What’s the Difference Between a Sanitizer and a Disinfectant?

restaurant-kitchenWhile browsing Worldwide Janitor’s online store, you might have noticed that some cleaning products are called sanitizers, such as our CHC-15 Chlorine Sanitizer, while others are called disinfectants, such as our Pine Disinfectant. Is there really a difference? And if so, how do you determine which product to use on a particular surface or facility?

Even though the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between sanitizers and disinfectants. Read on to learn which one is right for you.

Sanitizers vs. Disinfectants

Sanitizers are required to kill 99.999 percent of bacteria listed on the label within 30 seconds, while disinfectants completely destroy germs listed on the label within 10 minutes.

For some industries, killing a vast majority of germs is adequate, and necessary within a short period of time. Other industries require all organisms to be killed, and are able to wait longer in order to ensure it.

For example, the food and beverage industry benefits mostly from sanitizers: when cleaning dishes, for example, it’s important to kill germs effectively and quickly so that dishes can be put on the shelf again for immediate use. On the contrary, medical and nursing facilities benefit from disinfectants because they kill all germs listed on the label, but do so over a longer period of time.

When cleaning hospital exam chairs, for example, it’s not as important that the cleaning be done quickly. It’s most important that all organisms are killed, even if it takes a little bit longer. These standards are tested and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Official Detergent Sanitizer Test (sometimes referred to as the Weber and Black Test). Make sure the cleaning products you use have been registered with the EPA.

Sanitizers and disinfectants often come in the form of various cleaning products, like the ones sold on Worldwide Janitor. But they also correspond to certain ratios of bleach to water in order to achieve the desired level of protection from organisms.

To create a sanitizing solution, combine 1 tablespoon of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Leave the solution on the affected area for 1 minute before rinsing or wiping clean. To create a disinfecting solution, combine ¼ cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Be sure to leave the solution on the area for 10 minutes to ensure that all germs are gone. You can learn more about uses and ratios for disinfecting with a bleach solution in our recent post here.

You might be wondering why you can’t simply use disinfectants, the stronger formula, on everything. Disinfectants are too strong for use on items that might come into contact with our food. It’s best to reserve the strongest formulas for use only when needed.

Other Cleaning Agents

Both disinfection and sanitization are superior to general cleaning because they remove dangerous bacteria rather than simply removing visible dirt. While disinfectants are quite effective, they are not as effective as sterilization, which completely kills all life on an object or surface. The term “sterilization” might bring to mind extreme situations requiring cleaning, such as surgical procedures.

Deodorizing products, such as Worldwide Janitor’s Mint Tree Cleaner, remove unpleasant odors often caused by messes or soiled spaces. Deodorizers are often scented as well, but they do not necessarily disinfect or sanitize. However, some disinfectants are also deodorizing, and some sanitizers are also deodorizing. Examine the label to determine if the deodorizer also has the level of cleaning that you need.

Which solution should I use?

Use a sanitizing solution on surfaces or items that may come into contact with mouths or food. These usually include items that babies or children might place in their mouths, or products used in food service or kitchens, such as:

  • Toys for children or babies
  • Pacifiers
  • Dishes
  • Utensils
  • Cutting boards

Use a disinfecting solution on surfaces that do not come into contact with mouths and may contain harmful bacteria that you need to eliminate. Make sure you check the label of the disinfectant you are going to use to make sure that it eliminates the bacteria you are targeting. Some examples of surfaces on which you should use a disinfectant include:

  • Bathroom floors
  • Toilets
  • Hospital beds, floors, stretchers, etc.
  • Baby changing tables

Perhaps you are in charge of maintaining the safety and health of patients, doctors, staff, and visitors in a hospital. Maybe you run a kitchen that serves food to crowds of people everyday. Or perhaps you just want to make sure that your home is as safe as possible for your family. No matter what kind of facility you need to keep clean, it’s important to protect your facility’s users from harmful bacteria. At the same time, harsh and toxic chemicals, like the kind needed to disinfect surfaces, must not be used on surfaces that could come into contact with food. Knowing the difference between sanitizers and disinfectants can help keep your facility as safe and healthy as possible.





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