Coronavirus – The difference between cleaning and disinfecting


We’re now facing our second lockdown of the year and it is now more important than ever to ensure you are not only safe when you are out and about, but also safe in your own home and workplace. Whether you are maintaining a house, school, hospital, office, or any other facility – deep cleaning and disinfecting is an important part of your maintenance routine. Keeping your facility clean will not only reduce the spread of illness but it will also enhance your facility’s overall appearance.

Cleaning and disinfecting is the best way to reduce the spread of germs throughout hard surfaces in your facility.

Are you unsure if you should be using a cleaner or disinfectant? If you are disinfecting, you should be using both.

Top Tip: You can clean without disinfecting, but you cannot disinfect without cleaning. If you are cleaning and do not need to kill and remove germs, then you do not need to disinfect. If you are looking to kill germs on a surface, you need to disinfect after cleaning.

Cleaning and disinfecting are two different procedures that should be used together to remove and kill germs.

Always Clean Before you Disinfect

It is important to clean or remove any visible soils before disinfecting. Cleaning removes loose soils, preparing the surface or object to be disinfected.

Disinfecting kills germs on the surface, preventing them from spreading. If a surface is not cleaned first, germs can hide under soils and reduce the efficacy of the disinfectant.

What Areas Should be Disinfected?

Depending on your facility and industry, different areas within your building will have different protocols on if they should be cleaned or cleaned and disinfected.

High-touch points should always be disinfected. Depending on the surface and facility, you may have to disinfect high-touch surfaces several times a day.

High-touch areas include:



Light Switches

Soap Dispensers

Chair Handles


What is Cleaning?

Cleaning is the process of physically removing germs, dirt, and other impurities from surfaces.

To clean a surface, use an all-purpose cleaning agent and a microfibre cloth to lift soils away.

Cleaning only removes germs and soils from the surface. It does not kill them. Germs that were not removed will continue reproducing and spreading.

What is Disinfecting?

Disinfecting kills germs.

Disinfectants do not clean soils from surfaces.

Disinfectants need to be used after cleaning agents because they can not break through soils on surfaces.

Top Tip: If you are using a disinfectant to clean soils such as a spilt drink or leftover food stains, you are not effectively removing the soils.

Trying to clean with a disinfectant will leave you with a sticky and smelly surface after the disinfectant dries.

How effective are disinfectants?

Disinfectants kill 100% of germs listed on the manufacturer’s data when used properly.

For a disinfectant to be effective, it must dwell for the recommended dwell time.

The average dwell time for a disinfectant will vary by the disinfectant type and organisms you trying to kill. Hospitals will likely require a higher (hospital) grade disinfectant.

Disinfectants which do not remain wet for the recommended dwell time do not kill as many germs and are considered ineffective.

Top Tip: What is Dwell Time?

Dwell time is the amount of time a disinfectant needs to remain wet on a surface to effectively disinfect (kill the organisms that are listed on it’s label) the surface.

Different commercial cleaning chemicals require different dwell times based on the EPA registration and contact time required for each organism. Commercial cleaning products which are not used with the proper dwell time and removal process are not effectively disinfecting and are not meeting EPA requirements.

Surfaces that are not properly disinfected increase the chance of spreading germs and causing illness throughout your facility.

If you would like more information on how to properly disinfect or if you would like the stress of this taken away by using one of our fully insured and vetted domestic cleaners, call us now for a free quote! We would be happy to help. Call on 07889 689 718 or email us at

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