Understanding the Difference between Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

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There are different types and styles of maintaining a space, and the deep commercial cleaning and deep residential cleaning experts at Cleaning4U can help you with all of them. Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are three terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they have different meanings and purposes when it comes to maintaining a clean and healthy environment. Below, the deep cleaning and cleaning services team at Cleaning4U outlines the styles, methods, and examples of each.


At its most basic definition, cleaning and even deep cleaning is mostly focused on removing dirt, dust, crumbs, and clutter from a space or building. Soap and water can be used to scrub and clean surfaces, and the primary focus is to make things appear…well…clean! Killing germs is not the priority of cleaning as, by itself, the act of cleaning only gets rid of approximately 80% of germs and bacteria. Most of the work that our professional cleaning service provides includes some level of deep commercial cleaning or deep residential cleaning.


Sanitizing services are a great addition to a deep cleaning service and add the goal of eliminating germs to a safe and tolerable level. Sanitizing lowers germ levels in a fast and safe way and is typically conducted by using specialized cleaners or sanitizers on high-traffic areas in a home or commercial space.

Generally speaking, appropriate levels of sanitation will differ from one institute to the next. Healthcare facilities, for example, will often begin with disinfecting, as cleanliness in these buildings is of the utmost importance.

Sanitizing does not kill all germs but reduces their numbers to a safe level according to public health standards.


Disinfecting is the process of killing germs on surfaces using chemicals or UV light. Disinfectants are stronger than sanitizers and can kill a wider range of bacteria and viruses. Disinfecting is recommended for high-touch areas such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and toilets. Bleach and alcohol are common disinfectants. Typically, disinfectants need time to work effectively. The surface must remain wet with the disinfectant for a specific amount of time (usually 5-10 minutes) before wiping it off.

When should you clean vs sanitize vs disinfecting?

The decision to clean vs sanitize vs disinfect depends on several factors, such as:

  • The type of surface
  • The level of contamination
  • The risk of infection
  • The frequency of use

For example:

  • Low-risk areas, such as floors can be cleaned regularly.
  • High-touch areas such as doorknobs should be disinfected regularly.
  • Food preparation areas should be sanitized after each use.

It’s important to follow manufacturer instructions when using cleaning products or disinfectants. Using too much product or not following instructions can lead to health hazards.

Essential Steps in maintaining a clean environment

In conclusion, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are three essential steps in maintaining a clean environment. While they may seem similar at first glance, they have different meanings and purposes when it comes to preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

Cleaning removes dirt and debris from surfaces while sanitizing reduces the number of germs on surfaces to a safe level. Disinfection kills germs on surfaces using chemicals or UV light.

Knowing when to clean vs sanitize vs disinfect depends on several factors such as surface type, contamination level, risk of infection, and frequency of use. Following manufacturer instructions when using cleaning products or disinfectants is crucial for safety reasons.

By understanding these differences between cleaning methods, we can better protect ourselves from harmful bacteria and viruses in our homes or workplaces.

Your Vancouver Experts for all your cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting needs

When it comes to cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, there is simply no one better for the job than the Vancouver cleaning services experts at Cleaning4U. Whether you want to tackle these big projects on your own and have a few questions or are hoping to hire out some help to tackle all of your cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting needs give our team a call. We’re always here for you!

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