You’re cleaning up after dinner. Scattering the counter is your family’s dishes, used napkins, and bits of food that didn’t quite make their intended goal. You load up the dishwasher and throw the napkins and scraps in the trash, then look at back at the countertop. You’ve heard the terms “cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting” throughout your life, but which one should you use right now? Which should you use after your little one was sick, or a play session with toys that spent more time in their mouth than out of it?

Keep reading to learn the differences between the three, and when each should be used.


Cleaning can be great for surfaces that are low risk for germs such as windows and floors. Cleaning products work to remove dirt, dust, soil, and germs but do not actually kill the germs. By working to remove microorganisms, there can be health benefits to cleaning, but not to the extent of sanitizing and disinfecting.


Sanitizers are required to destroy 99.999% of bacteria in 30 seconds. The process kills germs on surfaces to make them safe for contact. Sanitizing is great for your kitchen counter after dinner, or your children’s toys. While sanitizing kills bacteria, it does not eliminate viruses or fungus.


Disinfectants are able to destroy nearly all pathogenic organisms in 10 minutes. The process works great while someone in the family is sick, as it kills nearly all microorganisms. Sterilization takes this process one step further, and uses a stronger formula or longer contact time to eliminate all living microorganisms.

While cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting can all offer you benefits, when to use each is dependent on the level of germ killing required. CleanSmart’s Household Disinfectants and Nursery Care products are now available, all EPA approved to disinfect and kill 99.9% of germs with no rinsing required. You can purchase here.

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