Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing. Yes, There’s a Difference.
If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us, it is how to wash our hands – 20 to 30 seconds with soap and water.
There is no way to forget it since the internet has been clogged up with memes and explainers on the nitty gritty details of a basic part of daily life we all thought we had down pat. Indeed, in 2020, hygiene has gone viral. Even rock band Rage Against the Machine has got in on the action.
As we yearn to get into recovery mode, there’s some other basic info we need to understand better about public health and that includes the proper techniques to clean, disinfect and sanitize surfaces. This is especially true for surfaces in public spaces or work areas where many people interact.
A lot of us would normally use these three terms interchangeably, but it turns out, they are not the same. Being able to accurately define these terms is the first step to making sure they are taking place throughout society.
Cleaning uses soap and water to “remove” germs, such as the coronavirus, from various surfaces. But in removing the germs, cleaning doesn’t kill them.
If you want to hit the virus hard, disinfectants come in handy. Instead of using soap, other chemicals like diluted bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol will kill and eliminate the germs.
And whether you clean or disinfect, each helps sanitize the surfaces or objects because the goal of sanitizing is to lower the number of germs to safe levels.
But, even if we understand those differences, there’s still plenty more we need to know about what products will be effective against coronavirus. Should bleach be used to clean a handrail, and in what quantities? How often should a checkout counter be cleaned in a grocery store? Should we be hoarding Lysol and Swiffers? Or is soap enough? How many happy birthdays does the janitor have to sing when mopping to floor to make sure COVID-19 is gone?
Getting back to these basics are key to getting back to work. Fortunately, there are plenty of other good and well-known sources that are sharing information on this, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and more research is being done daily.
The Food Industry Association also released an interesting and useful guide on its extraordinarily helpful and comprehensive website, which includes a checklist that restaurants can use to make sure they are properly cleaning and disinfecting, as well as a template that managers can use to ensure employees know the correct procedures and are following them.
And, if you’re a huge #avgeek and have 15 minutes, here’s a podcast from Airport Business magazine where Editor Joe Petrie talks with Don Tool, senior vice president with Flagship Facility Services on what they are doing to make sure airports are safe and sanitized for travelers.
For more information on tracking the pandemic, as well as best practices on communications, visit Xenophon’s COVID-19 Crisis Response Team page at: https://xenophonstrategies.com/covid-19-response.
“Getting Back to Work” is an ongoing series on health and safety regarding COVID-19 from Xenophon Strategies, in partnership with Dr. David Hamer, a professor at the Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine with more than 30 years of experience in epidemiological diseases. Through the partnership, Xenophon is working with Dr. Hamer to provide science-based recommendations and guidance on how employers, employees, and families should best respond to and combat the COVID-19 pandemic.