Day in and day out, we are in our homes, spending time with our family and friends, cooking meals, playing with our pets – you name it. Occasionally accidents occur where a glass gets spilled on the carpet or spaghetti sauce splatters on the countertops. You grab the closest towel, get most of the mess up, spray some surface cleaner on it, dab again and go about your day, like it never happened. But as homeowners, we like a nice clean house. Whether it’s daily or weekly, we pull out the vacuum and cleaning supplies in preparation to make our house sparkle. So what do you really need? And when it comes to ultimate cleanliness, knowing the difference between sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilizing can save you a ton of time in your everyday chores.
Best practices suggest that regular house cleaning provides you with a healthy home environment for you and your family. It’s a good idea to get out the dust and debris that gets trapped in your floors and surfaces from daily activities of just living in your home.
Sanitization vs. Disinfection
Sanitizing and disinfecting becomes important when you’re dealing with surfaces that come into contact with contaminants. Contaminants could come from anything from cooking in the kitchen to everyday use of the bathroom as well as bacteria and germs from outside or illnesses (i.e. common cold or the flu.) Surfaces that come into contact with these contaminants need a detergent or solution that meets the necessary standard in making sure these contaminants are taken care of properly.
When you sanitize, you are reducing the number of active microorganisms on that surface or object down to a safe level. You’re wiping away the dirt, dust and debris from the surface, making it clean and sanitary to use. Sanitizing does not kill the microorganisms, only reduces them where they are no longer harmful. So to kill we have to go to the next level of cleaning, which is disinfecting
Disinfecting surfaces is designed to destroy (kill) or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Lysol – a brand we are familiar with – is considered a disinfectant, and will kill up to 99.997% of any live bacteria and germs. Disinfectants are great for surfaces where you cook and also bathroom surfaces that come into contact with bodily fluids. Be sure to read the label and know if it is cleaning or disinfecting. The percentage designed to kill bacteria and germs needs to be high enough that it is considered a disinfectant.
When to Disinfect or Sanitize
It is important to note that porous surfaces are generally ones you really want to disinfect or sterilize, because microorganism can penetrate the surface and continuing growing. Things with very low porosity such as glass, metal, and plastic, cannot hold these organisms and will generally just need a good cleaning.
Sterilizing is not often needed. You probably hear it more when parents have to sterilize their baby’s pacifiers and bottles. Sterilizing is killing (100%) of all microorganisms. Also it may be pertinent to those living with a compromised immune system to live in a more sterilized environment until they are healthy again. Hospitals use sterilizing solutions primarily to be sure their patients are being taken care of in the best environment possible for recovery.
With any of these cleaning agents, be sure to read all the labels and wear the proper protection. Some cleaning solutions require the occupant to not be in that space for a certain amount of time after cleaning. That is because the active ingredients in the solution can be harmful to breath in or touch.