Skip to main navigation Skip to content Skip to footer

What’s the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting?

What’s the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting?

Here are the basics you need to know about cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting, and why it’s necessary for keeping a healthy home.

Know the Difference.

  • Cleaning removes dust, debris and dirt from a surface by scrubbing, washing and rinsing. 
  • Sanitizing reduces the bacteria identified on the product’s label on surfaces and in laundry. 
  • Disinfecting destroys or inactivates both the bacteria and viruses identified on the product’s label (like influenza and rhinovirus) on hard, nonporous surfaces. 

Disinfecting hard, nonporous surfaces is one of the most reliable ways to help lower the risk of spreading germs from surfaces by touch.1

Why Disinfection Is Important.

Remember that you should disinfect – not sanitize – because disinfectants are the only products approved by the EPA to kill viruses on hard surfaces.2 The main difference is that EPA-approved sanitizers only have claims for bacteria, while disinfectants have claims against both bacteria and viruses.

When to Disinfect.

Visit the CDC for the latest guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting recommendations for COVID-19 virus.

Select a Disinfectant That Can Be Effectively Used Against COVID-19.

To make sure your product is an EPA-approved disinfectant, look on the label for an EPA registration number on the back panel. You can confirm a product can be used against COVID-19 by visiting the EPA’s site or our site for a full list of Clorox® products that are effective against COVID-19

1. According to Saskia Popescu, PhD, MPH, MA, CIC, a senior hospital infection prevention epidemiologist at HonorHealth and paid Clorox consultant.
2. https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2