If you spend any time cleaning or if you listen to a residential cleaning service discuss the products they regularly use, you’ve undoubtedly heard the terms: antibacterial, sanitizer and disinfectant but what’s the difference? Aren’t they all the same?
Governmental agencies like the USDA and the EPA regulate the description of these types of cleaning products and are very particular about how they should be defined. Each type of product must run through a battery of tests before they can be called antibacterial, sanitizer or disinfectant.
- Antibacterial cleaning products don’t actually kill bacteria, for example. For a product to be considered “antibacterial” they must prove to be able to prevent the growth and reproduction of bacteria. Most people, when they hear the term “antibacterial” they automatically think the product will kill germs – this isn’t necessarily true. Also, antibacterial products only work on bacteria – not viruses or fungi.
- Sanitizers reduce – not eliminate – micro-organisms and they must be able to do this to a level where the surface is considered safe according to the government environmental agencies’ standards. Check the label, a sanitizer that claims it can reduce micro-organisms by 99.9% have gone through the standard testing necessary to make that claim.
- Finally, disinfectants will completely destroy micro-organisms. There are two types of disinfectants: hospital and general. To be considered a hospital-type of disinfectant, the product must be able to disinfect against Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella cholerasesuis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. If you are not cleaning a medical facility of any type, you won’t necessarily need a hospital-type disinfectant. General disinfectants are more than sufficient for homes and other non-medical facilities.
All of these products work well when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions so be sure to read the label before using. For example, some sanitizers and disinfectants have to be sprayed and left on the surface it’s sprayed for a minimum amount of time – typically about ten minutes.