What is the Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

Cold and flu season is upon us, and that means you need to take special care to reduce the spread of infection in your workplace. This can be done primarily in two ways: cleaning and disinfecting. There is an important distinction between these two closely-related terms, and a better understanding of what they do (and don’t do) will help you tackle germs in your facility this winter.

Know the Difference

Cleaning is the removal of microbes, dirt, bacteria and other debris from the surface of the object you are cleaning. Since you are decreasing the number of antibodies on the surface, you are essentially reducing the likelihood of a pathogen entering your body.

Whereas cleaning removes elements from the surface, EPA registered disinfectants, like bleach, will kill germs with chemicals. You must still clean to remove the dead germs from the surface.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting GIF

What About Sanitizing?

When sanitizing, you’re not really either cleaning or disinfecting, but rather reducing the amount of pathogens on the surface to a safer level after it has been physically cleaned. This means that there are “sanitizing” cleaners that do remove soils, but only reduce germs to a much lower level.   

Containing the Germs In Your Facility

The flu costs U.S. employers an estimated $10.4 billion annually in lost workdays, hospitalization and outpatient visits. Employees who get the flu vaccine and who take care not spread germs help reduce outbreaks, but cleaning and maintenance crews must do their part to help as well.

The best method of containing the flu and other diseases is to do routine cleaning and disinfecting. This, along with healthy worker habits like washing hands often as well as regular use of facial tissue and hand sanitizers, will go a long way to contain the spread of germs.

Excessive cleaning and disinfecting can do some harm to workers who come in contact with residual chemicals, as they can irritate the skin, eyes, and aggravate asthma symptoms. In fact, according to the CDC, once a flu virus is on the surface of an object, it is viable for only 2 – 8 hours. The CDC continues:

“Therefore, it is not necessary to close schools to clean or disinfect every surface in the building to slow the spread of flu. Also, if students and staff are dismissed because the school cannot function normally (e.g., high absenteeism during a flu outbreak), it is not necessary to do extra cleaning and disinfecting.”

While closing a school isn’t necessary to contain germs, routine cleaning of touch-points continues to be especially important.

The Battle Against Germs

Make smarter decisions on how best to fight the spread of germs by having the right products on hand to do the job. Contact Ferguson Facilities Supply today with questions about cleaning and disinfecting, and to stock up on everything you need to contain germs this season.

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