Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting: Do You Know the Difference?

As a Housekeeper, keeping living areas clean is the primary responsibility of your job, but did you know there is a difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting? Educating yourself is the best way to help your Clients and limit exposure to chemicals and unwanted germs.   


Cleaning a home and household items involves removing dirt, dust, and grime from various surfaces. This includes vacuuming, dusting, wiping down countertops, scrubbing, mopping floors and washing fabric. Regular cleaning helps limit the growth of unwanted germs on various surfaces. Certain products like vinegar or lemon juice act as antimicrobials, which means that they make it harder for bacteria to grow. They are fantastic to use for day-to-day cleaning, especially if you or the Client like to avoid chemicals, but they are not considered a sanitizer or disinfectant.  


Sanitizing should be done at least weekly in high traffic areas of the home, such as the bathroom or the kitchen. You can sanitize surfaces by using bleach, specifically labeled disinfectant wipes or solutions, steam, or an alcohol solution that is 70% alcohol or higher. The surface should be wet from the sanitizing solution for at least ten seconds before being wiped down. If you use a steam cleaner, the temperature must be at least 212 degrees. Washing towels and linens in hot water helps to eliminate bacteria and viruses but be sure to read the labels properly to make sure you don’t cause any damage to the fabric.  


Disinfecting is a more thorough version of sanitizing and should typically be done either following an illness in the home or during cold and flu season. Obviously, many people find it important to disinfect their homes during a pandemic. You can use the same products when disinfecting that you use while sanitizing, but the main difference is that the surface must be visibly wet from the disinfectant solution for at least four minutes instead of just ten seconds. Please keep in mind that most disinfectant solutions are toxic, so they should always be thoroughly removed after use, especially in areas like the kitchen where food is prepared. First, let the surface dry, then rinse the disinfected area with purified water.    

If you have any questions about what products your clients would like you to use, feel free to ask them, and offer your own suggestions. If they prefer to use harsh chemicals throughout the home on a frequent basis, you can use gloves and a mask to limit your exposure. Some people find that they are very sensitive to certain products, so only you can decide if you are comfortable using your Clients’ preferred items. If you have any concerns, please feel free to call T+C and we are happy to provide you with our guidance. Stay healthy and stay safe!