In these times of the Covid-19 global pandemic, terms such as sanitation and disinfection have become typical pronouncements in everyday life and mainstream media. They are usually referred to in terms of handwashing or contacted surfaces. It is paramount to highlight that while the terms are used interchangeably, they are fundamentally different. The two techniques use different products and are applied in different scenarios.
Importance of Knowing the Difference
Understanding the difference between sanitation vs disinfection helps make sound decisions on products’ choice to use on various surfaces. For instance, sanitizing a table surface will not require harsh chemicals such as those needed for disinfecting toilets. To sanitize surfaces, the CDC recommends that you clean them first with soap and water, then apply a solution of one tablespoon chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. On the other hand, for disinfection, the same organization recommends the use of household bleach solutions. To ensure effectiveness, the surface should remain wet for a few minutes to ensure pathogens are destroyed.
The Difference Between Sanitizers and Disinfectants
Since sanitation vs disinfection processes are sometimes synonymized, it is paramount to highlight the difference between them. Sanitizers are used to lower the number of pathogens on surfaces to acceptable levels. Levels that are considered acceptable vary depending on the public health standards or the hygiene policy at your workplace or institution. For instance, there are sanitizing procedures recommended for restaurants and other outlets that prepare food. On the other hand, disinfecting refers to using chemicals to destroy pathogens on surfaces and objects. Most disinfecting solutions are based on alcohol or bleach.
Why is Disinfection so Crucial for Everyone?
In these times of the Covid-19 global pandemic, it is essential to ensure that surfaces are disinfected. It is because disinfectants are the only EPA-approved products that kill viruses on hard surfaces. The difference between EPA- approved sanitation vs disinfections are that the former only kills bacteria. In contrast, the latter kills both bacteria and viruses.
When Should You Sanitize, and When Should You Disinfect?
The Covid-19 pandemic triggered an exponential rise in the number of people who are buying sanitizers and disinfectants. With this in mind, it is vital to understand when to sanitize and when to disinfect. Sanitization should be applied on surfaces such as countertops that are used in food preparation. It is because the process does not leave behind potentially harmful chemical residues. Sanitization is also best for hands, as it does not damage the skin.
On the other hand, disinfection should be used to deal with bigger messes or high contact areas of your home, such as doorknobs, sinks, and toilet handles. While wiping your hands with a disinfectant once they get in contact on other surfaces may be tempting, it should not be done. Disinfectants are chemically harsh on the skin and can result in the development of blistering rash.
How Can You Safely Sanitize and Disinfect?
Sanitizing and disinfecting your home or workplace surfaces regularly is necessary. However, it is vital to understand how the processes can be done safely to obtain the best results. Safe procedures are also crucial, considering that sanitizers and disinfectants are chemical substances, and misuse may be hazardous to health.
How to Sanitize
With the current global pandemic, sanitization of surfaces has become a joint operation in homes. To obtain results, it is paramount that you understand how to do the process correctly. First and foremost, the surfaces to be sanitized should be cleaned of all dirt and foreign particles. These tend to interfere with the sanitizer by reducing the contact surface area or reducing its chemical effectiveness.
Afterward, the application method to be used is dependent on the kind of surface to be sanitized. For surfaces such as countertops, you can spray the sanitizer onto them and wipe them off with a clean cloth afterward. However, for electronic gadgets such as laptops, it’s a different scenario. These contain complex electronic circuits that can be compromised by being in contact with liquid substances. The best approach would be to apply the sanitizer on a clean cloth and wipe them with it.
Finally, it is also essential to always read the manufacturer’s packaging labels to check if there are any additional guidelines provided about the use of that particular brand.
How to Disinfect
Disinfection is a procedure that should be done carefully since it involves the use of harsh chemicals. Firstly, it is paramount to ensure that you wear appropriate protective gear when dealing with contaminated surfaces during disinfection procedures. It is vital for the personnel’s health, mainly if the area to be disinfected is a hazard, such as Covid-19 quarantine centers. Also, the surfaces to be disinfected should be thoroughly cleaned to ensure that there are no substances or particles that may interfere with the disinfectant’s action.
The disinfectant should also be adequately concentrated to ensure that it is potent enough to destroy pathogens. It is also paramount that you ensure that the disinfectant is at the optimal application temperature for better results. The optimal concentration and temperature are usually specified on the product label by the manufacturer.
After application, you should ensure that the disinfectant should remain in contact with the surfaces for a particular period to enable the penetration of all the cell walls and deactivation. This interval is known as the dwell time. Adequate dwell time affords the disinfectant a maximum interval to kill pathogens. On the other hand, insufficient time will not produce the required results. It is important to note that the temperature, concentration, and exposure periods for every disinfectant brand vary. Therefore, it is vital to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations, usually highlighted on the packaging or material safety information sheets. However, general practice is to allow the wet, disinfected area to air dry. It is also critical to note that chemical disinfectants should not be mixed with other detergents, compromising their chemical properties. Furthermore, such mixtures can create hazardous fumes.
Why Is It Important to Clean Your Hands?
Cleaning your hands is one of the most effective ways to guard yourself and your loved ones from contracting illnesses. Hand washing helps you keep healthy and prevent the spread of diarrheal and respiratory infections such as Covid-19. It is because pathogens can spread to other individuals and surfaces when one
- Touches the eyes, noses, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cough or sneeze into your hands, then come into contact with other people’s hands or surfaces.
- Prepare, serve, or eat food using unclean hands.
- Come into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
For these reasons, it is vital to clean your hands frequently with soap and water while scrubbing the palms, back of hands, in-depth, and underneath the fingernails. It is paramount to lather for at least 20 seconds or even more, and dry your hands with a clean cloth or air dry them.
Hand washing also helps fight against antibiotic resistance. Regularly cleaning your hands can prevent about 20% of respiratory infections and 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses. The prevention of these sicknesses reduces the number of antibiotics that individuals use. Therefore, it also reduces the chances that antibiotic resistance will develop. Reducing the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics helps minimize their overuse – which is the leading factor in antibiotic resistance across the globe. Furthermore, cleaning your hands also helps people avoid getting ill from pathogens that are already resistant to antibiotics and difficult to treat.
Generally, it is recommended that you wash your hands after visiting the toilet, eating, visiting public places, handling garbage, caring for a sick person, and being involved in similar activities. Adopting such a regular hand washing culture will go a long way in protecting both you and those around you.
Despite being fundamentally different, sanitation vs disinfection has been used interchangeably of late. In these challenging times caused by the coronavirus, it is paramount that people adhere to strict hygiene practices. It will help prevent the spread of the disease and hasten the return of normalcy. Sanitation vs disinfection rank amongst the most effective methods for disease control. However, before implementing them, it is essential to understand the difference between the two. It is also vital to know the circumstances when it is best to use one or the other. It is critical for obtaining the best results. Users of the sanitizers and disinfectants should also understand that every brand is different. Therefore, it is critical to read the specifications on the label or manufacturer’s datasheet if they are other recommendations or safety precautions.
Then also, there are other hygienic practices such as hand washing that are crucial. Regular cleaning of hands is crucial for the prevention of Covid-19, but it also helps guard against diarrheal diseases. Individuals are continuously encouraged to consider sanitation vs disinfection options for their home or workplace hygiene policies. It will go a long way in ensuring that you operate in a safe environment, critical for your total well-being.