Since January 2020, when the dreaded Covid virus appeared in the US, there has been an information overload on various topics, from diet to disinfection. Some of it is unreliable, and some information comes from authentic sources. But hopefully, across the world, it has taught people the value of cleanliness and protecting our homes and loved ones from harmful germs. In the initial days of the pandemic, there was a frenzy of activity, with sanitizers and disinfectants flying off the shelves. When several cities imposed shelter-in-place orders, one thing that swiftly vanished from the market was toilet paper. There was a huge stockpile of this household staple. As the virus slowly begins to recede, there is still a lot of confusion about the difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting. It’s important to know the difference to save time, money, and effort and ensure that your home and your loved ones remain safe.
What Is Cleaning?
We are all familiar with the term, but it’s good to recap the definition of cleaning. It is a task to remove stuff from surfaces and objects. Dust, grease, debris, contaminants, human and animal waste, crumbs, stains, liquids, pests, fungi, or insects can be found on many surfaces and objects in your home. They can become a breeding ground for allergens and diseases if left unattended. Unclean environments are not just unpleasant to live in and look at. They affect your mental well-being too. Unclean places are usually untidy and disorganized. This slows down your efficiency and makes it difficult to find things, store them and take care of them.
Cleaning requires using products and tools such as cleaners, water, detergent or soap, all-natural cleaning agents, polishes, sponges, brushes, cleaning cloths, brooms, electrical gadgets, and more. Using these implements and products cleans the surface but may not remove harmful bacteria and viruses.
What Is Disinfecting?
Disinfecting usually happens after you clean. Once the surface dirt and debris have been removed, germs, bacteria, or viruses may remain. That is when you need to step up to the next level, and that’s disinfecting. In medical environments, disinfecting and sterilizing often go together. Disinfection is a way to eliminate and destroy almost all forms of microbial life. You can use physical and chemical methods to disinfect a surface. It is usually required when someone is ill with a contagious disease in the home or neighborhood.
We use the term “germs” broadly, but in medical language, it refers to the microscopic organisms that enter the human body and cause various diseases and infections. These are mainly bacteria and viruses. The human body has its defense system, but this sometimes gets overpowered, and the person succumbs to the disease.
These germs can survive in certain areas or areas in your home, such as the kitchen sink, toothbrush, towels and bedding, carpets, your phone, toilet, door knobs and handles, computer keyboard, TV remote, fruit and veg, your fridge, and more. Though they don’t survive for too long outside the human body, if the conditions are right, they can survive long enough to infect other people who touch or are exposed to them.
That’s why doctors advise us to wash our hands often, especially when there’s an infection in the home or neighborhood.
You can use a range of disinfectants to clean germ-carrying surfaces or objects. Protecting yourself while using them is important since many of them are very strong and harsh on human skin. They should be kept away from children, pets, and those prone to asthma. You must wear protective gear such as masks and gloves while disinfecting. It’s also a good idea to do this while you’re cleaning.
Main Differences Between Cleaning and Disinfecting
Though cleaning and disinfecting may have similar procedures, the goals are quite different.
Clean but not Disinfected: Normal house cleaning is intended to remove surface debris, dirt, grease, or stains. It gives a good appearance to furniture, floors, soft furnishings, appliances, and other things in your home. A big part of cleaning is tidying up, which makes your home look more neat and organized. Your home may look perfectly clean, but there may be millions of invisible bacteria or viruses lurking under the polished and sparkling clean surfaces.
Cleaning Doesn’t Kill Germs: Bacteria and viruses can survive cleaning, but you need a disinfectant to kill them. Disinfectants may not clean the surface, but they eliminate the germs. For instance, there’s no point in using a disinfectant to remove wine stains from your carpet. You could ruin the carpet because many disinfectants contain bleach or ammonia. Instead, your carpet surface may be left with a sticky residue.
Disinfectants Need Dwell Time: A disinfectant must stay on the infected surface for a certain time to be effective. If you remove them too soon, the germs will not die. Some cleaning products claim to be disinfectants that kill 100% germs, but it’s wise to read their labels and check the composition. Cleaning products may also need to dwell time to do a good job. Spraying on the toilet cleaner and leaving it for ten minutes is the right way to clean your toilet. But this doesn’t mean that it’s germ-free.
Disinfecting Protocols: While cleaning is a matter of routine and personal preferences, disinfecting has to be done in a certain way to be effective. It has to be systematic, and medical personnel is the best people to advise you on this. The CDC provides extensive information on the routine during the Covid pandemic. Cleaning agents and disinfectants have to be used in different ways.
Different products: Disinfectant products may also be called antiseptics. Though they’re not strictly the same, they both work to destroy certain types of microorganisms. Antiseptics are usually used before a medical procedure or to clean a wound. Disinfectants deal with surfaces that may harbor microbes. They usually contain one or more of these products: alcohol, formaldehyde, chlorine compounds, phenolics, hydrogen peroxide, and more. Some of them may use ultraviolet radiation or pasteurization. These products shouldn’t be used without proper protection and knowledge. Specific disinfectants target different types of microbes, bacteria, and viruses. On the other hand, cleaning products may contain chemicals, or they could be all-natural products. Home-makers can use them with little or no experience.
While cleaning and disinfecting is a great way to keep your home safe from dirt and germs, it’s wise to understand the difference between the two processes. This helps you to make the right decisions to protect your home and keep it looking great.