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Sanitize vs. Disinfect: What’s the Difference?

Unfortunately, we are still in the COVID-19 era where washing of hands and sanitizing are the order of the day.  The idea of using sanitizers or disinfectants seems simple until you realize that the two products differ and ought to be used in completely different situations.

Sanitize vs. Disinfect: What’s the Difference? are meant to kill germs though they are not supposed to be used in the same situation. This article has important details on both of them, including how to use each of them, where, and when.

Difference between disinfectants and sanitizers 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that sanitizing, disinfecting, and cleaning differ;

  • Disinfecting; this involves killing germs and bacteria on objects or surfaces.
  • Cleaning; it’s the use of water to remove dirt, impurities, and germs from surfaces. However, cleaning doesn’t kill germs.
  • Sanitizing; helps reduce germs on objects or surfaces by removing or killing them.

According to health experts, disinfectants are highly effective. They kill the highest percentage of bacteria and viruses. The environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes sanitizers as chemically produced products to kill 99.9% of germs found on hard surfaces. However, disinfectants are stronger since they kill 99.999% of germs on objects, non-porous and hard surfaces. Cleaning as observed will remove the germs without necessarily killing them.

From what we’ve learned so far, it’s apparent that disinfection solutions are far better than sanitizing solutions. However, some products can be used as disinfectants and sanitizers. One such product is concentrated bleach- it can be used as a disinfectant, but it becomes a sanitizer if diluted. As a sanitizer, it can only kill fewer viruses and bacteria.

When to use disinfectants and when to use sanitizers

There are procedures to be followed when cleaning groceries and home surfaces, including doorknobs and hands. Let’s begin with groceries;

You don’t necessarily have to use Clorox wipes or other disinfectants to clean your groceries. Also, there is no point in using sanitizers. Instead, you can clean them with water without soap once you bring them to your home.

But for bigger messes or home surfaces that are prone to touch, such as doorknobs, even sinks, toilet handles, you can use disinfectants. As for the countertops used for food preparation, you can use sanitizers on them.

As for the hands, you may be tempted to use the disinfecting wipe you’ve used on other surfaces. But that’s a wrong move, as it could be dangerous to your skin. That’s according to the health experts. Doctors claim that people who have been reported to use disinfectants on their skins have had adverse effects. Therefore, it is not advisable to disinfect your hands as these products should not contact the skin.

So, after wiping surfaces with disinfectants, wash your hands. That way, you won’t kill the good bacteria on your skin. Note that natural and helpful bacteria live on the skin, and disinfectants kill all types of bacteria.

That’s why it’s advisable to use hand sanitizers that contain 60% alcohol to avoid killing every organism in the skin. Hand sanitizers should only be used whenever you are out in public. When you are indoors, wash your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds.

Thanks to COVID-19, people across all parts of the globe are using disinfectants, sanitizers, not to mention that people wash hands regularly with soap and water. However, the global pandemic should not be the only reason why you are using these things. Even after COVID, you must use them the right way to enhance safety at your home or place of work.

What’s sterilizing?

Sterilization is entirely different from sanitizing, disinfecting, or even cleaning. And every average person can sterilize their home. CDC defines sterilization as the process of eliminating and destroying forms of microbial life.

Sterilization is common in health-care facilities that use chemical and physical methods such as dry heat, hydrogen peroxide gas plasma, EtO gas, and steam under pressure and liquid chemicals. These decontamination forms are extreme and are only ideal for such things as surgery. Also, they are best used in specific environments such as hospitals and laboratories.

Basically, disinfection and sterilization differ in that the latter involves killing all microorganisms, while disinfection entails removing harmful microorganisms.

In summary, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting differ. Cleaning removes germs but doesn’t kill them. Disinfecting kills 99.999% of germs and bacteria on surfaces, while sanitizing helps eliminate or kill 99.9% of germs. You shouldn’t use disinfectants on your hands as they destroy helpful bacteria. Instead, only use water and soap to clean your hands.

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