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Clean vs. Sanitize vs. Disinfect


Clean the counter, sanitize the toilet, disinfect the sinks. In our everyday conversation, we often use the terms interchangeably, but in fact there are definitive differences in the words and their meanings.

When we are talking about SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the disease COVID-19, we must focus on disinfecting surfaces as the primary method of remediation for keeping people safe. Cleaning and sanitization should be used as supportive mechanisms to disinfection.

Disinfection = Kill

Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses, primarily on hard non-porous surfaces (think countertops, desks, most walls, hard floors, etc.). Some disinfectants, such as the types that Disinfect Charleston uses, can also be used on porous surfaces and provide high levels of disinfection (based on manufacturers claims). You can look at disinfection this way, if you had 100 counts of live bacteria (or viruses) on a surface and then you applied a disinfectant, after completion of the dwell time, you would have 0 counts of live bacteria. In essence, you have reduced the load by 100%.

Sanitization = Reduce

Sanitizing reduces the viral, bacterial, and/or fungal load on the surface in which the sanitizer is applied. You can look at sanitizing this way, if you had 100 counts of live bacteria (or viruses) on a surface and then you applied a sanitizer, after completion of the dwell time, you would have 50 counts of live bacteria. In essence, you have reduced the load by 50%.

Cleaning = Remove… Kinda

Cleaning removes the viral, bacterial, and or fungal load on the surface, but primarily deposits it elsewhere, either on the cleaning medium (e.g. rag) or elsewhere on the surface. You can look at cleaning this way, if you had 100 counts of live bacteria (or viruses) on a surface and then cleaned, you would still have 100 counts of live bacteria on your cloth or in another location of the surface you cleaned. In essence, you have reduced the load by 0%.

Corona Isn’t King, Disinfection Is

In summary, disinfection is the way to go when you are looking to remove potential pathogenic health hazards in your home or business. Disinfect Charleston focuses on the your home or office environment and are safety and health experts. Disinfection is all we do!

Remember that you should disinfect – not sanitize – because disinfectants are the only products approved by the EPA to kill viruses on hard surfaces. The main difference is that EPA-approved sanitizers only have claims for bacteria, while disinfectants have claims against both bacteria and viruses.

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Business or Home After a Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 Exposure

how often should i disinfect covid 19 coronavirus

Reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by cleaning and disinfection is an important part of reopening and maintaining a safe and healthy work and home environment. Cleaning refers to the reduction of dirt, germs (virus, bacteria, fungi), and other impurities from surfaces, however cleaning alone does not kill germs, it merely reduces the number present, therefore limiting the risk of catching or spreading an infection. Disinfection works through the use of chemicals, for example, EPA List-N disinfectants (Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2), to kill germs on surfaces. Disinfecting does not necessarily clean the surfaces, but it does kill them, rendering them incapable of causing adverse health effects.

Disinfect Charleston uses EPA List-N disinfectants, in conjunction with electrostatic sprayers, as part of our disinfecting protocol when we are in your business or home. Electrostatic sprayers adds a charge to the chemical mist (or fog) which allows the tiny droplets to more evenly disperse and adhere to the surface in which you are trying to disinfect. This provides the client with a much higher level of reassurance that potentially contaminated surfaces have been wetted for the prescribed dwell time, and in turn, killed the pathogens.

3 Step Process

  1. Develop Your Plan
  2. Implement Your Plan
  3. Maintain Your Plan

Develop Your Plan

Determine the types of surfaces you have in your home or business (likely a mixture of non-porous & porous), and what surfaces are frequently touched, such as light switches, keyboards, door knobs, phones, toilets, countertops, desks, etc. Determine what surfaces only need a cleaning and what surfaces need to be disinfected. Additionally, your plan should take into consideration how you are going to maintain cleanliness within your home or business. Is this a one-time clean due to someone with COVID-19 entering your home or business, or are you looking for a routine, scheduled disinfection for client reassurance in your business or peace of mind in your home?

Generally, outdoor areas do not need to be cleaned or disinfected, however, playground equipment that is frequently used should be considered in your disinfection plan.

Additionally, you should consider using non-harmful disinfectants that do not leave dangerous residues and are safe for even food contact surfaces. Contact Disinfect Charleston to learn more about the products we use for disinfection in homes and businesses.

Implement Your Plan

Clean visibly dirty surfaces with soap and water. Where possible, this should be performed prior to Disinfect Charleston’s arrival by the janitorial crew, staff, or residents. Note, the key words are “visibly dirty”.

Ensure the disinfectant you are using is listed on the EPA’s List-N. There are a number of products coming on the market today that manufacturers make all types of claims about, but, if they are not on the List-N, require your cleaning contractor to replace the chemical with an approved type.

Lastly, dwell time is very important. All chemicals on the EPA’s List-N have a time limit that the surfaces must remain wetted for the disinfectant to kill the viruses (or bacteria, fungi) on the surfaces. If the disinfectant is applied to lightly and evaporates too quickly, you will not have effective kill time. If the disinfectant is applied and then immediately wiped off, again, you will not have effective kill time. Disinfect Charleston staff are qualified, certified safety and health professionals and will ensure that the chemicals are applied per the manufacturer’s instructions and with complete coverage.

Maintain Your Plan

Finally, take precautions during your daily activities to limit your potential exposure to the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19. This includes social distancing, using masks, washing hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes, face and mouth.

Routine cleaning and disinfecting are a very important part in reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Surfaces that are touched by multiple people daily should be disinfected daily, and others should be cleaned before each use (shopping carts, point of sale machines, etc.).

Disinfect Charleston is Here to Support You

If you have a need for disinfecting services in your home or business, contact Disinfect Charleston. 20 years of experience in occupational safety and health, 10 years experience in janitorial and commercial cleaning. We have the experience you need. Serving Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, North Charleston, Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island, Johns Island, James Island, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, and Seabrook Island.