Nicki & Karen

Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: Staying Safe in your Home

Nicki & Karen » June 8, 2020

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sanitizing and disinfectant products

While COVID-19 is ongoing, it’s important that you take steps to clean your home and stay safe until a vaccine is available. Many homeowners focus primarily on cleaning with soap and nothing else. While cleaning with soap shouldn’t be the only step that you take to rid your home of germs, it can be useful when you clean with soap before using a disinfectant. Keep in mind that dirt and certain organic material can cause disinfectants to be less effective, which can be problematic when you want to get rid of all of the germs in your home.

As such, cleaning is essential before you disinfect. Even antibacterial cleaners aren’t wholly effective unless you have first removed any visible dirt from the base surface. While cleaning with soap is helpful to remove dirt from your home, it isn’t enough to get rid of germs, which is why you should consider both sanitizing and disinfecting. Even though many websites will use sanitizing and disinfecting interchangeably, they are two separate terms with slightly different definitions that you should be aware of.

Sanitizing involves killing 99.9 percent of all germs within 30 seconds, which makes this solution highly effective. On the other hand, disinfection is a stronger solution that kills 100 percent of germs and is able to kill bacteria and viruses. The only downside to disinfection is that the process takes longer to complete. This article offers a closer look at the differences between sanitizing and disinfecting your home.

When To Sanitize Your Home

woman cleaning with mask

There are plenty of times when you should sanitize your home to get rid of 99.9 percent of germs. While disinfection is sometimes needed, it isn’t always the only acceptable solution when cleaning your home. Sanitizing is great when you want to clean kitchen surfaces that have come into contact with food. The sanitizing spray that you use will make the surfaces safe to touch once more. When you use a sanitizer, you should expect to get rid of 99.9 percent of bacteria in around 30 seconds, which makes this a fast-acting solution.

It’s also highly recommended that you use a hand sanitizer when washing your hands after you have been cleaning around the home or have been outside. In the event that your hands are dirty, you should use soap and water to wash your hands and get rid of any dirt and germs that have accumulated. On the other hand, hand sanitizer is effective if you find that your hands aren’t dirty. This sanitizer should consist of at least 60 percent alcohol, which should get rid of any bacteria and viruses on the skin.

When To Use A Disinfectant in Your Home

cleaning spray with gloves

While sanitizing can be effective when you want to kill most germs, disinfectants are considered to be even stronger and can be used for a variety of different situations. If you’re looking to remove every contaminant on a hard surface, a disinfectant is what you should use. This substance is also highly effective at getting rid of bodily fluids and the bacteria contained within, which can be important if someone has recently sneezed in an area of the home. If you believe that your skin has been exposed to the virus, a disinfectant can be helpful at stopping the virus in its tracks.

It’s also important to note that hospitals are required to disinfect rather than sanitize to make sure that every germ is killed. While it can take upwards of 10 minutes for a disinfectant to activate and kill off all germs, hospitals understand the importance of getting rid of 100 percent of germs despite the fact that it takes longer than a sanitizer.

If you’re looking to create your own disinfectant, likely the best solution involves using bleach, which is a solution that’s recommended by the CDC. To create this solution, you can either use five tablespoons of bleach for every gallon of water or four teaspoons of bleach for every quart of water. Keep in mind that five tablespoons equate to 1/3 cup. Once you have created this type of solution, it’s important that you use it within 24 hours for it to be as effective as possible.

When you’re about to disinfect your home, many of the disinfectant products that can be purchased at a grocery store or supermarket recommend that surfaces are kept wet for a certain period of time and that you should wear gloves and have the appropriate amount of ventilation when using the disinfectant in question. Even if you make your own disinfectant, you should still adhere to these guidelines. If you have purchased a disinfectant in the past, make sure that the product isn’t past its expiration date, which can lessen the efficacy of the product. There are also certain bleaches that shouldn’t be used for disinfection purposes, which include bleach that’s used for whitening.

