What’s The Difference Between Disinfecting vs. Sanitization?

Until recently, when cleaning our homes and businesses, many of us don’t give a lot of thought to what solutions we use to do the job. We may have picked a bottle of cleaning chemicals based on advertisements, what other people are using, or what we grew up using in our childhood homes.

If you were to go to where you keep your cleaners, you would likely see words on the packaging such as “sanitizes” and “disinfects.” The words seem to be used interchangeably but they are actually do two different types of cleaning and knowing the difference is an important step to keeping your family and customers safe and your property clean.

Clean a surface first before anything else

Whether you sanitize or disinfect a surface, make sure you clean the surface first. This means the removal of dirt and grime from an area so it appears like nothings remains. This is about the look and feel of a surface, not the bacteria that remain.

Sanitizers and disinfectants are only fully effective if the surface is clean of all dirt and the person applying the chemicals meticulously follows the directions on the label. If you do not clean a surface as your first step and make sure the material appears clean, dirt and grime will remain on the surface when you apply the solution, thus lowering the effectiveness of the chemical to where it isn’t able to kill as many bacteria and germs.

When do you sanitize?

Both sanitizing and disinfecting solutions kill bacteria and viruses present on a surface but at different log kill rates. According to the CDC, a solution can be called a sanitizer when it kills at least 99.9% of present germs and bacteria on a surface. This means that if you have 1,000,000 germs and use a sanitizer, you can lower that number to only 1,000 remaining when you’re done. For most surfaces we touch, these types of solutions are more than adequate. Sanitizers can be used on most surfaces around the home, including surfaces that come into contact with food and a person’s mouth such as countertops, cooking equipment, and baby toys.

When do you disinfect?

According to the CDC, you can only call a chemical a disinfectant if it kills over 99.999% of present germs and bacteria. For example, if you had that same 1,000,000 germs on a surface and used a disinfectant, you would have no more than 10 remaining.

Not used for common messes, disinfecting is typically reserved to clean up after bodily fluids such as blood, feces, and infectious diseases. Surfaces you may choose to disinfect in a home or business include the toilet, faucets, doorknobs, and other commonly touched surfaces such as light switches when someone is sick. Only use a disinfectant on surfaces that will not come into contact with food or someone’s mouth.

Chemicals used to disinfect surfaces are powerful and must only be handled by people who know how to take the proper precautions to protect themselves and others and who will follow the directions exactly. Disinfectants must remain visibly wet on a surface for various lengths of time (called dwell time) to be fully effective. Check the label before applying the disinfectant.

Why not just disinfect everything?

So why not use disinfecting solutions all the time since they are so effective? Disinfectants are powerful chemicals that kill nearly all bacteria and germs, even the good ones. While some of these microorganisms are harmful to human life, many are not and, in fact, are needed for a healthy immune system. If we were to use disinfectants all the time, there would be numerous consequences.

There are times when using a disinfectant is needed such as cleaning up areas impacted by spilled blood or other bodily fluids. For these, call in a professional such as those at Georgia Clean to handle the situation. Cleaning up blood after events such as a suicide or accident requires special training and experience to make sure all the infected material has been thoroughly cleaned and the area is safe. In addition, special licenses and permits are required to dispose of blood and other biohazards due to their dangerous nature. In these situations, disinfecting by professionals is needed, not a regular person doing household cleaning.

Follow the directions on the label

Whatever product you use, make sure you follow the directions on the label carefully to make sure the sanitization or disinfection is fully effective. Wear gloves or other protective equipment to protect yourself and others and keep all solutions out of the reach of children.

Choose the right solution for the job at hand

Before making a purchase at the store or choosing a cleaner from your stock at home, make sure the cleaner you’re picking is the right one for the job at hand. Use sanitizers for most cleaning jobs and disinfectants when you really need them. By knowing the difference, your house will not only be clean, but you, your family, and employees will be healthier as well.

What is a Log Kill?

When you are dealing with biohazard cleanups of dangerous bacteria and viruses, you want to make sure that whatever decontamination product is being used is able to kill as many viruses and bacteria as possible.  One way you can measure the effectiveness of a decontaminate is to compare the “log kill rate.” A log kill rate denotes how many pathogens are killed by a certain substance.

