surface being cleaned.  Sometimes cleaning tools (sponges, rags, etc.) just move germs from one place to another without killing them.  When you observe your maid service dusting, vacuuming, and organizing, they are performing simple cleaning.  Sometimes, cleaning is all that is required.  There is no need to go to a higher level of clean for your closet or other areas that germs are not prevalent.

A natural alternative to bleach for cleaning is to pour ¾ cup 3% hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon citric acid (optional), distilled water to fill an amber ½ gallon glass jug, 20 drops lemon essential oil. Swish until citric acid dissolved.

Now you know the difference between disinfecting, sanitizing, and cleaning.  You also can distinguish which type of cleaning is required for a particular mess and know which cleaning solution is needed for the job.  Knowing the correct type of cleaning will allow your family and home to stay germ free and healthy.