Difference between Cleaning and Sanitising - iClean

What is the difference between Cleaning and Sanitising?

What is the difference between Cleaning and Sanitising?

Do you know the difference between cleaning and sanitising?

They have very different meanings along with words like disinfect and sterilise, but while they are alike, their distinctions are critical.

If you work in the fields of medicine, food service, or science, you probably already have an understand the different types of cleaning. Nurses don’t use needles that are simply “clean,” — they must be sterilised as well. And just because a table is shiny and free of crumbs, that doesn’t mean you can safely eat food off the surface.

We’re going to discuss the difference between cleaning and sanitising because it’s important to know…for safety’s sake.

First, let’s read the Dictionary definition! These are the applicable definitions for “clean” and “sanitise,” according to the New Oxford American Dictionary:

CLEAN (verb)

Making (something or someone) free of dirt, marks, or mess, especially by washing, wiping, or brushing. 


Make clean and hygienic (hygienic is defined as “conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially by being clean; sanitary”). 

As you can see, cleaning focuses on appearance. A chair could be covered in germs and bacteria, but as long as it isn’t covered in dirt, marks, or some other kind of mess, it can be called clean. Sanitisation, on the other hand, goes much deeper. Not only is a sanitised item clean, it also helps to maintain health.

If you’re curious, here are the definitions of the other two, very similar words:


Clean with a disinfectant in order to destroy bacteria (disinfectant is described as “a chemical that destroys bacteria”). 


Make free from bacteria or other living microorganisms. 

Even stronger wording! Disinfected items, like sanitised items, have a reduced amount of microorganisms and bacteria. Sterilised items, on the other hand, aren’t just clean and hygienic; they are free of all bacteria! 

Cleaning can be done with a variety of different tools—brooms, sponges, mops, brushes, cloths—but if you want to sanitise a surface, you will need to choose your tools carefully. To effectively sanitise a surface, bringing the number of microorganisms on that surface down to a safe level, you could use a disinfecting product, place the item in boiling water, or use one of many other methods of sterilisation. 

Now that you understand the difference between cleaning and sanitizing, as well as the difference between these terms and disinfecting and sterilising, you can make your world healthier and safer. For example, if you hire a cleaning company, you’ll know that you need to emphasise terms like “disinfect” when you’re talking about certain tasks. You will inevitably get the results you expect from your cleaning contractor.