What is a log kill rate?

A log kill rate tells you what percentage of bacteria or viruses are killed by a particular substance. To figure out the rate, scientists count the bacteria before and after the substance is applied and is expressed as a whole number 0-6.

To understand the rates, consider when a number is taken to a higher power. For example:

10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000 is denoted as 103

A log kill rate is the opposite of taking a number to a higher power. In this case, instead of multiplying an amount we divide the number that many times according to the number of log kills or, in other words, move the decimal by one place for every log kill. For example, if we start with 1,000,000 C. Diff bacteria and use a sanitizing substance with a log kill rate of 1, we divide by 10 once to kill 90% of the bacteria but we still have 100,000 bacteria when we’re done. If we have a log rate of 2, we divide by ten then divide by ten again to only have 10,000 bacteria. Thus, the higher the log rate, the more effective a solution will be. Using this methodology, the log kill rates are as follows:

Log Kill Rate Number of Bacteria Left Percentage Killed
0 1,000,000 0%
1 100,000 90%
2 10,000 99%
3 1,000 99.9%
4 100 99.99%
5 10 99.999%
6 1 99.9999%


Georgia Clean uses decontamination products with the best log kill rate

Here at Georgia Clean, we use Tomi Steramist, which is among the best decontamination products with the highest log kill rate of 6.  You can be confident as many bacteria and viruses are killed as possible and the area is safe to use. Thoroughly trained with years of experience, our team know how to professionally apply the decontaminate to be the most effective against the threat and how to protect ourselves while doing so.

If you’re dealing with cleaning up biohazards like bodily fluids or diseases, make sure the decontaminate being used is rated as close to six as possible and that the chemicals are being properly applied by trained professionals for greatest effectiveness. Buying less effective chemicals or applying them yourself is taking a huge risk.  Your health and the health of your loved ones is worth making sure the job is done right.

SteraMist: Georgia Clean’s Choice for Decontamination

When it comes to biohazard cleanup techniques, we are constantly researching the latest technology available in order to ensure that we offer the best possible service to you and that, when we are done cleaning your Georgia home or business, you and your family are truly safe from all hazards.

In this spirit, we are excited to share with you our new choice for the most effective decontamination tool on the market called SteraMist. SteraMist was originally created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to fight Anthrax attacks. Now that it has been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is the very best tool in our arsenal to rid your home of bacteria, mold, and viruses on contact.

How does SteraMist work?

SteraMist uses a 7.8% concentration of Hydrogen Peroxide that is then ionized by Binary Ionization Technology. This transforms the solution to mostly hydroxyl radicals which kills 99.9999% of viruses, bacteria and mold. For more details, check SteraMist’s website.

What are the benefits of SteraMist?

SteraMist deactivates viruses, bacteria, and mold spores and mitigates the spread of disease. With a steady and even coverage, SteraMist:

  • treats the whole room: When sprayed, SteraMist treats the entire room, large or small and only requires a fast application.
  • requires no wiping or rinsing and leaves no residues: Once applied, SteraMist leaves no residues and doesn’t need anything wiped or rinsed.
  • spreads throughout an area: As it’s sprayed onto a surface, SteraMist spreads throughout an area including around, under, and into objects as well as in drawers.
  • evenly distributes: No matter how far from the source of the spray, the solution stays just as effective as it travels.
  • is safe for children and pets: Used in hospitals, schools, daycares, kennels, and homes, SteraMist is safe for your kids and your pets.
  • won’t affect electronics: All electronics are safe and won’t be affected by the solution.
  • contains no bleach or chlorine: SteraMist contains no harmful bleach or bacteria and is environmentally friendly.
  • has been proven effective by the Environmental Protection Agency: SteraMist has been put through rigorous testing by the EPA to ensure its effectiveness and has been formally approved as a hospital-grade disinfection system to eradicate viruses, bacteria, mold, and “superbugs” in an indoor environment.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about SteraMist or how we can use it to decontaminate your Georgia home or business, give us a call at 770-766-4562 and we’ll be happy to talk with you.