Perfecting the cleaning process

The important differences between cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a new standard for facility hygiene. As the world recovers, businesses need to protect staff and customers during and after reopening.

Building service contractors (BSCs) and facility managers should review current practices, products and tools.

Before implementing new processes, review your hygiene standards with industry experts who can help ensure the appropriate level of surface hygiene – cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting – is identified for each surface.

Cleaning vs. Sanitising vs. Disinfecting. Though these words are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting:

  • Cleaning removes soil from a surface, but makes no specific claims about killing disease-causing organisms. Cleaning assumes that the process will remove many of the organisms on the surface, but assumes small numbers of organisms after cleaning would be acceptable.
  • Sanitising kills surface bacteria to help ensure that there are very low levels of disease-causing bacteria left on surfaces, but makes no claims about fungi or viruses.
  • Disinfecting has the power to kill bacteria and fungi and inactivates viruses and at a much higher level than sanitising. Sanitising provides a 3-log reduction to bacteria and disinfecting provides a 6-log reduction, with each log being a factor of 10.

Anytime there is visible or “gross soil” on a surface, employees must first clean before disinfecting or sanitising. When disinfecting a surface, you can use a disinfectant to clean, but must apply it twice, first to clean and then to disinfect.

Using a disinfectant that has been through a standardised test method allows you to clean and disinfect in one step when there is no visible soil on the surface and when allowed by the product label. Check the product label to confirm it is a one-step process. The same considerations also apply to sanitising non-food contact surfaces.

Concentrates or ready to use disinfectants and sanitisers require a minimum concentration and contact time in order to be effective against the targeted microorganisms; check your product  label use directions for this information. Knowing the nuances of how a certain product should be used to achieve a desired outcome is key to optimising the performance of sanitisers and disinfectants.

Best practices for BSCs and facility managers

When choosing a disinfectant, there are a number of features to consider:

  • Check that the product is approved for the pathogens of For COVID-19, look for disinfectants that can be used against COVID-19 listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) for legal supply in Australia.
  • Purchase a one-step disinfectant with a shorter contact time. Cleaning and disinfecting in one step will accomplish your goal without sacrificing performance and a short contact time helps ensure the product is used in compliance.
  • Look for a product range that offers solutions in wipe, concentrate and ready-to-use formats to meet a variety of needs. Not all product forms are appropriate for all situations. Having flexibility in how the product is applied is important.
  • The best products are gentle on skin and surfaces while tough on pathogens. Look for products with accelerated hydrogen peroxide that offer high efficacy and low toxicity.

Cleaning in a new world

Employees need to know how to properly clean, sanitise and disinfect surfaces, especially during and after the pandemic. When in the market for disinfectants, building service contractors and facility managers should pick a product that is fast-acting, effective and less likely to cause irritation and surface damage.

Peter Teska is a global infection prevention application expert at Diversey 

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at

Sign up to INCLEAN’s newsletter.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required