The words cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are used interchangeably, but they all mean something different. It’s estimated that nearly 1000 people ask Google this question each month. As a leading manufacturer and supplier of cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfectant products, we decided to break this down for you.
Knowing when to clean, sanitize, or disinfect a surface or piece of equipment is critical, especially as we adjust to and navigate life during a pandemic. Whether you operate a chain of gyms, oversee a hotel, or manage a restaurant or clinic, your top focus is keeping your environment safe and germ-free.
SANITIZING AND DISINFECTING ARE NOT THE SAME
It’s a fact that sanitizing and disinfecting both remove germs from surfaces to make them safe for contact. However, don’t get them confused. Sanitizing and disinfecting are not the same.
At 2XL we’re obsessed with providing cleaning and facility leaders with helpful information that answers their questions and solves their cleaning challenges.
To find out “What is sanitizing?”, read below!
WHAT IS SANITIZING? – THE OFFICIAL DEFINITION
Sanitizing is the act of reducing bacteria on a surface. This reduces roughly 99.9% of common germs that dwell on hands and surfaces in 30 seconds. It’s important to note that sanitizing does not kill viruses or fungi.
While disinfectants are regulated by the EPA, sanitizers like antiseptic washes, antibacterial soaps and wipes, hand sanitizers, and sanitizers used on the body are regulated through the FDA. There are products that are EPA registered and FDA approved to both sanitize and disinfect.
You should only use sanitizers that are FDA or EPA approved. This means the product has been extensively tested to prove it is safe and effective.
BEWARE OF TOXIC SANITIZERS
With headlines like, “FDA expands list of potentially deadly hand sanitizers” and “FDA issues new warning to avoid nearly 90 hand sanitizers that may contain methanol”, we need to be aware of what we’re buying now more than ever.
Not all sanitizers are created equally. Always check the label to ensure the sanitizer you’re purchasing has been vetted and tested appropriately. You’ll want to take a look at the ingredients or formula as well and usage and storage information. Sanitizers with toxic chemicals like methanol can be especially dangerous.
WHAT ARE THE THREE TYPES OF SANITIZERS?
There are three popular types of sanitizers that remove germs from hands, skin, and surfaces.
Sanitizing wipes are super convenient towelettes pre-soaked with sanitizing solution. They can be used to remove 99.9% of common germs from skin and surfaces in a variety of situations.
This can include before and after eating, while running errands such as going to public facilities like grocery stores and banks and touching shared surfaces at work. Easy to use, it only takes one step to sanitize your hands when you’re using sanitizing wipes.
Sanitizing Gel or Foam
One of the most convenient and well-known forms of sanitizers are hand sanitizing gels and foams. It’s important to note that hand sanitizing gels and foams are not supposed to replace hand washing. They should only supplement hand washing or be used when soap and water are not available.
Sanitizing sprays typically come in cans or bottles and are in aerosol form. Just like disinfectants, the solution should remain on the surface for the recommended dwell time. After you spray the surface, be sure to wipe the solution off with a cloth or paper towel to remove potentially harmful chemicals.
WHEN TO SANITIZE
Now that you know what sanitizing is, here’s when you should do it:
- After you’ve visited a public space like a festival and touched several surfaces, but there isn’t water available to wash your hands.
- Before and after eating, especially if you’re going to be eating with your hands. (Think french fries, burgers, chicken nuggets, etc.).
- When you’ve touched a surface that several other people have touched – high touch surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, coffee pot handles, flushers, copy machines, and communal pens.
- Once you’ve shaken hands with several people.
- Following the preparation of food, especially meat or poultry products that have dripped onto countertops, cutting boards, soiled knives, etc. This is important because the last thing you want is food poisoning.
SANITIZING IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS DISINFECTING AND CLEANING
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are obsessed with learning how to eradicate germs from their homes, schools, hotels, and offices. For this reason, it’s not surprising that the question “What is sanitizing?” has been high on everyone’s Google search. You want your facility or environment to be as clean and as safe as possible. Sanitizing is the secret to making this happen.
- To sanitize is to remove bacteria from a surface. It is not killing all pathogens (including viruses) from a surface, like disinfecting.
- While disinfectants aren’t used for hands and skin, sanitizers are.
- There are several forms of sanitizers. The most common are hand sanitizing gels and foams.
- When selecting sanitizers, always use an EPA or FDA approved product.