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Differences between cleaning and disinfecting; and how to combine them for great results!

8/12/2020 (Permalink)

Animated image of cleaning bucket and cleaning solution Animated image of cleaning bucket and cleaning solution.

Creating Healthy Homes and Workplaces

What is the difference anyway? Cleaning. Disinfecting. Aren’t they the same?

It does not matter if you are in an office setting, school, business, or home-cleaning and disinfecting have become words that are interchanged and used more often in these uncertain times. Understanding the true meaning of these terms can help reduce the spread of illness, creating a healthier environment.

Cleaning and disinfecting are two different processes. Understanding the difference and then combining the two are a powerful way to remove and kill germs that can lead to sickness.

Know the Difference

What is Cleaning?

Cleaning is the process of physically removing germs, dirt, and other particulates or impurities from surfaces. Bacteria and germs are not killed and can continue to spread or reproduce.

Imagine that you just finished an amazing supper with the family. As you remove the dishes and left-over food from the dining room table you see a few crumbs and spills on the table. Most of us would take a dishcloth and wipe down the table with a cleaning agent, such as dish soap or an all-purpose cleaner.  Cleaning the table only removes the food spoils and debris from the surface, it does not kill germs, bacteria, or pathogens. Cleaning is a very important first step in a multi-step process for cleaning and disinfecting.

Cleaning can be achieved by using the Fundamentals of CHAT:

• C – Chemical• H – Heat• A – Agitation• T- Time 1. Chemical: Choosing the right cleaning product for the job is the first step. For example, when you are about to clean those supper dishes would you use a detergent or a toilet bowl cleaner? Different chemicals or cleaning products are designed for particular tasks. 2. Heat: Hotter the better? Think about the scenario of washing the dishes. If you take a greasy pan and run cold water over it, even with detergent, there is limited soil removal. But turn up the temperature and you see a huge difference in cleaning effectiveness. By adding heat to the cleaning equation, you increase chemical reaction and yield better results. 3. Agitation: Using the scenario of washing dishes again. The dirty, greasy pan that you are cleaning with heat and detergent is being stubborn, now what? The right amount of agitation can greatly affect the cleaning equation. By using a steel wool, brush, or a scrub pad you are adding agitation to the equation, allowing the soiling to break loose. 4. Time: Time for the product to dwell on a surface plays an important role. Soaking time with that dirty, greasy pan in the detergent, hot water, and scrubbing now yields the perfect equation for cleaning.

What is Disinfecting?

Disinfecting can kill or inactivate the reproductive properties of germs, bacteria, and pathogens. Disinfecting destroys bacteria and viruses stated on their label for hard, nonporous surfaces. Disinfecting does not clean soiling from surfaces. Disinfecting is the most reliable way to help reduce the risk of spreading germs and viruses from touch points. 

Why is Disinfecting Important?

When used properly by pairing cleaning and disinfecting, you can kill up to 99.999% of bacteria and viruses on hard, nonporous surfaces. The key is also to read the label and follow all manufacturer recommendations. Consider the following while disinfecting:

Coverage Area Make sure to cover every inch of an area with disinfectant. Leaving an area untouched will not kill the germs. • Dwell Time Amount of time a disinfectant needs to remain wet on the surface to effectively kill the organisms. Read the label to adhere to that products dwell time. Some are only 2 minutes up to 15 minutes. Not following the products dwell time does not properly disinfect. • Kill Claims Reading the label will list the bacteria, viruses, organisms, and germs that the product has proven to kill. There is no one size fits all. • EPA Registered Make sure the product is registered with the EPA. This gives you security in knowing that it has been tested and proven to kill the organisms on its label. 

Considerations when Choosing a Disinfectant. 

Below is a framework that will help determine the best disinfectant that meets your home or business needs.

1. Effectiveness: Read the product label to ensure it is effective for your home or industry needs. Some viruses have multiple strains and the product may not be effective against them all. 2. Kill Time: Knowing how quickly a product can kill a specific pathogen. Does the product keep the surface visibly wet to comply with these kill times? 3. Safety: Some disinfectants are toxic, some stain, others are corrosive, yet others have an undesirable odor. Check toxicity and flammability ratings on products, as well as any personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations for disinfectants you apply. Be sure a disinfectant will not damage any surface it is intended for. 4. Ease of Use: Are the recommendations on how to use practical in your environment? Is it easy to apply or cumbersome?

SERVPRO creates, manufactures, and uses a proprietary disinfectant called SERVPROXIDE,™  an EPA registered, stabilized chlorine dioxide-based disinfectant and sanitizer. It carries the EPA’s lowest toxicity rating, requires no PPE for general purpose use and is safe for everyday use. It is designed to kill harmful bacteria, viruses and mold on hard surfaces and is an effective sanitizer for soft surfaces. It is also NSF rated as a no rinse required on food contact surfaces.

EPA Registration # 82972-1-93012

Sorting through information about the various types of disinfectants takes time, but it’s a critical step to ensure you are making the best decision for your family and facility. Having the right products on hand along with a solid plan of proper cleaning and disinfectant practices, gives added peace of mind to you, your staff and any visitors that come through your doors. SERVPRO as always, is Here to Help.

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