Cleaning is only the first step to a germ-free existence. Using detergent works wonders on dirt but it doesn’t kill bacteria or other microorganisms that can cause food poisoning. Killing bacteria ensures a clean household or workplace, which makes sanitizing an absolute must.

You might ask yourself what’s the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting? Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, microbes and other contaminants from an object or surface. It can be done through dry means or with a wet application. Sanitizing is the process of eliminating a surface of contaminants that could affect your health. It’s meant to reduce the quantity and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi and is typically done on food preparation surfaces. Disinfecting is the process of killing microscopic organisms, reducing the risk of spreading infection and should always be done after cleaning.

When you think about sanitizing, most of us default to hand sanitizers – just a couple of pumps or spritzes and you’re good to go. They are definitely handy when you can’t get to a sink to wash your hands. Hand sanitizers are not registered disinfectants so don’t be fooled – be aware of the claims they make and their listed ingredients. While hand sanitizers can be effective at reducing the number of microbes on your hands, they do not remove them – only washing your hands with soap and water will do that.

Alcohol is the main component in most sanitizers with two predominant types of alcohol – isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol. Not to be confused as disinfectants because they evaporate too fast but they are still effective against many organisms. To be the most effective, they need to be blended with water to a level of 70 percent alcohol.

Disinfectants are antimicrobial agents designed to inactivate or destroy microorganisms on inert surfaces. They work by destroying the cell wall of microbes or interfering with their metabolism. Disinfectants are rigorously tested and approved or certified for the claims made on the product label. Extremely effective against whatever bacteria, viruses and fungi is listed and how long it takes to kill them.

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