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Apr 16, 2020

Disinfecting v.s. Sanitizing - What's the difference?

Now that you’re familiar with different hygiene processes and safety measures during this critical time (see Neat Obsessions’ Tips post), allow us to walk you through the three most common terms that you will often read these days: disinfecting, cleaning, and sanitizing.

These terms are often used interchangeably, but did you know that they actually mean different things? It’s not something that is often discussed, but knowing the difference will help us all to make sure that we are able to maximize our efforts in protecting ourselves and our homes.

For example, we might mistakenly use a product meant to sanitize when the goal we had in mind was to disinfect. Or we might end up disinfecting something that we should only be sanitizing. Do you realize how this might be a problem when it comes to making sure our homes are virus-free? Given that, it’s important for us to know the difference when it comes to these terms. Just to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to the best way we can.


It is the most basic of the three. It is getting rid of the obvious as it removes solid debris and organic matter from objects with the help of soap and water. These are typically the visible dirt we find on items. Soap and water allow us to physically dislodge whatever is on the surface. When we wipe off surfaces with a wet towel, that’s also considered cleaning. However, that’s all it does. You’re able to get rid of the contaminants you can see, but it does not effectively kill germs and bacteria. Cleaning alone is acceptable for the things we don’t really come into contact with, maybe like windows, ceilings, and car tires