Cleaning with household cleaners typically removes dirt and grime from a surface and make things look shiny and clean but they are not developed to remove the pathogens that can cause an illness. Sanitizers and disinfectants both reduce or remove and is most cases kill the bacteria count on a surface.
Always start with a general-purpose cleaner. A surface should be clear of dirt and debris before sanitizing or applying a disinfectant. By itself, a general-purpose cleaner won’t kill bacteria or viruses but you should always start here. After the surface is properly cleaned, it’s then important to decide whether to sanitize or disinfect.
Sanitizers reduce microorganisms on a surface to a level considered safe by public health standards, which is 99.9 percent within 30 seconds. A disinfectant kills nearly 100 percent (99.999 percent) of bacteria, viruses and fungi on a surface in a 5 to 10 minute period. That difference itself may seem small but, if a surface is truly clean, you only need to disinfect high-touch or high-germ exposure areas, unless you are in a healthcare or hospital setting. In such places, it’s vital to disinfect in critical areas where there are bodily fluids or blood present, or in areas where certain medical procedures can lead to a higher risk of infection. In general, those in janitorial services can apply a general-purpose cleaner 95 percent of the time, and utilize a disinfectant on high-touch surfaces and restroom floors.
There are some areas where using a sanitizer to kill the majority of germs is fine. For instance, in the foodservice industry, sanitizers are sufficient to clean dishes and utensils, as well as tables and surfaces in a restaurant. The sanitizer kills germs quickly and effectively so that surfaces and tableware are ready for repeated use.
Where building occupants are more vulnerable to germs, there will be a greater need for disinfecting, such as in healthcare, education settings or apartment buildings. At the same time, those servicing office buildings will still find it useful to disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as elevator buttons, door handles and toilet flush handles. Disinfectants are also recommended in areas where occupants come in direct contact with a surface, such as a shower floor in a gym, where athlete’s foot might be a concern.
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