COVID-19 reawakened everyone’s awareness of cleanliness. Today, people are seeking products and services that not only disinfect but sanitize too. Which brings us to one of the most frequently asked questions nowadays – what’s the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting?

Some people interchange these terms. Yes, they have similarities.

For one, they both come after cleaning. As we all know, cleaning is only the wiping or scrubbing down of surfaces to remove external dust and dirt. When we clean surfaces, we typically use water and cleaning agents like soap and degreasers.

Second, sanitizing and disinfecting kill contaminants that are not visible to the naked eye. We’re talking about bacteria and viruses – microorganisms that can wreak havoc with our health and wellness.

But what’s the difference between the two? Read on and find out.

Sanitizing and Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

What is Sanitizing?

According to Medline Plus, sanitizing is minimizing the number of germs to safer levels. Now, a safe level depends upon the standards set by public health authorities that govern specific organizations.

Sanitizing is typically done in food establishments such as restaurants and food trucks. They need food contact sanitizers recommended for the industry. Hot water, steam, and EPA-approved chemicals like Chlorine, Iodophores, and Quaternary Ammonium Compounds are considered safe.

How to Properly Sanitize Surfaces

  1. Clean the surface thoroughly. Then scrape off food debris. Wipe off oil spills with a degreaser. Next, wash the area with soap and warm water. Rinse.
  2. Apply the sanitizer according to package instructions. Leave for 30-60 seconds. That’s sufficient contact time for the product to work. 
  3. Allow the surface to air dry.

What is Disinfecting?

The Centers for Disease Control defines disinfection as the thermal or chemical destruction of pathogenic and other types of microorganisms. It is less lethal than sterilization. It’s because it destroys most recognized pathogenic microorganisms but not necessarily all microbial forms (e.g., bacterial spores).

Due to their exposure to bacteria and viruses from organic wastes (blood, plasma, etc.), medical and healthcare facilities need disinfection. Otherwise, infectious diseases might spread.

Yes, food preparation areas within these establishments should still use sanitizers to keep food contact surfaces safe.


How to Properly Disinfect 

  1. Clean the area with soap and water. Make sure you remove coagulated dirt and other contaminants. Rinse
  2. Apply the disinfectant. Refer to the product label’s instruction for the recommended contact or kill time. Remember – disinfectants only work best when wet. This is why disinfecting surfaces with sanitizing wipes only provides a band-aid solution as they dry immediately.
  3. Rinse the area only if the product label instructs you to.
  4. Air dry.

Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Here are three differences between sanitizing and disinfecting:

  • Sanitizing an area reduces germs and other contaminants while disinfecting kills them. 
  • On the other hand, disinfecting surfaces requires more contact time than sanitizing. 
  • Sanitizing is typically done in food establishments while disinfecting is for healthcare and similar facilities.
  • Sanitizing and disinfecting involves the use of caustic substances. Plus, they’re both time and effort-consuming. 

If you need help with sanitizing and disinfecting your facilities, contact us for a free quote. Call us at (703) 257-7730. Our polite and friendly service representatives will be more than glad to assist you.