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Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing: What Is The Difference?

You say the words, but they now hold more weight than ever before: cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.  Each of these words means something different and as you work to protect yourself and those you care about to stay healthy and virus-free, it’s important to know what they mean.

Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.
(Source: Centers for Disease Control)


So, what does this mean for senior living?

Cleaning is what we do on a regular basis, such as tidying and wiping down surfaces like tables and countertops so dirt and spots are removed and the areas appear clean. Most of the all-purpose cleaning solutions we use for this job are built to remove the visible stains and debris from surfaces. But that doesn’t necessarily kill the germs. You may be removing what is visible, but may not be removing the invisible like bacteria, viruses or fungi. Cleaning is certainly important, but it is more about how things look and feel. 

How do you effectively disinfect (or lessen probability of the coronavirus being on surfaces)?

At all our Wickshire communities, we ensure that all high traffic areas are disinfected at least once a day. Dining areas are disinfected at the very least three times a day.

If you are looking to disinfect at home, look for a chemical solution specifically called a disinfectant and follow the directions.  Most disinfectants require to be left on the surface for at least 10 minutes remove wiping it away.

As you explore senior living communities, don’t be afraid to ask for their processes related to cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing.  It’s vitally important to our health.