sanitising hands is iportant

Amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, more and more people are searching for the most effective ways to protect themselves and their families against the risk of getting ill. Folks are now consciously taking personal protective measures, such as wearing masks outdoors, cleaning and disinfecting their hands more frequently and avoiding crowded places as much as possible by, say, doing two-week’s worth of shopping in one go. 

Well, buying copious amounts of toilet paper, however, won’t do much for you to stay safe. Instead, you need to take proactive actions and regularly disinfect surfaces at home and at the workplace on top of your additional personal hygiene efforts.

But how does disinfection differ from deep cleaning (and sanitising if you like), many may ask? 

As often the above terms are used interchangeably, we’ve decided to make things clearer for you and explore the difference between sanitising and disinfecting in this post.

So if you:

  • wonder how best to disinfect hard surfaces and textile materials,
  • want to know what sanitisation and disinfection are in more detail,
  • wish to learn which substances are proven to be effective against viruses and bacteria,

…then, read on.

Sanitise vs disinfect – what’s the difference?

The main difference between disinfection and sanitisation is that the first process is designed to kill all harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi on surfaces, whereas the latter is associated with deep cleaning items and surfaces with a range of sanitising products that will remove dirt and germs, however, without the guarantee that all types of pathogens will be completely neutralised. In other words, using a said sanitiser will not necessarily kill 100% the virus, which causes COVID-19 disease, or eliminate certain bacteria, but it will only reduce a number of harmful microorganisms.

Let’s see, then, when deep cleaning and sanitisation are used, on one hand, and when disinfection is appropriate, on the other. 

Deep cleaning and sanitising

The general sanitising of floors, bathroom fixtures, items, food preparation surfaces, etc. can ensure that the above are clean and descaled, as well as common allergens and some types of bacteria are removed or reduced in number. The products used contain different types of cleaning agents, which, however, may not be effective against viruses, fungi and various types of dangerous bacteria.

Disinfecting 

Disinfectants are designed to kill completely all types of pathogens on a particular surface. The process is applied in medical facilities and labs, of course, in food production establishments and wherever there’s a need for increasing the safety of people in particular circumstances and environments. Still, we need to note here that depending on what the disinfectant contains, one particular product will be effective against a particular group of viruses or bacteria, but it may not be reliable against other types of pathogens. 

Levels of disinfection

We won’t get too scientific here, but it’s good to mention that there are different levels of disinfection, based on the main type of substance used to make a particular product. For instance, alcohol-based disinfectants are classed as intermediate to high-level disinfectants, depending on the percentage of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol the product contains. Lipid-enveloped viruses like the coronavirus and various bacteria will be killed with an alcohol-based disinfectant (above 60%).

Intermediate-level disinfectants, such as bleach and other chlorine-based products, are also effective against many types of pathogens, including fungi, viruses and bacteria. Oxidising agents like hydrogen peroxide are in the category of high-level disinfectants, along with aldehyde-based biocides. These are used for disinfecting medical equipment, for example, and can be applied against non-enveloped viruses (norovirus, rhinovirus), as well.

Low-level disinfectants can be in fact many types of all-purpose sanitisers that contain ammonium-based substances. These will have some antibacterial properties but will not be the first choice in the fight against fast-spreading viral diseases.

Last but not least, we should mention here the process of sterilisation and what it involves. Apart from chemical sterilisation that uses high-level disinfectants, items and surfaces can be sterilised by using irradiation, heat and steam. Again, sterilisation is used to ensure that medical devices and food preparation equipment are completely free of pathogens, especially to avoid health risks, regarding vulnerable groups of people (infants, hospital patients and so on).

How to disinfect your home

But let’s go back to what you can do to disinfect your home (or your workplace, for that matter) during dire times of a global health-risk crisis that involves a highly-contagious virus being on the loose.

  • Regularly clean hard floors with bleach. Or use another type of an effective floor disinfectant. 
  • Wipe high-touch surfaces with an alcohol-based disinfectant (70%). Surfaces and items that are touched constantly by people need to be disinfected several times a day. These are all types of handles and knobs, light switches, furniture, food preparation surfaces, desks, bathroom/toilet surfaces and locks, appliance buttons and so on (never spray the product directly over electrical fixtures).
  • Clean carpets and upholstery with a hot water extraction machine. It’s good to consider cleaning professionally your carpets and soft furniture with a hot water extraction cleaning machine and a proven antibacterial/antiviral disinfectant, as well. This measure is effective especially for vulnerable people in a high-risk group, who are about to self-quarantine themselves for a period of time.
  • Wash clothes at a high-temperature setting – Potentially exposed clothing, linen and washable rugs should be washed at high temperature.
  • Disinfect personal items. Despite washing and disinfecting your hands more often, it won’t hurt if you regularly disinfect items that you may be touching/using on a daily basis and/or throughout the day. Use an appropriate product to disinfect your phone, laptop, remote control devices, debit cards and the like.

The importance of regular home cleaning

Well, cleaning your home regularly is important, in order to keep your indoor environment healthy and pleasant. Everyone knows this. And in the middle of a pandemic situation, this is vital even more so. Why? You see, disinfection is generally a follow-up health-prevention measure after you’ve first cleaned the items and surfaces in your home. Or in other words, you wouldn’t disinfect your kitchen worktop, covered in dry ketchup stains, without cleaning those, first, would you? Make a routine out of maintaining your property tidy and clean all the time so that you can disinfect certain areas and surfaces more effectively.

Call a professional to help you out

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Takeaways

  • Disinfecting surfaces at home need to be done with proven antibacterial and virucidal products, in order for the process to have the desired effect.
  • Not all disinfectants are made equal – some low-level disinfection products are only useful for sanitising floor surfaces, for instance.
  • To ensure that you are protected in a pandemic situation, you should keep a high level of personal hygiene, which includes washing clothing and disinfecting personal items more regularly on top of cleaning your hands.
  • And don’t panic! After all, the use of common sense is good enough for you to stay safe and protect any of your vulnerable loved ones.

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Did you find this article helpful? What do you do these days to keep your home a safer place? Please, share your thoughts with our readers in the comments below!

Sources:

https://www.oakland.edu/Assets/upload/docs/LabSafety/disinfectantsFinaLAug2009.pdf
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html
https://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/household-hints-tips/cleaning-organizing/disinfecting-vs-sanitizing.html

Image source: Source: shutterstock / Natali_ Mis, Danijela Maksimovic

  • Last update: October 13, 2020

Posted in All Articles, Cleaning Guides, Sanitisation Tips

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