Wednesday, August 19, 2020

What is the Difference between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting?

Is There a Difference between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting?

Image of Coronavirus

   In this era of hyper-concern over Covid-19 Coronavirus, does it really matter whether a carpet, rug, sofa, floor or countertop is cleaned, sanitized or disinfected?

In this age of concern and worry over becoming very ill or even dying from Coronavirus, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation for these terms. As professional cleaners, it is important that we not only correctly clean and sanitize but that we also use the correct terms when talking to our customers. Disinfection, sanitization and sterilization are all processes of decontamination but they differ in application and effect.

When you talk or read about cleaning—especially tackling a deep clean—the words sanitize and disinfect get tossed around a lot. In casual uses, they’re often even used interchangeably, though there is a big difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. Knowing the distinction between the two can affect the cleaning products you choose and how you use them—and it can mean getting a better, deeper clean where you need it most.

  • Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
  • Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.

A cleaner simply aids in removing soils from a surface. Although cleaning does remove germs from surfaces - it doesn’t kill them. SARS-CoV-2 is a type of enveloped virus. This just means it has an outside protective layer around its genetic material. The outside layer is made of fat molecules and is one of the possible targets for destroying the virus. Surfactants in carpet cleaning detergents attack the coronavirus much like they emulsify oil in the water. One side of the surfactant molecule (the hydrophobic part that’s attracted to fat and repelled by water) wedges its way into the virus’ fat and protein protective shell and the other part (the water-loving hydrophilic part) sticks out in the detergent solution. This action breaks down the virus’ protective layer and makes it soluble in water, and it disintegrates. The harmless ripped apart pieces of the virus are then extracted from the carpet or rug into your recovery tank along with all the soil in the carpet or rug. To effectively sanitize or disinfect an area, you have to remove the dirt and debris from a surface first. That means cleaning first, THEN sanitizing or disinfecting.

Per the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting all have different definitions:

  • Sanitizer: Reduces the number of bacteria. A sanitizer lowers the number of bacteria on surfaces to levels that are considered safe by public health organizations. These products tend to be faster and safer than disinfectants, but disinfectants usually have broader kill claims. In the United States, sanitizers are agents that destroy 99.999 percent of bacteria in 30 seconds during the Official Detergent Sanitizer Test (a public health test). A good way to understand the logic behind this test is to think of a bartender washing glasses. He'll have to kill as many germs as possible in a short time to be able to put the glasses away quickly.
  • Disinfectant: Kills fungi and bacteria; and deactivates viruses.
  • Virucide: Deactivates viruses. (NOTE: You can’t “kill” viruses because they are by definition “alive”!) A virucide destroys or irreversibly inactivates viruses.
  • Sterilant: Eliminates all fungi, bacteria, viruses and spores. A sterilant is used to destroy or eliminate all forms of microbial life such as fungi, viruses, all forms of bacteria and their spores. Sterilization is mostly used in health care centers on medical instruments, such as surgical tools. Such tools have to be sterilized since they are used on different patients. Thus, sterilization prevents the transfer of diseases, bacteria, or viruses from one patient to another. Sterilization completely kills the bacteria and prevents their growth and reproduction. Sterilization describes a process that destroys or eliminates all forms of microbial life and is carried out in health-care facilities by physical or chemical methods. Steam under pressure, dry heat, EtO gas, hydrogen peroxide gas plasma, and liquid chemicals are the principal sterilizing agents used in health-care facilities.
  • Alcohol – It works by destroying the proteins on the bacteria, viruses, and fungus. It means that it completely kills them, but alcohol does not stop the growth of bacteria or their reproduction present on the surface. Note, alcohol is only active if its concentration level is 70% and above.
  • Bleaching agents – They are harsh to the microorganisms since they are made from chlorine. A maximum precaution should be taken when using bleach-containing products.

HOW LONG CAN CORONAVIRUS SURVIVE ON CARPET? Viruses such as COVID-19 can also remain infectious for about twice as long on non-porous surfaces than porous surfaces. Because carpets and upholstery are considered porous surfaces — just like clothing, wood and similar materials — they’re less hospitable to COVID-19 than non-porous ones.

The CDC in their article “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility” (updated April 28, 2020): “For soft surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes - Clean the surface using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces. Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely. OR Disinfect with an EPA-registered household disinfectant. These disinfectants meet EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19. Vacuum as usual.” According to the CDC, “products with label claims against human coronaviruses should be used according to label instructions.” This would include Sporicidin Brand Disinfectant Solution and Mediclean Germicidal Cleaner Concentrate QGC .

Sporicidin Brand Disinfectant Solution is a EPA registered intermediate level disinfectant with a broad spectrum kill which cleans, disinfects, deodorizes. Provides 100% kill of pathogenic vegetative organisms, including MRSA, VRE and Avian Influenza A Virus (H9N2 and H1N1). Continuous residual activity up to 6 months. Compatible with plastics, wood, glass and metals, alcohol-free Sporicidin Disinfectant is non-staining, non-abrasive and non-corrosive. FDA registered; OSHA compliant. With ratings in the lowest EPA toxicity category, Sporicidin has the most neutral pH of any phenolic based disinfectant.

Our web page on MediClean Germicidal Cleaner Concentrate states “While this new strain of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has not been tested against any disinfectants as of the time of this statement, Mediclean Germicidal Cleaner Concentrate has been shown effective against similar classes of viruses - the Human Coronavirus, Adenovirus, and the SARS Associated Coronavirus. It is an EPA registered (no. 70385-6) hospital-grade, disinfectant cleaner concentrate for use on many different types of surfaces per its label.” MediClean Germicidal Cleaner Concentrate QGC is listed on EPA’s “List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2” list of EPA registered disinfectants that may be used against coronavirus.

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NOTE: In some states, you must be licensed to apply bactericides, sanitizers, etc.

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Date Modified: August 19, 2020

Date Published: August 19, 2020