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Disinfection vs Cleaning: The Difference is Key

Disinfection has become paramount in keeping our communities functioning during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, disinfection does not diminish the importance of cleaning itself. To provide the most effective service to our customers, we train our team on the differences between disinfection and cleaning.


Cleaning is the act of removing dirt, germs and other unwanted substances from surfaces. While cleaning itself may not kill germs, it can lower the risk of spreading infection by limiting germs on the surfaces we touch. Examples of cleaning are dusting, vacuuming and wiping of surfaces with an all purpose cleaner. All purpose cleaners, like Frontline’s HP 360, do kill many bacteria and viruses as well.


Disinfection may also be referred to as sanitization. This process requires the use of a chemical capable of killing germs on surfaces. Depending on the method of disinfection, the process may not actually clean dirty surfaces. An example would be electrostatic disinfection where a fine, electrically charged mist is sprayed onto surfaces without ever actually touching them with a hand or cloth. This process will not remove dust or dirt by itself, but will kill any bacteria or viruses on surfaces.

The best option for any space is always a combination of both cleaning and sanitization. This can be done 2 ways. First, by cleaning surfaces before applying a disinfectant. Second, by completing both tasks simultaneously using a product such as Virex, which both cleans and disinfects surfaces. This method is best for saving time, but be sure to allow the chemical dwell time to kill germs and virus before wiping surfaces clean.

Dwell Time

Dwell time is the amount of time a disinfectant must be left on a surface to effectively kill pathogens. Check the label of your preferred disinfectant for tips on how long it should be left on surfaces before wiping dry. Different pathogens may require differing dwell times.

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