Cleaning vs. Disinfecting: The Important Difference

When to Clean, When to Disinfect?

In today’s world, maintaining cleanliness and hygiene is paramount. As such, your customers have likely sought out products that can make their spaces healthier and safer for occupants. Amid this heightened attention to reduce and eliminate the spread of viruses, it’s crucial your customers strike a balance between cleaning and disinfecting. Help your customers understand when each is necessary – and why – with these helpful tips.

What Is the Difference Between Cleaning & Disinfecting?

Cleaning involves the physical removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects using a combination of soap (or detergent) and water. This process doesn’t necessarily kill germs, but it significantly reduces their number.

Disinfecting, on the other hand, uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. For disinfection to be effective, the surface must first be cleaned of all dirt and impurities. When a disinfectant encounters grime, its effectiveness can be drastically reduced.

Why Is It Important to Do Both?

  • The Cornerstone of Cleaning Programs: Industry best practices and top health organizations, including Health Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, emphasize cleaning as the fundamental step for removing soils, including pathogens like the coronavirus.
  • Economic Efficiency: Disinfectants are often more concentrated and costly. Using them as a direct replacement for cleaning products can be financially unfeasible. Also, the presence of dirt on surfaces can hinder the chemical reaction needed to neutralize pathogens, leading to wasted time and resources for your customers.
  • Safety First: Over-reliance on disinfectants can pose dangers to human health and the environment. The active ingredients in some disinfectants can be harmful, especially if used excessively or without the necessary precautions. Your customers should always use disinfectants in well-ventilated areas and to use appropriate personal protective equipment.

Which environments require more frequent disinfection?

Depending on several factors, certain spaces will require more disinfection than others. This is especially true when there are surfaces that are touched regularly, such as in hospitals and medical facilities, commercial kitchens, and childcare facilities. With these types of areas, daily, consistent disinfection protocols can ensure the reduction of germs and contaminants. Also, keep in mind how many of your customers enter your business daily and disinfect surfaces and areas as needed.

When it comes to washrooms, those that are high traffic need to be disinfected at minimum once during the beginning of open hours and once at the end of the day, making adjustments as needed based on foot traffic, while office kitchenettes can normally be cleaned a minimum of once a day, if not a couple times.

For other venues, such as office spaces there can be an adaptable disinfection protocol that operates on an as-needed basis.

Five Steps to Disinfecting Protocol:

To ensure the effectiveness of disinfecting, share this five-step protocol with your customers:

  1. Product Selection: Use a registered product and thoroughly understand its label and safety data sheets that make valid claims.
  2. Proper Dilution: Dilute the product correctly, using parts per million (PPM) litmus paper to test dilutions.
  3. Pre-cleaning: Always pre-clean surfaces with a high-quality all-purpose cleaner.
  4. Observe Dwell Time: Ensure the dwell time, the time the disinfectant should remain wet on the surface, is met.
  5. Rinse: Especially on food contact surfaces, follow up with a potable water rinse as per label instructions.

A Responsible Approach to Infection Prevention:

During times of heightened public health concerns, your customers or their clients may introduce innovative products and solutions, some promising prolonged protection against viruses. However, it’s essential your customers approach these claims with a discerning eye, relying on you as trusted source and expert for guidance.

Remember, if your customers have an effective infection prevention program, emphasizing regular cleaning, strong product choices, and following the disinfection protocol mentioned previously, there should be no need for drastic changes even when the risk of infection rises. In essence, while the pursuit of cleanliness and safety is critical, it’s essential your customers are informed, methodical, and balanced in their approach. Cleaning remains the cornerstone of any effective hygiene strategy, with disinfection playing a complementary, albeit important, role.

To learn about the cleaning and disinfecting products that best compliment each other, reach out to your R3 representative.

Looking for more information on how to help your customers keep their facilities clean. Download our Facility Cleaning Guide