In the age of COVID-19, supermarket shelves emptied and lines grew long as everyone ran out to get their share of toilet paper, first aid supplies, groceries and cleaning equipment. But how much of that cleaning equipment was actually effective and how can you tell?

Join us on our journey to uncovering the truth behind the effectiveness of sanitizers, disinfectants and sterilizers so you can know the difference the next time you make your selection on the best cleaners to sanitize your home or business.


Out of the three types of cleaners, sanitizers can be viewed as the weakest link. While they do have some use, sanitizers actually underperform in comparison to their disinfectant and sterilizing counterparts.

Indeed, sanitizers do suppress the growth of germs and bacteria, but they don’t eliminate spores, nor do they make the claim to eradicate most germs and bacteria already existing on a surface.

Nevertheless, sanitizers make great additions to kitchens and restaurants, as this type of cleaner won’t harm the health of humans when and if they come in contact with food.


Next on the list, are disinfectants. Remember when disinfectant wipes went M.I.A. for months on end at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic?

There was a reason for that.

Disinfectants are a step above sanitizers in that they kill and prevent germs and bacteria from growing and multiplying. In fact, many make the claim to be able to kill up to 99.9% of germs, which is mostly true. Just be sure that your disinfectant has been registered by the EPA to know whether or not these claims are legit.

Unlike sanitizers, however, disinfectants should not come into contact with food. So, despite their effectiveness, it isn’t something you’d necessarily want to use on your kitchen counters, as ingesting a disinfectant could prove harmful to your health.


At the top of the pack comes the sterilizer, the “big dog” in cleaning.

Generally speaking, sterilizers aren’t made available to the public as they require training and certification to use.

Nevertheless, sterilizers clean, kill and clear away many of the problem causing spores which provide the breeding ground for germs and bacteria to resurface again.

Precautions to Take

Now that you know the differences between sanitizers, disinfectants and sterilizers, it is important to note a few safety precautions concerning each.

As has already been mentioned, sanitizers are the only cleaning method truly appropriate for use on a surface that will come into direct contact with food. Moreover, no one should ever consider using a disinfectant for internal purposes, even to eradicate the disease of COVID-19 after a diagnosis, as some have been reported as doing in recent months.

Remember, disinfectants can be toxic and potentially fatal if ingested, and thereby, should be handled carefully.

Another precaution to watch for is film left behind by any cleanser you choose to use in your home or business.


Because other than leaving an unattractive cast on your surfaces, this film left behind has the potential to capture organic material, including other germs, bacteria and pathogens, that will heighten your chances of getting sick. Thus, if you notice that a cleaner has left a nasty film behind after you’ve used it, you may want to consider switching your cleanser.

Following Directions is Key

No matter which cleanser you pick to clean your home or business, be sure to follow the directions on the bottle. Many are surprised to find that they cannot simply spray, wipe and walk away when it comes to cleaning surfaces in their homes.

In fact, many disinfectants instruct individuals using their products to wait at least 7 minutes or longer for the disinfection process to actually occur before wiping away the excess. This is why it is imperative that all wishing to cleanse their home of the COVID-19 virus and other germs must follow the directions of the cleanser in question to get the most effective results.

Why Professional Help, in Some Scenarios, Matter

While we understand that not every scenario involving cleaning will require professional help, it is true that disinfection and sterilizing is often done best by professionals.

In fact, as previously mentioned, it is only the trained and certified professional that is permitted to handle the most potent of cleansers available, like the sterilizer, in order to achieve the deepest clean.

It is for these reasons that there may be times when you will want to consider calling a local cleaning company to intervene, especially in cases where COVID-19 exposure in a particular building or structure was possible.

Other instances that might require professional help include situations involving corpses, biohazardous material such as blood, sewage backups and much more.

The Difference Matters

Although often confusing, sanitizers, disinfectants and sterilizers all play different roles in cleaning. To prevent making mistakes and to protect the health of yourself and those around you, always make sure to read the instructions on the bottle of the cleanser you choose to use, and be careful when using disinfectants around food or other consumables.

As always, contact a professional for serious situations or for cases involving potential positive COVID-19 exposure.