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What’s the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting?

Updated: Sep 9

It’s important to disinfect your home regularly to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here are the basics you need to know about disinfection and why it’s necessary for keeping your family safe.

Know the Difference.

  • Cleaning removes dust, debris and dirt from a surface by scrubbing, washing and rinsing. 

  • Sanitizing reduces the bacteria identified on the product’s label on surfaces and in laundry. 

  • Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses identified on the product’s label (like influenza and rhinovirus) on hard, nonporous surfaces. 

Disinfecting hard, nonporous surfaces is one of the most reliable ways to help lower the risk of spreading germs from surfaces by touch.1

Why Disinfection Is Important.

Remember that you should disinfect – not sanitize – because disinfectants are the only products approved by the EPA to kill viruses on hard surfaces.2 The main difference is that EPA-approved sanitizers only have claims for bacteria, while disinfectants have claims against both bacteria and viruses.

When to Disinfect.

While in quarantine, it’s important to disinfect the hard, nonporous surfaces throughout your home at least 3 times per day.3 If someone in your household has COVID-19 or shows symptoms, disinfect the high-touch surfaces in the areas they enter as frequently as possible.4



  • Remove excess dirt.

  • Spray product 4-6 inches from

  • surface until thoroughly wet.

  • Let stand for 30 seconds.

  • Rinse or wipe clean.






  • Mop or wipe with solution of ½ cup

  • bleach to 1 gallon of water.

  • Allow solution to contact surface for at

  • least 5 minutes. Rinse well with clean

  • water and let surface air dry.


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