What’s the difference between cleaning and sanitizing?

person with pink gloves spraying down bathroom sink with sanitizing spray


Is sanitizing different from cleaning and will it keep you any safer from the Coronavirus? The terms cleaning and sanitizing are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. Let’s start by taking a look at the dictionary definition of each.

Clean: “To rid of dirt, impurities, or extraneous matter.” Sanitize: “To make sanitary (as by cleaning or sterilizing).” – Mirriam-Webster Dictionary. 


As you can see, there really is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing. To keep your family and business safe, especially during the current COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to understand how cleaning and sanitizing affect you. Thankfully, we’re here to help. Below is a quick guide where we talk a little more about each of these techniques we use and give you tips on how you can effectively keep your surfaces free from dirt and germs.


I’m sure every one of us is familiar with the term “cleaning.” It’s that thing that everyone does but not many enjoy. You may see it as a bother, a chore, and a headache; but at the same time absolutely necessary. Cleaning is the act of moving objects from one place to another, scrubbing away at things you would never dream of touching normally, and wiping off the stain of something that you still have no idea how it got there. 


Sanitizing is the act of killing germs, period. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a surface is considered sanitized when 99.9 percent of germs are killed in a short amount of time. There are a few ways to do this, like with steam or UV rays, but the most common method is with the use of chemicals. 

Now more than ever it’s important to keep your home and business sterile and free from pathogens like COVID-19. Did you know that the Coronavirus can last up to three days on most hard surfaces? Make sure you are sanitizing surfaces that are commonly touched! The EPA recently released a list of disinfectants that they recommend using when sanitizing your home from the Coronavirus.

Cleaning doesn’t always kill germs, but sanitizing does

When we clean our homes and businesses, we do so because it makes our lives feel more organized and promotes a healthy environment. However, simply wiping off your counters actually doesn’t do much good in removing germs. In fact, according to a study published in Scientific Reports, sponges are basically bacteria hotspots and house around 54 trillion cells per cubic centimeter. Yikes!

When it comes to keeping your home and business safe from bacteria, viruses, and whatnot, then cleaning by itself just isn’t gonna cut it. Cleaning surfaces involves wiping away dirt and grime with water and detergents. While cleaning, you may wipe away plenty of germs, but there will always be some left over. To stay healthy, you need to be removing those germs!

How to sanitize surfaces in your home

So now you know why it’s important to sanitize surfaces in your home, but how are you supposed to do so? Fortunately for you, Dust n Time are your local cleaning experts! Here are a few tips from us to help you keep your home and businesses safe and free from germs. 

  1. Clean First

Believe it or not, the first step to sanitizing surfaces is cleaning them off. Wiping down surfaces with a clean cloth will remove a lot of the dirt and germs that are resting on the surface. This is a good starting point for preparing the surface to be sanitized. 

  1. Wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant

Make sure you are using a chemical that can destroy up to 99.9 percent of germs. Like we said earlier, the difference between cleaning and sanitizing is that cleaning removes germs from surfaces while sanitizing kills germs on surfaces. What you use is just as important as how you do it. 

  1. Let it sit before wiping off

After thoroughly wetting the surface you are sanitizing, let it sit to ensure it kills the germs effectively. If you are unsure how long that is, all products should tell you in the instructions. Generally speaking, it’s usually between three to five minutes. On some hard surfaces, you can let the disinfectant dry on the surface, but if your surface comes into contact with food, then I recommend wiping a final time with water before drying.

Quick Tip: To make your own disinfectant in a pinch, dilute 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water.

  1. For door knobs and switches, try using disinfecting wipes or aerosol sprays

When I want to sanitize heavily trafficked surfaces like light switches and doorknobs, I like to keep a can of aerosol disinfectant or disinfecting wipes handy. These are great for periodically wiping them down. The best part is, I just walk away and let the product do it’s thing while it dries.

We know how important your family and businesses are to you. At Dust n Time, we care for each of our customers like they were our own family. From using pet-friendly cleaning techniques to thoroughly sanitizing your home or office, we are here for you when you need it most. We strictly follow EPA and CDC guidelines when it comes to maintaining a healthy environment, and ensure our team of cleaning experts adhere to all safety protocols and your personal cleaning instructions.

If you need help keeping, Dust n Time is here to get the job done. We specialize in residential cleaning and commercial cleaning, and are even backed by an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau! If you are looking to keep your business safe for your customers, your home protected for your loved ones, or your summer house cleaned and ready by the time you get there, do not hesitate to give us a call. 

Book us today for your cleaning and sanitization needs!

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