What is Disinfecting?

What is disinfecting and why is it so important?  Why should I consider professional disinfecting when I am cleaning regularly, wiping surfaces and following recommended guidelines?  What is the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting?  Aren’t all of these things really the same? 

These are questions we hear and talk about regularly.  Before we can break down the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting we must first understand pathogens.  Our focus currently is the Corona Virus.  What do we currently know about the virus?  We know it is highly contagious; it can linger in the air for up to 3 hours.  We know it can stay on various surfaces for a few hours to a week, which means if we were to touch those contaminated surfaces and then touch our faces we are likely to become infected.  This also means getting sick is not just reserved for COVID-19.  It is how we get sick from most germs. Shake a hand, open a door, or sign with a pen, than rub our nose or scratch our face.  Each time we touch something we may be either leaving or taking germs. 

Did you know 1 bacterium can become 8,000,000 in just one day?! 

How are we reducing our exposure to illness?  We are washing our hands or using hand sanitizer.  High contact surfaces are being cleaned regularly.  We are social distancing and/or using a mask. Lastly we have been self-quarantining, isolating ourselves from the general public, our co-workers, friends and family.  All of these methods can be affective in reducing the risk but as we all know, unless we live on an island by ourselves we are still at risk.  

The Corona Virus needs a host to replicate and is relatively easy to kill when it is outside of the body and where we are focused for this article.  

Lets look at the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.  

Cleaning is a means of removing dirt and debris from a surface.  When we wipe our countertops we can see the dirt or food particles being removed.  We can’t see the germs.  When cleaning we are not killing germs, we are removing some and moving others around the surface. Remember that 1 bacterium multiplying into 8 million?  

Because we cannot see bacteria and viruses we must rely on other means of eliminating them such as heat and/or chemistry.   

Sanitizing kills microbes on surfaces or objects but does not eliminate them completely. Before sanitizing can be performed we must clean to remove the dirt, dust, film, debris from surfaces to assure the sanitizer is effective.  Sanitizers do not kill all germs but is safe if we were to get the chemistry on our skin or in our mouth.  Many restaurants use this sanitization process when cleaning pots, pans, dishes and utensils.  For example: by using a 3 compartment sink the items are first washed to remove dirt and debris, the second sink is for rinsing and the third sink is the sanitizer to reduce or kill germs.  

Disinfecting, similar to sanitizers, kills microbes.  Understanding the chemistry and its capabilities prior to using it is a must. Ask what germs you want to kill is a good start in creating a pathogenically safer environment.  Surfaces must be cleaned prior to disinfecting.  Disinfectants are normally stronger than sanitizers and more effective at eliminating pathogens.  When looking at these 3 methods of eliminating bacterium and viruses, they are in order of effectiveness, cleaning – sanitizing – disinfecting.  Remember, cleaning is always the first step prior to sanitizing or disinfecting.  Disinfecting is the strongest means of killing or eliminating germs.  

Why consider a professional company to disinfect when we are already cleaning and using chemicals to kill germs?  

Most of us when we clean, sanitize or disinfect use a cloth or paper towels, hold a spray bottle of germ killing liquid in our hand and squirt the cleaner on a surface; We than wipe the surface almost immediately after applying the chemicals.  We may think to ourselves, the surface is now clean and germ free.  Unfortunately this is not always true. Chemistry requires a dwell time.  Certain types of chemicals can effectively kill microbes under a minute.  Other disinfectants may require several minutes.   Some manufactures will indicate the amount of time it takes to kill pathogens and yet others do not. This requires understanding of the chemistry, applicator, surfaces, and the type of pathogen we want to eliminate. 

The next obstacle is how do we address all touchable surfaces. Touchable areas do not necessarily mean using our hands.  A wall can turn into a touchable area.  Turning on a lamp is not normally something we would remember to disinfect yet wall switches are easily seen and remembered.  Doorknobs are on the list of potential danger areas yet when is the last time we cleaned hangers in cloqué room or closet.  Now lets take touchable surfaces to the next level.  Coughing and sneezing has been the worry in spreading COVID-19.  The news is now stating simply breathing can spread the virus.  

