Beyond the Products

Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: How, Why, and When to Do Each

If you’re concerned about keeping your facility clean and reducing the spread of illness, you should know the ins and outs of sanitizing vs. disinfecting. Yes, there is a difference, and it’s significant.

Sanitizing means keeping germs at a level that’s safe for public health. It doesn’t necessarily mean killing germs or removing all germs on a given surface, though that sometimes ends up being the result.

Disinfecting means using chemicals to kill germs and lower the risk of spreading infections and viruses, such as COVID-19. Also keep in mind that both sanitizing and disinfecting are different from cleaning, which is the process of removing germs and visible dirt from surfaces.

At Spruce Industries, we’re experts in these distinctions. We have the correct industrial cleaning products you need to ensure your business or school is as safe and germ-free as possible.

When to sanitize surfaces

Sanitizing is sufficient for many areas of schools and businesses, including outdoor and low-traffic spaces. Generally, your cleaning staff can save powerful disinfectants for the bathroom and other areas at higher risk of spreading infections. That is, as long as nobody has recently been sick. Since sanitizing a surface doesn’t always mean completely disinfecting it, germs that cause infections could still survive the process.

How to sanitize a business or school

Sanitize a surface by either cleaning or disinfecting it—or both. If there’s visible dirt on a surface, you’ll need to clean it using an industrial or all-purpose cleaner. You can then follow up with a disinfectant registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), if desired. If there’s no visible dirt, you can skip the preliminary cleaning step and simply disinfect the surface.

Is electrostatic spraying technology better for sanitizing surfaces?

A recent study found that using an electrostatic sprayer is an effective way to sanitize and disinfect portable equipment and large, open areas. The technology works by electrically charging a chemical solution so it quickly bonds to surfaces when released into the air. These early findings suggest that sprayers could be useful in combatting the COVID-19 virus. What’s more, they offer a convenient way to quickly decontaminate your school or office. Spruce Industries carries both backpack-style and handheld electrostatic sprayers that work with sanitizers and disinfectants alike.

That said, sprayers shouldn’t replace manual cleaning of high-touch surfaces. This technology is intended for large areas that would be difficult to clean by hand, such as waiting rooms, classrooms, and gyms.

The importance of disinfecting surfaces

Disinfecting is your most important tactic for defeating viruses that cause illnesses, such as the flu or COVID-19, as well as bacteria that cause infections, such as strep throat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu virus can live on surfaces for as long as forty-eight hours, and coronavirus can live for hours to days. Plus, some species of bacteria survive on surfaces for as long as five months. While they remain alive, these various pathogens could infect your employees, students, or visitors to your business.

Which school and workplace surfaces should be disinfected?

To reduce the risk of infection at your facility, your cleaning staff should disinfect the following types of work surfaces:

  • Hard surfaces. Germs live longer on plastic, metal, and other hard, nonporous materials.
  • High-touch surfaces. Doorknobs, phones, and other frequently touched objects or surfaces may harbor germs.
  • Food contact surfaces. Areas where you prep, serve, and eat food should be regularly disinfected.
  • Surfaces known to be contaminated. If you know someone at your facility is sick, thoroughly disinfect their workstation and any surfaces they may have touched.

What are the best products for disinfecting surfaces?

Spruce Industries has an arsenal of disinfectants to meet your needs. We recommend the following products for schools and workplaces:

  • Antimicrobial disinfectants. These do-it-all products kill many different microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Therefore, they’re often the disinfectant of choice for health care organizations. One concern about relying on antimicrobial products is that overuse or improper use of these disinfectants can lead to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. To avoid this, always follow instructions carefully when using this type of disinfectant.
  • Germicidal bleach. This type of bleach is much stronger than standard household bleach and is even appropriate for medical facilities. It is best for use on hard, nonporous surfaces, such as linoleum or glazed tile.
  • Alcohol-based wipes and sprays. Disinfectant wipes and sprays containing at least 70 percent alcohol are great to have on hand. You can use them to disinfect electronics, doorknobs, shopping cart handles, and other high-touch surfaces. And don’t forget to stock alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (Yes, it’s called “sanitizer.” But as long as your hand sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol, it is powerful enough to kill germs on your hands.)

