The terms cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are often used interchangeably, but there are significant differences between them. Understanding these differences is crucial for businesses in Maryland, as they strive to maintain safe and hygienic environments for employees, customers, and clients.

What is Cleaning?

Cleaning refers to removing dirt, grime, and other visible impurities from surfaces. This process is typically done using soap, water, and mechanical action (scrubbing, wiping, etc.). Cleaning is essential because it removes visible contaminants that could harbor harmful microorganisms.

What is Sanitizing?

Sanitizing reduces harmful microorganisms to a safe level, making surfaces safe for contact. This process is typically done using chemical agents, such as chlorine or quaternary ammonium compounds, to kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Sanitizing is essential for reducing the risk of cross-contamination and ensuring surfaces are safe for human contact.

What is Disinfecting?

Disinfecting refers to the complete elimination of harmful microorganisms from surfaces. Disinfecting is typically done using chemical agents to kill harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Disinfecting is critical in preventing the spread of diseases and infections in public spaces and healthcare facilities.

The Differences:


Cleaning removes dirt and grime, sanitizing reduces the number of germs on a surface, and disinfecting kills germs. The purpose of each practice is to achieve a different level of cleanliness and hygiene.

Chemicals used:

Cleaning often requires soap and water, while sanitizing requires a chemical solution with a lower concentration of active ingredients. Disinfecting involves using more potent chemicals, such as bleach or hydrogen peroxide.

Time required:

Cleaning typically takes the most extended time, while sanitizing and disinfecting require less time. Sanitizing takes 30 seconds to a minute, while disinfecting may take 10 minutes or more.


Cleaning is typically performed on all surfaces, while sanitizing and disinfecting are focused on high-touch areas, such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops.


Cleaning is typically performed daily or weekly, while sanitizing and disinfecting are performed less frequently, depending on the level of risk and exposure to germs. In a business setting, disinfecting may be performed after an illness or a significant spill, while sanitizing is typically performed daily.


Cleaning removes dirt and grime but does not kill germs, sanitizing reduces germs to a safe level, and disinfecting kills germs completely.


Cleaning is the most cost-effective, as it only requires soap and water, while sanitizing and disinfecting can be more expensive due to the cost of specialized products and equipment.

Legal requirements:

Cleaning is not regulated by law, while sanitizing and disinfecting may be held by local, state, and federal laws, such as the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

The commercial cleaner in Maryland suggests that cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting should be performed regularly and consistently to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Businesses should have a schedule that includes regular cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, light switches, and keyboards. Additionally, it’s essential to use the right cleaning products for each task and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Another critical factor in maintaining a safe and hygienic environment is using personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves and masks by cleaners and janitorial services in Northern Virginia. This helps reduce the risk of cross-contamination and protects the health of the cleaning staff.

Choosing the right company is essential:

When choosing a cleaning service, selecting a company that uses the proper cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting methods and products is essential. Selecting a company with experience and expertise in cleaning in a commercial setting is also necessary. Businesses should look for a cleaning service that uses high-quality products, has a solid reputation, and is staffed by well-trained professionals who take their responsibilities seriously.

In conclusion, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are all critical components of maintaining a safe and hygienic environment for businesses in Maryland. When choosing janitorial services in VA, selecting a company that uses the proper methods and products and has a solid reputation for providing high-quality cleaning services is essential. Combining these practices can help ensure that surfaces are free of dirt, grime, and harmful germs, promoting a healthier work environment.