Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: Choosing the Right Approach for a Safer Workplace

Oct 12, 2023 | Commercial Cleaning Education, News, Tips

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining a safe and hygienic workplace has never been more critical. Two terms that often come up in the context of commercial cleaning services are “sanitizing” and “disinfecting.” While they might sound similar, they serve different purposes when it comes to workplace cleanliness and safety. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between sanitizing and disinfecting and help you choose the right approach for your commercial setting.

First: What is Sanitizing?

Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of germs on surfaces to a safe level as determined by public health standards. It typically involves using chemicals or heat to kill or deactivate bacteria, viruses, and some fungi. Sanitizing is generally sufficient for low-risk areas and surfaces where food is prepared or handled, such as kitchen countertops, cutting boards, and dining tables.

In the workplace, sanitizing is often applied to areas that do not require a high level of germ elimination. Common examples include:

  1. Food Preparation Areas: In commercial kitchens or cafeterias, sanitizing is used to ensure that surfaces and equipment used for food preparation are free from harmful microorganisms.
  2. Office Desks and Shared Workspaces: Sanitizing is suitable for shared office spaces, where the primary concern is reducing the risk of common illnesses like colds and flu.
  3. Classroom Surfaces: Educational institutions often use sanitizing methods to reduce the transmission of germs among students and staff.
  4. Frequently Touched Surfaces: In high-traffic areas like elevators and stair railings, sanitizing can help control the spread of germs.

What is Disinfecting?

Disinfecting, on the other hand, goes a step further by eliminating a broader range of germs, including viruses and bacteria, to a level where they are no longer capable of causing disease. This process typically requires stronger chemicals and more thorough application than sanitizing.

In commercial settings, disinfecting is essential in areas where a higher level of cleanliness and disease prevention is critical. These include:

  1. Healthcare Facilities: Hospitals, clinics, and dental offices must disinfect surfaces and equipment rigorously to protect patients and healthcare workers from potentially life-threatening infections.
  2. Public Transportation: Buses, trains, and airplanes require disinfection to minimize the risk of spreading diseases among passengers and crew.
  3. High-Touch Areas: In workplaces with a high volume of visitors or where social distancing is challenging, disinfecting is crucial for surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and shared equipment.
  4. Outbreak Response: In cases of outbreaks or confirmed cases of infectious diseases, thorough disinfection is essential to prevent further transmission.

Commercial Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: Choosing the Right Approach

The choice between sanitizing and disinfecting in a commercial setting depends on several factors:

  1. Risk Level: Consider the level of risk associated with your workplace. If you’re in healthcare or a high-traffic environment, disinfecting is likely the better choice. For lower-risk areas like office spaces, sanitizing may be sufficient.
  2. Regulations and Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with local health and safety regulations and guidelines. Some industries have specific requirements for cleanliness and disinfection.
  3. Frequency: Determine how often you need to clean and disinfect your workspace. High-touch surfaces may require more frequent attention than less frequently used areas.
  4. Product Selection: Use the appropriate cleaning products and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Disinfectants often require a longer contact time on surfaces than sanitizers.
  5. Professional Services: In complex or high-risk environments, consider hiring professional cleaning services with expertise in commercial settings. They can recommend the most suitable approach and ensure compliance with industry standards.

Companies Need to Know the Difference

In a commercial setting, the choice between sanitizing and disinfecting should be based on the specific needs and risk factors of your workplace. Both processes play crucial roles in maintaining a safe and healthy environment for employees, customers, and visitors. By understanding the differences between sanitizing and disinfecting and making informed decisions, you can create a workplace that prioritizes cleanliness and safety, reducing the risk of illness and enhancing overall well-being.