What’s the Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitising?

Although the terms are often used interchangeable, there are several notable differences between the terms cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitising. In this blog post, we break down the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. 


Cleaning removes visible dirt, dust, and debris from surfaces. Cleaning can also remove germs; however, it doesn’t necessarily kill them. When you clean, you will likely use a mix of detergent and water to physically remove the visible dirt from surfaces and objects.  

Common cleaners include: 

  • Soaps and detergents  
  • Vacuums and sweeping 
  • Dusters and polishes 
  • Degreasers 


Disinfecting uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces and objects. With most disinfectants, you usually need to leave the disinfectant on the surface for around 20 seconds to kill the germs.  

Common disinfectants include: 

  • Bleach 
  • Alcohol 
  • Chlorine 


Sanitising reduces microbes, bacterial spores, bacteria, viruses, and fungi on a surface down to a safe level. What is considered a safe level depends on the organisation’s public health standards or requirements (school, laboratory, food factory). 

Common sanitising products include: 

  • Dry steam 
  • Heat 
  • Chemicals such as 100% isopropyl  

While disinfecting is helpful in most settings, sanitising is usually reserved in the food and medical industries, where sterile environments are a must. 

Speak to us about all your cleaning requirements  

With 24 years of industry experience under our belts, we are experts in commercial, industrial and specialist cleaning. We help businesses across all industries achieve clean and professional results with our industry-leading services. 

If you would like to talk to us about your cleaning requirements and how we can help you, please call us on 0345 218 6126. 

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