Cleaning Sanitizing and Disinfecting...what is the difference?

meme of woman cleaning and white rectangle that says "cleaning, sanitizing and there a difference?"


Cleaning & disinfecting are all the rage these days. So I wanted to share a little bit of information about what the difference is and how often I recommend doing each of them.

There are actually 3 stages of cleaning: cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.


Cleaning is physically removing germs and dirt. And so when I want to clean my countertops, I spray them down with my all purpose cleaner, and I wipe it clean. I am physically wiping away and removing the dirt and germs. So I'm not killing germs when I'm cleaning. However, I am reducing their number on my countertops, because I'm physically removing them and then throwing that paper towel in the trash. Click here for 2 DIY all natural cleaners you can use to clean your whole home.


Sanitizing is a step up from cleaning.  A lot of people have some different information out there. Sanitizing is defined as killing 99.9% of germs. When people are referring to sanitizing, they are typically referring to sanitizng their hands.


Disinfecting is very similar to sanitizing. It is defined as killing nearly 100% of germs on a surface. It is important to remember that in order to disinfect a surface, you must first clean it. You must physically remove the dirt and/or other particles, so that when your disinfectant product lands directly on the surface you intend to disinfect. You can make your own homemade disinfectant that is all natural!

How often to do each step:

There are 2 main camps of opinion on how often you should disinfect a surface. Camp 1 - You should disinfect as much as possible so as to kill all the germs and reduce sickness. Camp 2 - Disinfect only when it's needed: when bodily fluids land on a surface and on surfaces that raw chicken once was. And this is where I pitch my tent.

Here's my reasoning:

Most days I simply clean - reducing the amount of germs on a given surface by physically wiping them away. I believe there are good germs and bad germs. And our bodies need the good germs to help us fight off the bad germs that we come in contact with. If I spend my days disinfecting all the surfaces in my house, I am eliminating nearly 100% of the germs (good and bad) in my home. And therefore, my kids will rarely be exposed to germs. And being exposed to germs, both good and bad, during childhood, is what helps their little immune systems to mature and develop. 

A healthy immune system is what we want our kids to have. So that they can fight off sickness (bad germs) when it comes their ways. 


Happy Cleaning!!