Cleaning vs. disinfecting/sanitizing: What’s the difference?
A best practice to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections is routinely cleaning and disinfecting/sanitizing surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
That’s because recent studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – can remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. To effectively remove and eliminate the virus, however, workers need to understand that the terms “cleaning” and “disinfecting/sanitizing” aren’t interchangeable, NIOSH Director John Howard pointed out during a March 31 webinar hosted by the National Safety Council in conjunction with the agency.
“Cleaning is getting the dirt out,” Howard said. “Sanitizing is what’s used in public health a lot to get down to a certain level of bacteria – sometimes 95% is killed. Disinfection is killing everything. That’s where you want to aim.”
CDC’s explanation goes a step further:
Among CDC’s tips to clean and disinfect surfaces:
- Wear disposable gloves.
- Clean surfaces using soap and water, then use a disinfectant.
- When using EPA-registered disinfectants, follow the instructions on the label to ensure safe and effective use of the product.
- More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on level of use.
- Surfaces and objects in public places (e.g., shopping carts and point-of-sale keypads) should be cleaned and disinfected before each use.