Disinfecting Versus Cleaning: How to Clean Your Home's Surfaces in Order to Disinfect Them
If you're curious about how natural cleaning products work or why baking soda is such a powerful ingredient, you've come to the right place. We'll explain the science behind some of the most popular cleaning methods and tools, so you can you clean smarter—not harder. Follow along with Clean Science to see which technique we break down next.
No matter how similar they may seem, certain cleaning jobs are designed to provide specific results. "Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are three different things," explains Kadi Dulude of Wizard of Homes. "Cleaning gets rid of visible dirt, dust, and marks on surfaces, sanitizing helps get rid of bacteria, and disinfecting aims to kill all organisms on surfaces, including bacteria and viruses."
And while cleaning and sanitizing a surface can help get rid of some germs, Melissa Maker of Clean My Space says if you want a space to be totally contaminant-free, you're going to have to do some serious disinfecting. "If there's a surface that has come into contact with concerning germs, or if there's been another contaminant present such as meat juice, or if your pet got sick in a certain spot, you'd want to consider using an actual disinfectant to be sure that 99.9% of germs on the surface will be removed," she says. So, how do you ensure that your home is more than just clean?
Mind your materials.
Before you can properly disinfect a space, Maker says it's crucial to make sure that you're using a disinfect cleaner that won't stain or damage a surface. "Bleach, for example, isn't safe to use on all surfaces," she says. "For areas of your home that can't be treated with pure bleach, such as light switches or anything with electrical power, use disinfecting wipes to avoid issues."
Try rubbing alcohol.
If you're looking for a disinfectant spray that isn't as aggressive as bleach, Dulude suggests stocking up on rubbing alcohol. "I like to use 70% isopropyl alcohol because it is safe to use on most surfaces and is very effective when disinfecting," she explains. "After spraying or applying it, let it dry completely, then go over it again with a microfiber cloth to fully disinfect the surface."
Know when and where to disinfect.
Your sink and countertops aren't the only areas of your home that need disinfecting, Dulude says. "Look around the room and think about the surfaces that are touched the most, such as door knobs, faucets, countertops, TV remotes, computer mouse, and so on," she says. "It's a good idea to use disinfectant cleaners during flu-season and after someone in the house has been sick."
Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.
If you aren't letting your disinfectant sit for at least 10 minutes after applying it, Maker says you're doing it wrong. "The biggest mistake people make with disinfectants is that they apply them and then wipe them off immediately," she says. "A disinfectant works by sending out a tiny little army to kill germs, and they're going to need time to carry out their search-and-kill mission. The bottom line is you need to see visible moisture on the surface for the recommended period of time in order for the disinfectant to work properly."
The only thing better than a powerful disinfectant is one that is totally free of chemicals. "Steam or vapor cleaning is becoming more popular because when done correctly and strategically, it can kill germs and viruses—and in some cases dust mites, allergens, and bed bugs—with pure water," says Dulude. "The water is heated to a high temperature and the steam or vapor released is sprayed onto the surface."