What is the Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting, and Sanitizing?

Undoubtedly, you are familiar with the terms cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization. However, if you are like most people, you may lack a complete understanding of the differences between cleaning and disinfection. You may not fully understand what is meant by sterilization.

Definition of Cleaning

Cleaning is a process designed to eliminate debris from a surface or item. Cleaning eliminates visible debris and prevents its accumulation in the first instance. Succinctly put, cleaning is the removal and the prevention of accumulation of foreign material from objects, items, and areas.

Examples of the types of visible debris that is eliminated by cleaning include:

  • Dirt
  • Dust
  • Food
  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Feces
  • Other bodily fluids

Cleaning is a vital part of reducing organic matter that can contribute to the proliferation of dangerous pathogens like viruses and bacteria. Absent proper cleaning, these viruses and bacteria and flourish and can result in the spread of diseases and illnesses.

The cleaning process itself incorporates two elements:

  • Friction
  • Use of fluid

Friction typically is accomplished through scrubbing or rubbing. In addition, cleaning tools oftentimes are utilized. These include:

  • Towels
  • Mops
  • Scrubbers
  • Vacuum cleaners

The fluid utilized in the cleaning process usually includes water and soap of some type. There exists a myriad of cleaning products of different types on the market today. They are designed to aid in different types of cleaning projects.

A thorough cleaning of an area, surface, object, or item must occur before disinfection or sterilization can be undertaken appropriately. Cleaning is always the first phase of a process like biohazard remediation.

Definition of Disinfection

Disinfection is defined as the process of destroying most microorganisms or pathogens from an area, surface, object, or item. Disinfection involves the use of what are known as antimicrobial agents. These antimicrobial agents eliminate dangerous pathogens by destroying the cell walls of microorganisms or by interfering with their metabolism.

There is a broad range of disinfectants or antimicrobial agents utilized today. Among consumers, one of the most common and affordable of disinfectants is chlorine bleach. Technically, this is a 5 percent solution of sodium hypochlorite.

Properly utilized, chlorine bleach can be effective at eliminating dangerous pathogens that include:

  • Staphylococcus
  • Hepatis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Fungi
  • Even antibiotic strains of viruses

As is the case with cleaning solutions, there is a significant number of antimicrobial products available, including on the broader market to which consumers have access. There are also antimicrobial products specifically available to the healthcare or medical industry as well as to professionals who provide biohazard remediation services.

Although disinfection eliminates most dangerous pathogens, it is not 100 percent effective. There will remain a miniscule amount of bacteria or viruses, less than 1 percent if disinfection is properly undertaken.

Definition of Sterilization

Sterilization is the process that eliminated all pathogens, including:

There are a number of processes through which sterilization is achieved. These include:

  • Chemicals
  • High pressure
  • Heat
  • Irradiation
  • Filtration
  • Combination of processes

Standard Biohazard Remediation Process

Following a traumatic event, the need for biohazard remediation can exist. This type of process is best undertaken by a biohazard remediation professional. Having an appreciation of cleaning, disinfection, and sanitization, a better understanding of what is involved in biohazard remediation is possible.

Biohazard remediation is a multifaceted process that begins with cleaning as defined a moment ago. It is then followed by the utilization of substances, materials, and techniques that disinfect and sanitize.

These two phases of biohazard remediation are followed by deodorization. The reality is that when an area or object is contaminated by blood, bodily fluids, or other biological materials, there oftentimes is an issue with foul odors. Cleaning and disinfection or sanitization aid in reducing odor, but typically are not enough to eliminate it all together. Thus, specialized chemicals are utilized to address odor as part of a biohazard remediation endeavor.

The ultimate objective of biohazard remediation is to restore a residence to fully habitable condition. In the alternative, biohazard remediation is designed to restore a business or other type of nonresidential location to a completely usable statue.

As an aside, when it comes to biohazard remediation, special attention must be paid to safety issues. Because of the potential danger associated with biological pathogens, appropriate gear, supplies, and techniques must be used to ensure that a biohazard remediation project is undertaken completely and safely from start to finish.