Even though many people use cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization interchangeably, these three concepts are distinct, and cover different aspects of infection control. But what are the specific differences and why do they matter?

This is the question that we’ll be addressing in this article.

Understanding What Cleaning Is

Cleaning is most commonly seen as the process of getting rid of visible debris and dirt from surfaces. For example, sweeping your floor and getting rid of the dust and dirt is considered cleaning.

Two main factors go into effective cleaning—the right cleaning product and friction. The right cleaning product—like a glass cleaner—will make sure the surface is free from any dirt, and friction can be achieved through motions like scrubbing or wiping while using the correct tools.

A Deeper Look Into Disinfection

Disinfection is a deeper and more rigorous form of cleaning. This includes the removal of microorganisms or unwanted contaminants that can’t be seen by the naked eye—and are often dangerous to our health. These include pathogens and allergens.

There are several different kinds of disinfectants that can be used, depending on what you’re getting rid of. The most commonly used agent is hypochlorite or chlorine bleach. This solution can effectively kill bacteria and viruses that lead to diseases like hepatitis B and C.A woman in green cleaning a painting in a home office.

What Is Sterilization?

Even though disinfection is effective for killing most kinds of contaminants and harmful microorganisms, it can’t kill all of them. For complete decontamination in places where there’s a high concentration of contaminants and harmful pathogens can be found—for example, hospitals—sterilization is used to completely eliminate health risk.

Sterilization kills all forms of viruses, fungi, bacteria, and spores. Sterilization is used in dental clinics, emergency bays, and surgery rooms to maintain a hygienic environment.


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