If the household bleach solution that you create has recently been made and has yet to expire, it should be effective at getting rid of all viruses, which include coronaviruses. Make sure that you don’t accidentally combine ammonia and bleach when making your own disinfectant. Once the solution has been applied to the surface in question, it’s important that the solution remains on the surface for at least one minute. These solutions will be effective for the purpose of disinfecting surfaces for at least 24 hours.

If you decide to use an alcohol-based solution, any solution that has an alcohol content of at least 70 percent can also be used. When you’re disinfecting surfaces in high-traffic areas, ready-to-use wipes are ideal. The EPA-approved disinfectants that are able to kill COVID-19 on surfaces include everything from citric acid to hydrochloric acid. You can find a full list of EPA-approved disinfectants for COVID-19 at this link. At the moment, there are more than 400 products that the EPA believes are able to be used as disinfectants for COVID-19.

How to Disinfect Different Types of Household Surfaces

person disinfecting laptop

When you’re attempting to disinfect various surfaces around your home, different surfaces require different disinfection guidelines. If you’re disinfecting soft surfaces like upholstery and carpets, make sure that you first clean the surface with a simple combination of soap and water. You can also use certain cleaners that have been deemed effective at cleaning specific surfaces like drapes or rugs. When placing these items into a washer/dryer, it’s important that you use the warmest setting for the water before you dry the items completely.

On the other hand, you could also disinfect soft surfaces by using a household disinfectant that has been registered with the EPA, all of which are listed here. For leather upholstery, you can vacuum any crevices and dust with a relatively soft cloth that has been slightly dampened with soap and water. When you’re disinfecting a carpet in your home, you should finish by vacuuming the surface.

You’ll also want to disinfect electronics when possible. Consider placing a wipeable cover on some of your electronics to keep germs away from the screen and make it easier to disinfect the device. The manufacturer of the device should also provide instructions for how to clean and disinfect the item. If you can’t find these instructions, make sure that you use a disinfectant or similar solution that contains at least 70 percent alcohol content. The surface should then be dried completely.

When you’re getting ready to do the laundry, there are several things you should know about properly cleaning these items. As mentioned previously, only use the warmest settings for water before drying the items completely. If you are handling dirty laundry that comes from an individual who is sick with the flu or COVID-19, it’s important that you wear disposable gloves. Keep in mind that it’s perfectly safe to wash this laundry with other clothing and items.

Make sure that you avoid shaking any dirty laundry, which could cause some of the contaminants to loosen and spread throughout the air. The hamper that you place your dirty clothes in should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Once you are finished handling the laundry, throw away the disposable gloves before washing your hands thoroughly.

What You Should Know Before You Sanitize Or Disinfect Your Home

person using hand sanitizer

Before you start to sanitize or disinfect your home, there are several things that you should keep in mind. For one, too much disinfecting and sanitizing can actually be harmful and may lead to you being exposed to bacteria or viruses. The EPA has stated that using too many disinfectants can lead to the creation of microbes that are able to mutate into germs that are wholly resistant to the disinfectant that you’ve been using. These germs are notably more difficult to kill with standard antibacterial cleaners. Instead of using disinfectants constantly, it’s recommended that you use them only when absolutely necessary.

It’s also important that you wash your hands thoroughly and often. When washing your hands, you should do so with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t readily available, a hand sanitizer with an alcohol content of at least 60 percent can be an effective alternative. Before you have washed your hands, make sure that you avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose. Some of the many instances when you should consider washing your hands include:

  • After you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After you come into contact with pets and animals
  • Before you prepare or eat food

While it’s always important to clean and disinfect your home to keep germs away, you should be particularly vigilant while COVID-19 is ongoing. As long as you take the appropriate precautions, you should be able to avoid being affected by this particular virus. No matter what type of home you own, it’s important that you clean and disinfect every room in the property as needed. With these tips and guidelines in mind, you should be able to destroy any germs, bacteria, and viruses that get into your home.

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