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Things to Know about Cleaning, Disinfection, and Sterilization: Why the Differences Matter

Since the declaration of the COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the words cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing have been used a lot. Many people wonder what the differences between these three words are, and why it should matter to them. After all, soap and water have been said to kill the virus, so why bother with any other means of cleaning, or should we say, disinfection?
Here are the things you should know about cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization


Cleaning is essentially the removal of both visible and sometimes invisible particles in the form of dust, germs, and other objects on a surface. Cleaning generally involves the use of soaps, detergent, and other cleaning solvents in conjunction with water to remove germs and unwanted particles from surfaces.
You should note that cleaning does not necessarily kill the germs found on the surface being cleaned, but it tends to remove them. By cleaning a surface, you essentially reduce the number of germs found on that particular surface and, in turn, reduce the risk of spreading diseases and infectious viruses.
In the general process of total disinfection and sterilization, cleaning is the first step.


Disinfection is a word we have heard more frequently during this COVID-19 pandemic, and it is for a good reason. Disinfection is specifically the process of killing germs and other microorganisms found on a particular surface with the use of chemicals. Unlike cleaning, disinfecting a surface does not make it any cleaner if it was dirty, and it does not remove the germs that it kills.

With the use of disinfection, the risk of spreading a disease or a virus is lowered significantly. Some of the commonly disinfected surfaces include doorknobs, tabletops, countertops, toilets, light switches, electronic devices, and other frequently used areas.


Sterilization is not as commonly used as cleaning and disinfection, but it is just as important to know what it means. It is a process used to destroy any microorganism found on a surface, equipment, or in a fluid. Usually, sterilization is used to ensure that devices used for cleaning, disinfection, or other processes are free of germs and other harmful microorganisms.
A sterilized surface or fluid would contain very little to no microorganism at all. Sterilization helps to prevent the spread of diseases through equipment used or fluids taken.
Methods of sterilization include the use of heat, chemicals, radiation, high pressure, and filtration. Sterilization is essential to medical staff, cleaning, and disinfecting agency staff as it helps to keep their tools free from harmful microorganisms like viruses.
The next time you are wondering what kind of professional service, you need to help keep your house or workplace safe from COVID-19, contact a disinfection agency like Safe From Spread.
Safe From Spread is a commercial sanitizing and disinfecting franchise that partners with small, medium, and international corporations to help protect their employees and customers with extensive sanitization techniques.