Why you should sanitize and disinfect areas

You should add both sanitization and disinfection to your cleaning regimen to help the people who use your facility—like your employees—stay safe and healthy. That’s not only important for your team’s well-being. Reducing illness in the workplace also has economic benefits for business owners.

In fact, a study from the Integrated Benefits Institute found that lost productivity due to illness costs US employers about $530 billion per year, on top of the cost of employee health benefits. The study found that workplaces can and should play a central role in employees’ health and well-being. Keeping the workplace germ-free should be a critical first step.

How can you properly sanitize the workplace to prevent the coronavirus?

Preventing the spread of COVID-19 requires cleaning chemicals designed for this purpose. The EPA provides product recommendations in List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus. These chemicals are effective against the coronavirus when used according to the instructions on the product label. In many cases, products must be applied to surfaces and left to dry on their own. It’s critical not to wipe up disinfectants before they’ve had a chance to kill germs.

When in doubt, ask the experts at Spruce Industries. We can recommend industrial-grade cleaning products that are effective, safe, and appropriate for your facility.

How to safely use disinfectants in schools and workplaces

Disinfectants such as those on List N are safe for use on surfaces—including high-touch areas. They are not safe for use on skin. In addition, you should take these safety precautions when using any sanitizer or disinfectant:

  • Protect the body. Cleaning chemicals can cause irritation and injury. Cleaning staff should always wear disposable gloves when using disinfectants. Depending on the chemical, they may need to wear other personal protective equipment, like gowns and eye protection.
  • Ventilate the space. Inhaling disinfectants can cause harm. Always ensure adequate ventilation before using cleaning chemicals.
  • Don’t overdo it. More disinfectant is not always better. Follow product recommendations for how much to use. Keep in mind that disinfecting outdoor spaces and equipment, like playgrounds, is not proven to reduce public risk of COVID-19. Regular cleaning is adequate for these areas.
  • Dilute with caution. When mixing chemicals with water, follow instructions carefully. In most cases, it’s best to use room-temperature water for dilution. Never mix different chemical products together.
  • Store products carefully. Cleaning chemicals can be dangerous when touched, ingested, or breathed. Always keep products out of reach of children and animals.

Complete checklist for sanitizing and disinfecting your facility

Use this office cleaning checklist to make sure your business or school is completely clean, sanitized, and disinfected.

  1. Clean. Use soap and water to remove visible dirt from floors and frequently touched surfaces, like:
  2. Desks and tables
  3. Doorknobs and handles
  4. Light switches
  5. Countertops
  6. Phones
  7. Toilets and sinks
  • Disinfect. Follow up by using a product such as bleach, disinfectant wipes, or an antimicrobial chemical on all the surfaces you cleaned.
  • Sanitize soft surfaces. Use soap and water or appropriate cleaning products for the following surfaces:
  • Carpets and area rugs
  • Furniture such as sofas and upholstered chairs
  • Drapes
  • Wipe down electronics. Follow manufacturers’ instructions or use a product with 70 percent alcohol to clean the following:
  • Tablets
  • Touch screens
  • Keyboards and mouses
  • Remote controls
  • ATMs
  • Other frequently touched electronics
  • Vacuum all areas. If possible, use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • If someone was sick, take extra precautions. Before completing this checklist, do the following:
  • Close off any areas used by the person who was sick.
  • Increase air circulation by opening doors and windows.
  • If possible, wait twenty-four hours before cleaning the space.
  • Review additional CDC guidelines for appropriately disinfecting the space.

Rely on Spruce Industries for a spotless facility

Keeping your business or school sanitized and disinfected is essential to preventing the spread of illness. But knowing which chemicals, equipment, and processes are right for your needs can be overwhelming. The cleaning experts at Spruce Industries are on hand to help you. We provide the highest level of solutions, support, and sustainability for all of your custodial supply products, cleaning supplies, tools, and equipment needs. Browse our range of industrial-strength products, or contact our helpline for assistance.

Close Bitnami banner