The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting (And Why It Matters)

Since the COVID-19 Pandemic hit our shores earlier this year, we have all been trying to avoid catching the virus. Masks, gloves, social distancing; these are all excellent tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19. As the lockdowns began stores were also suddenly overwhelmed by consumers’ demand for cleaning wipes and disinfectant. We all wanted to ensure that anything we touched was clean and disinfected. But, there is a difference between those 2 terms, and it is an important distinction to make. As COVID-19 protocols are relaxed over the next few weeks, let’s examine that difference and why it is important to know if that toilet seat at the restaurant has been cleaned or disinfected.

CLEANING vs DISINFECTING

The CDC has a guide of best practices when cleaning and disinfecting. They differentiate between the terms and the terminology is important. Cleaning refers to: 

  • the removal of dirt, grime, debris, and germs 
  • the cleaning process doesn’t kill germs such as viruses and bacteria that make us sick
  • cleaning does remove them, and lowers their numbers and the risk they pose

Disinfecting is defined as follows:

  • using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces
  • must be done after cleaning to be effective

Lucky for us, the novel coronavirus that is responsible for the COVID-19 respiratory infection is relatively easy to remove from surfaces by using soap, water and disinfectants. Health Canada has approved 222 products as being effective at killing the virus. You can check the ones you’re using against this list to see if they work agains the virus.

The pandemic has also sped up research into emerging disinfection technologies such as robotic ultraviolet light and electrostatic sprayers that mist fine disinfectant.

CTV has put together a list of cleaning tips from experts, including the order in which you should clean surfaces, and what to use in case you run out of regular cleaner. The list can be found here.

As restrictions are being relaxed, remember to stay vigilant and keep washing your hands!

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