The Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing, & Disinfecting

When COVID-19 struck, cleaning became an integral part of daily life in households and workspaces everywhere. But to eliminate viruses, we must do more than merely clean – surfaces need to be sanitized and disinfected, too. Each of these steps involves a slightly different process. Sound overwhelming? Let’s go over the differences so that you understand how to keep your household clean and your family safe.


Let’s start with the basics: Cleaning is when you remove dirt or germs from a surface using soap and hot water, or a multi-purpose cleaning detergent. It’s the first step in the process of making your household germ-free. Cleaning includes reorganizing, sweeping, and mopping. Even though cleaning is the least effective method of killing viruses, don’t skip this step; otherwise, your final result will be contaminated. Before you disinfect a surface, it’s important to clean it first. Cleaning is useful when you want to make a surface look neat and tidy, but it won’t kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present. To do that, you’ll have to take your cleaning regimen a step further. 


Sanitizing reduces more germs than cleaning does. It eliminates the bacteria on a surface, but it is not guaranteed to kill viruses. Sanitizing is especially important when preparing food, like when you need to remove bacteria from a knife or plate that had raw meat on it. It involves using products that kill 99.9% of bacteria. For high-contact surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards, sink taps), sanitize them after cleaning. Sanitizing alone will not protect you from COVID-19, because like cleaning, it is not strong enough to kill viruses. For that, you’ll need to use a disinfectant. 


Disinfecting is the key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. It’s the only way to eliminate the microorganisms that cause diseases. Disinfecting kills more germs than cleaning or sanitizing, and it does so by using a solution with alcohol, chlorine, or hydrogen peroxide. It’s the only way to completely kill any germs or bacteria that may be lingering in your home or office space. But don’t skip the cleaning and go straight to disinfecting, because lingering dirt on a surface can interfere with the process and make it less effective – which means that after all your hard work, there might still be viruses and germs in your house! Take the cleaning process one step at a time so that you can completely eliminate all bacteria. The difference means the health and safety of your household members. For a list of disinfectants that are approved by the Government of Canada, click here.


It’s a bit of a headache to distinguish between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting – but the difference is extremely important. Cleaning properly ensures that everyone in your household is safe. Does this cleaning regimen seem too time-consuming for your busy life? Why not leave it to the professionals? Certified Green Cleaning Inc. offers professional cleaning services in Edmonton. We’ll clean, sanitize, and disinfect your house and/or business for you.