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The Difference Between Cleaning & Disinfecting

A bucket containing cleaning supplies sitting on a table

Posted by ServiceMaster | February 28th, 2019 | Categories : Disinfection

It can be tricky to know which items in your facility need to be cleaned and which need to be disinfected. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides industry-standard guidelines for both education and healthcare facilities. In both industries, if your facility isn’t properly cleaned and disinfected then infectious diseases will spread. This can happen when pathogens collect on surfaces and in the air. Before you know it, the health of everyone in your facility is compromised. Keep germs from building up by cleaning and disinfecting on a regular basis. Based on the CDC’s guidelines, ServiceMaster Twin Cities in Little Rock, AR compiled recommendations for your facility below.



What is it?

Cleaning generally removes visible impurities from objects. According to the CDC, “Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.” In other words, cleaning uses soap to physically remove germs but not necessarily kill them.


Education facilities easily collect visible impurities like dirt and grime. It’s important to have cleaning supplies on hand in every room. That way, you can wipe down visibly dirty surfaces as soon as you notice them. Implement a routine cleaning schedule to put away and clean heavily used items.


Cleaning healthcare facilities is the first step to meeting the CDC’s standards. Removing visible dirt, body fluids and dust makes it easier to disinfect later. Items that have a low likelihood of spreading diseases may only have to be cleaned. These items include windows and floors.



What is it?

Unlike cleaning, disinfecting kills germs on surfaces by using chemicals. The CDC offers, “Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.” To put it a different way, disinfecting is a great way to kill germs, but it doesn’t always remove visible impurities the way cleaning does.


Children’s hand hygiene usually isn’t the best. That’s why it’s extra important to disinfect objects that are used by germy hands on a daily basis. Disinfect with EPA rated sprays and wipes. Make sure that you’re using these chemicals safely. Use gloves or eye protection when needed and don’t mix chemicals.


In a healthcare facility, cleaning must be followed by sanitizing and disinfecting. When it comes to disinfectants approved for use in healthcare facilities, there are many options. Low, high and hospital-grade disinfectants should all be considered depending on your facility.


ServiceMaster Twin Cities in Little Rock, AR has been making healthcare and education facilities alike shine for almost 30 years. We have the experience to meet your facility’s cleaning and disinfecting standards. Contact us for a free commercial cleaning quote.



Photo by: istockphoto.com/ Choreograph

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