Is there a difference between cleaning and sanitising?

When it comes to cleaning, there are many terms that get interchanged, such as clean, sanitise and disinfect. What’s the difference between them and does it matter? When you need to decide what you need from a cleaning company, it helps to know the difference between these, so you can assess which one you need for your business.


The definition of cleaning means to remove visible dirt, soil, debris, dust and micro-organisms from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs but reduces the amount of them by getting rid of some or most of them. Many people accept cleaning as an end in itself, when in truth, it’s simply the first step in the decontamination process. Even if you intend to go on and sanitise or disinfect, you must first start with cleaning. Cleaning is usually completed with some form of detergent and clean water.

Cleaning is usually adequate for homes or low-risk areas such as windows. For offices and workplaces, a more intensive sanitisation and disinfecting method is recommended due to the high volume of footfall.

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This means reducing the number of bacteria to levels recommended by public health standards. It helps to reduce the risk of infection, but most likely won’t kill off all viruses. It is one step further than cleaning and as it kills more bacteria, it’s a useful method for dealing with surfaces that come into contact with food, for example.

Products labelled as sanitisers contain chemicals that kill 99.9% of common bacteria in just 30 seconds. Although highly effective at wiping out almost all bacteria, sanitising alone is still not enough to prevent all viruses from spreading. For surfaces where there is a significant risk of contamination will require a full disinfecting process. For thorough cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting practices for your business, consider Office cleaning in Gloucester from

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The highest level of cleaning, disinfecting a surface eliminates micro-organisms that cause illness and pathogens. The only germs it isn’t effective against are bacterial spores. There are different grades of disinfectant:

Low-level – this is what’s found in most household disinfectant. It eliminates almost every type of vegetative bacteria, some fungi and some viruses.

High- level – will kill all micro-organisms but not all of the low risk bacterial spores.

Hospital-grade – this is the strongest level of disinfectant that’s approved for use by the government. It is used in medical facilities and hospitals, dentist’s surgeries and clinics. These environments need a strong disinfectant to kill most infections and bacteria that cause disease. There are lots to choose from too, with approximately 1,200 known hospital-grade disinfectants.

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