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Do You Know The Difference Between Sanitation, Disinfection And Sterilization?

     Cleaning is the first and most important step for controlling the spread of virus and germs. Nowadays, more than ever, people are very concern about sanitizing their offices, commercial buildings, groceries stores, shopping carts and our own homes.

What type of cleaning does your business need? Do you know the difference between sanitation, disinfection and sterilization?

The differences of sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization are as follows:

  • Sanitization: reduces the overall parthenogenic microbes on a surface, thus reducing the chances of getting sick.

  • Disinfection: Has stronger effect than sanitizer on certain parthenogenic microbes. Disinfectants require dwell time to be effective against the microbes they advertise to eliminate. Additionally, disinfectants are effective on inanimate surfaces, but can often be weakened if contacted by organic matter.

  • Sterilization: The process of decontamination by utilizing a combination of chemical application, heat, and/or pressure to eliminate any and all parthenogenic microbes on a surface.

Cleaning alone will always contribute favorably to the health of indoor occupants because allergens and microorganisms are being removed from the surfaces of the indoor environment. The problem, however, is the risk of cross-contamination. The mopping solution and the cleaning tools could be spreading disease in the absence of a germicide.


When you sanitize, you are killing/reducing the number of bacteria present by 99.9 percent (3 log10) but doing nothing about viruses and fungus. Sanitizing is better than cleaning alone but the reduction of pathogen populations on environmental surfaces is exponentially better when you disinfect.


The minimum level of effectiveness in a modern-day disinfectant is 100 percent kill of 6 log10 of an organism. A sanitizer is only required to reduce that 6 log10 down to 3 Log10. We can put that into real numbers. If we start with 1 million organisms on a surface then a disinfectant must kill 100 percent of them; zero left. A sanitizer only reduces the number of organisms down to 1,000 and does nothing about virus and fungus.

— John B. Everitt, president, Stearns Packaging Corp., Madison, Wis.


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