We can already imagine, the invisible to the naked eye, free floating viruses landing on various objects waiting to be touched.  Similar to pollen or dust seen inside a dark room with a ray of light shining through it, viruses are floating in the air like plankton in the ocean.  Affected only by air movement and passing objects until air turbulence subsides and gravity forces the pathogen down.  

Do we have enough chemicals or time?  When we are attempting to kill germs do we ever spray under the counter or table?  Are we wiping all items such as the sides and underneath?  When is the last time we disinfected the walls? 

Imagine a person who struggles to stand sitting at a table.  That person needing the additional support may hold onto a table at the edge with their fingers to the under side to stand.  Children place their hands in places we may not think of spraying for germs yet we may bump or lean against that area without realizing with the potential to transfer it elsewhere.

Just as we wash our hands several times per day, we would never think of skipping a shower because hand washing was enough.  Cleaning and sanitizing is similar to washing our hands.  We still need to hit the reset button to kill those pathogens in all areas.  

Why hire a professional company to disinfect your space?  Professional companies can make your space safe by utilizing the right tools and equipment, proven chemistry and knowledge.  Professional companies will disinfect areas that may not be practical to address regularly.  Professional disinfection eliminates pathogens through the knowledge of science and technology.  

Final thoughts:  As we are all diligently cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting to kill COVID and create a safe environment for our team, family, friends and patrons, do not forget to take care of yourself or those using chemistry.  As we watch videos on the Internet about apply chemicals through various applicators there is a danger.  Occasionally applying chemicals through a squirt bottle has a low exposure factor but once we start using larger spray applicators the health risk is extremely high.  

Chemicals being atomized or misted can easily get onto the skin and worse into the sinuses and lungs.  Research the chemicals being used.  Read more than just the label on the container, understand the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and follow the OSHA requirements to protect yourself and others.  

You maybe surprised to know for many of the chemicals being applied require a respirator and full body protection.  Respirators must have the wearer fit tested.  Respirators also require an outlined policy that entails training and specific procedures. All companies are required to provide an SDS to their employees (Hazardous Communication), which outlines application, exposure, PPE, etc.    An N95 mask may help reduce the risk of COVID-19 but it will not protect us from chemical burns or inhalation.  

As we may have seen advertisements to perform disinfecting, how do we choose the right company?  How do we know we are talking to a professional operation?  The science and technology behind the chemistry and application can be complicated.  The biology is certainly complex and when we combine all three in a conversation it can be confusing.  Company representatives should be able to provide information in laymen’s terms.  Do not be baffled by techno talk, this technique is normally used to impress and can be untrue or misrepresented.  Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.   

Below are some helpful tips to ask when looking for a professional disinfecting company.

  • • What kind of virus is the Corona virus?
  • • Does your disinfectant kill COVID-19?(This is a trick question. Viruses are not alive) 
  • • By what process does your chemistry destroy COVID-19?
  • • What other pathogens does the chemistry kill?
  • • How do you know it eliminates SARS-Cov-2
  • • What type of chemistry are you using? 
  • • Does your employees wear PPE?  What kind and why?
  • • What is your application method?
  • • How long have you been in business?  
  • • Are you insured, licensed and bonded? 
  • • How long does it take for the disinfectant to kill COVID-19?
  • • After disinfection, how long does the process last  

SaniSolutions is a Division of Averus.  Averus is 33 year old life safety company performing Fire Safety Services & Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning nationally.  Averus operates a Filter Sales and Cleaning Division in the Midwest.   

SaniSolutions goals are to:

  •  Provide customers education
  •  Create a pathogenically safer environment
  •  Be a contributor that helps to eradicate diseases
  •  Provide our customers piece of mind at a fair price

When considering choosing a company to handle your life safety needs, we hope you think of us first.  Please call today for a free quote.  

M.D. “Doc” Reisman

Vice President 


Sanisolutions Inc. CALL 800-393-8287