Clean, sterilize, sterilize: What's the difference?

Release time:2023-11-10 Number of views: 139

An important part of running a successful business is maintaining a clean environment. Whether you stay on top of cleanliness by using a cleaning checklist or a schedule, making sure your premises are cleaned regularly can help keep employees and customers healthy.


It is important to understand the different depths of cleaning to determine what methods and practices should be adopted in your location to slow the spread of diseases and viruses. We'll explore the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, sanitizing, and sterilizing so that you can best incorporate them into your cleaning regimen.

What's the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?

The main difference between cleaning and sanitizing is that cleaning is the act of removing debris and sediment from a surface, while sanitizing involves killing bacteria after a surface has been removed or rubbed off.


When comparing cleaning versus sanitizing, you need to make sure you clean first, regardless of the surface, and then sanitize depending on the area. Items that come into contact with food and are frequently touched should be disinfected, while locations such as hallway floors and Windows do not need to be disinfected regularly because they are considered low-risk surfaces.

What is cleaning?

To clean something means to remove all visible contaminants from the surface, including dirt, spills, food particles, dust, etc., by washing, brushing, or wiping down the area. This process is superficial and does not eliminate bacteria, but can help reduce the number of bacteria. This is expected to be the first step in the cleaning process. Common cleaning products include:




Dust collector



Glass cleaner

What is disinfection?

Disinfection refers to reducing the number of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi on surfaces after cleaning. The disinfectant used must reduce the number of bacteria to a level considered safe by public health standards. To meet the CDC's requirements, the disinfection chemicals had to kill 99.999% of the bacteria tested within 30 seconds.


Although disinfection can reduce the growth of harmful bacteria, it does not kill all viruses on the surface. Disinfection is a preventive measure and extremely important practice in restaurants, schools, corporate offices and hospitals. Every surface that comes into contact with food should be disinfected regularly, usually several times a day.

Disinfection and Sanitize

The difference between disinfection and disinfection depends on the number of bacteria eliminated by each process. While disinfection is designed to kill most bacteria, it cannot claim to have an antiviral effect. Sanitizing is more effective than sanitizing, killing nearly 100 percent of bacteria, viruses, and fungi while targeting specific disease-carrying microbes such as influenza viruses, norovirus, and coronaviruses.


Because disinfection is more intense than disinfection, disinfectants are often used in areas where people are vulnerable to infection, such as health care facilities and daycare centers. Disinfection atomizers are commonly used to spray disinfection chemicals on large surfaces. Disinfecting is sufficient for food and beverage items such as tables and cutting boards, but places such as bathrooms and fitness centers need disinfectant.

What is disinfection?

Disinfection refers to the use of disinfectants to kill specific viruses and pathogens on surfaces. These cleaners must kill 99.999% of infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi within 5-10 minutes. It is recommended to disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Bathrooms should always be disinfected, as these surfaces may contain pathogens that can lead to disease transmission. Common disinfectants include:





The difference between sterilization and disinfection

Although these terms are used interchangeably, there is a difference between disinfection and sterilization. Disinfection eliminates nearly 100 percent of viruses and bacteria on surfaces, while sterilization kills all viruses, bacteria, fungi, and bacterial spores on items.


While disinfection is useful in most environments and on frequently touched surfaces, disinfection is generally only appropriate for instruments used in medical facilities and hospital Settings.

What is sterilization?

Sterilization of articles refers to the complete elimination of microorganisms on the surface of articles, including bacterial spores, bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. Healthcare facilities are highly dependent on the sterilization of food, medicines and equipment to prevent wound infections and the spread of disease between patients. Several methods can be used to sterilize the product:






What is the correct way to disinfect a table used to prepare food?

What is the first step to properly clean and disinfect food contact surfaces? Follow these steps to disinfect the table used to prepare food:

Clean the surface of any visible debris.

Rinse the surface with soap and water. Do not use pressure washers as they may spread bacteria over a larger area.

Disinfect surfaces with a food safe disinfectant. If needed, rinse the disinfectant according to the chemical's instructions.

Allow the surface to air dry for at least 30 seconds to a minute for the disinfectant to take effect. If you are in a location where you need to record food preparation by batch and time shift, use this time to take a thorough break.

Since bacteria can easily be transferred to food and cause illness, proper disinfection measures are necessary for the restaurant atmosphere. It is important to use disinfection methods in restaurant kitchens to clean tables, cutting boards, and utensils to prevent cross-contamination that can lead to food poisoning and allergic reactions.

What should you disinfect?

The general rule of hygiene is that items should be disinfected if they come into contact with food. The following are common items in the kitchen that need to be disinfected regularly:


Cutting board


POTS and pans

Table setting


Cooking equipment

When to disinfect

Your health inspector will look for proper cleaning and disinfection measures in your restaurant. Follow these steps to know when you should disinfect your kitchen:


Whenever you complete a food preparation task

Whenever you switch between food types and ingredients

If your mission is interrupted, forcing you to leave the station

Every four hours

How to disinfect

For frequently touched surfaces, follow these steps for proper disinfection:


Read the label of the disinfectant you plan to use to make sure you understand the product's instructions.

Clean the surface of any visible debris.

Rinse the surface with soap and water. For door handles and handrails, use universal cleaning wipes.

Disinfect surfaces with disinfectant as directed on the product. Leave the disinfectant on the surface for 3-5 minutes or as long as required by the product.

If the product requires, rinse the disinfectant off the surface.

What should you disinfect?

Here are some items in your facility that should be disinfected regularly:


Light switch


Elevator button


Bathroom surface

Faucet handle

Computer keyboard and mouse


When to disinfect

The disinfection schedule may vary depending on your facility and the number of guests inside the facility. Here are some suggested moments to sterilize:


At least once a day

Cold and flu seasons are more frequent

The frequency is higher during virus outbreaks

Whenever bodily fluids are on the surface

Can disinfectant wipes kill the virus?

Because disinfecting wipes have a shorter residence time than most disinfecting chemicals, there is a concern that they don't have enough time to kill viruses on surfaces. The key to successfully disinfecting surfaces is to read the details of the cleaning wipes you choose to use. To confidently eliminate viruses such as norovirus, flu, rhinoviruses and coronaviruses, the CDC recommends using sanitizing wipes with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Prevent disease

While cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are an important part of restaurant food safety guidelines to prevent illness, there are other steps you and your staff can take to maintain a clean and healthy work environment.


Here are some disease prevention methods you can implement in your business:


Clean visibly soiled surfaces immediately

Use hands-free water fountains, faucets, and trash cans

Wear gloves when cleaning dirty surfaces or preparing food (do not touch other surfaces during the task)

Dispose of cleaning wipes and paper towels used to clean surfaces immediately after completing the task

Use clean mop water when switching rooms or when the water is visibly dirty

Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after using the bathroom, switching between tasks, sneezing, or touching a dirty tissue

Keep employees home when they're sick

Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, then dispose of the tissue immediately

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