Sanitizing is essential to reduce the risk of disease. The practice has become more significant since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Besides sanitization, you might also often hear about cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing. Those are also important. So, what is sanitizing anyway? How is it different from cleaning and disinfecting?
The most basic level is cleaning, which refers to removing dirt from a surface. This dirt is usually just dust or other debris. Some bits of bacteria and other pathogens may also go away after cleaning, but usually it is just a small amount of them. Most of the time, cleaning is beneficial to remove possible diseases and air pollutants.
There is no specific protocol for cleaning. Even a simple sweeping or mopping can count as cleaning. Sometimes people use soap in the process, but there are no special criteria for the required solution. Cleaning is necessary to perform every day, or at least every time there is dirt on surfaces.
Sanitizing, on the other hand, takes more effort than regular cleaning. The goal is to reduce the number of pathogens or other elements that could increase the risk of spreading diseases. The word “sanitizing” usually applies to things that go into people’s mouths, such as food, baby toys, and hands.
People also use the term to refer to the germ-removing actions that require a short dwell time for the solution to finish its job. That is why the agents that count as “sanitizers” are usually cleaning products that can remove most of the pathogens on a surface in less than 30 seconds. Some solutions that people use as sanitizers are alcohol rub, alcohol spray, and bleach mix in low concentration.
Disinfecting refers to the effort of removing dirt and eliminating ill-causing germs from stuff. The word usually applies to things that need advanced cleaning. After the COVID-19 outbreak, it is common for people to disinfect things that many people touch often, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, and other things in public facilities.
People use stronger chemicals to disinfect, and they can be harmful if exposed directly to skin or eyes. Hence, you need some sort of protective wear such as gloves and goggles to prevent harm. The dwell time for disinfection is usually more than two minutes. Common liquids that people use as disinfectants are bleach in high concentration, hydrogen peroxide, and more.
The highest level of cleaning is sterilizing. In this process, the aim is to remove 100% of dirt and microorganisms, even the good bacteria. Sterilizing is intended to eliminate any form of contaminant.
Sterilization is a common practice in healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and doctor’s clinics. It is vital not only to prevent disease transmission but also because of the risk of complication and contamination. The procedure and the tools required for this process are quite complicated.
Of all the practices above, sanitizing is what most people should focus on most. It is simple and quick to do, but the impact could be significant. Performing sanitization as often as possible could drastically minimize the transmission of disease carried by viruses or bacteria.