People these days are more aware of the risks of touching contaminated surfaces and being exposed to potentially harmful environments. When you’re out in public doing the groceries or making a stop at the ATM, the simplest solution would be to sanitize while using face masks and wearing hand protectors. The combination of observing proper hygiene and wearing protective accessories will certainly go a long way in your goal of protecting yourself as much as possible.
On the other hand, you may not necessarily want to use face masks and hand protectors at home or in some other settings. In these cases, reducing the amount of harmful microorganisms in your surroundings can be an excellent strategy to lower your risk of contracting touch-transmitted illnesses.
Simply put, reducing the amount of pathogenic organisms in a given environment means keeping things sanitized. But what does this mean, exactly? In everyday conversations, “disinfecting,” ”sanitizing,” and “cleaning,” have come to mean more or less the same things. To public health experts, medical professionals, cleaning specialists, and other people a bit more careful with their definitions, however, these words refer to distinct concepts.
Should you clean, disinfect, or sanitize? When it comes to keeping our homes and workplaces safe from harmful microbes, the goal should be to keep them sanitized.
Here’s what each of these commonly misused terms means, according to the Centers For Disease Control:
This refers to the physical removal of dirt and other contaminants from a surface. Cleaning a surface usually involves the use of mechanical force as well as water, soap, and detergent to make the surface more slippery to contaminants, making them easier to wash out or remove with other means. Microbes are not necessarily killed when you clean a surface, but their numbers can be reduced to make them less of a threat.
Disinfection refers to the killing of microbes on a contaminated surface. This can be done with any of several means, including UV light, sufficiently hot water, and chemical agents such as bleach and ammonia compounds. Confusingly, many cleaning products also disinfect surfaces while simultaneously cleaning them.
Disinfecting an object or a surface does not remove dirt and other kinds of contaminants. However, it does neutralize microbes, rendering surfaces safer.
This refers to the reduction of active microbes to a level considered safe by a given standard. Sanitizing can involve both cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, so long as the process reduces the number of active microbes.
Sanitization is generally considered to be more thorough than just cleaning and less stringent than disinfection. While not necessarily accurate, this can be a useful thing to keep in mind when you’re attempting to keep your home or workplace acceptably free of germs.
Should You Clean, Disinfect, or Sanitize?
When it comes to keeping our homes and workplaces safe from harmful microbes, the goal should be to keep them sanitized. Technically speaking, neither cleaning nor disinfection by themselves is enough to render contaminated surfaces safe. For best results, a combination of both is usually necessary.
You should also consider the context before you sanitize a space. For example, your home does not necessarily have to be sanitized as thoroughly as a hospital or a food processing facility, and there is usually no need to disinfect every possible surface, aside from perhaps those in your kitchen and bathroom. If there’s someone sick in your home, however, you may want to sanitize surfaces more frequently.
In most cases, a more practical approach would be to keep your house or workspace reasonably clean and to thoroughly wipe down and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces and objects such as door handles, light switch plates, TV remotes, mobile phones, and computer peripherals. Generally speaking, you should sanitize your workplace daily or as prescribed by your industry. You can opt to sanitize your home at least once a week, or more frequently, if someone, is sick to prevent the spread of germs.
While the exact definition of sanitization, cleaning, and disinfection may not seem all that important, it’s useful to understand what you’re doing when you’re trying to make your home and workplace safe. By understanding these definitions, you can use different cleaning and disinfecting products more effectively and allocate your sanitizing efforts and resources where they matter the most.
What are your tips for keeping your home or workplace sanitized?
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