If no one’s told you yet, you shouldn’t be using disinfectant wipes on your hands. But why? Shouldn’t disinfect wipes work as a hand sanitizer? Don’t they both kill harmful bacteria? Sanitize vs disinfect — aren’t they basically the same thing? While we do know that disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer are both good for eliminating bacteria on surfaces, they aren’t necessarily used in place of one another. 

It isn’t just about their intended usage, either. Meaning hand sanitizer is for human use on our skin, and disinfecting wipes should be used on surfaces. The real heart of the matter is what they do. Many people assume that sanitizers and disinfectants can be and should be used interchangeably. This isn’t the case, and each one can work for different situations.  In this article, we’ll go over the differences between the two terms, What cleaning products are considered what, as well as when you should use both.


sanitize vs disinfect products


Sanitize vs Disinfect

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three levels of cleanliness. These are cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. All three have varying definitions and uses. Let’s take a look at each one individually to get a better idea of when and where we should be using them.


With cleaning, you’re removing germs and dirt from the surface. However, cleaning does not kill the germs, dirt, and other impurities. This means, if you are wiping away germs and dirt, they will often be left on whatever material you’re using to wipe them away. This can be a cloth or paper towel. Though, the surface itself may be free of the germs and/or dirt.

Bottom line: cleaning removes visible dust and debris.


Germs and bacteria are all around us. With sanitizing, you are effectively lowering the numbers of germs and bacteria on a surface or object. This can mean either you are killing them or removing them. However, the distinguishing factor between sanitizing and removing is that you’re only eliminating them to a safer level, not completely.

Bottom line: sanitizing a surface makes it free of visible dirt contaminants that could affect a person’s health condition.


The most effective method for reducing the spread of harmful germs, bacteria, and viruses, is with disinfecting. This method kills and removes all traces of these known impurities. It is the highest level of the clean available outside of sterilization, which kills all microorganisms.

Bottom line: disinfection kills all microscopic organisms that may be listed on a product’s label.


What is considered a cleaning product?

Simply put, cleaning products are substances or a mixture of substances that are intended to eliminate an inanimate material such as dirt, debris, with possible germ-killing abilities. What a cleaning product does will depend significantly on the product label, and it’s intended purpose. Some have claims of killing up to 99.9% of viruses, while others are simply made for picking up dirt.


cleaning products


When do you clean?

While knowing what cleaning products to use is important, cleaning at regular intervals is too. Sticking to a regular schedule for cleaning can help provide some relief against spreading germs and bacteria. While cleaning every day is certainly the best thing you can do, it isn’t always practical for everyone’s schedule. Keeping to once a week doing a deep cleaning using disinfecting materials such as wipes, sprays, or other products is an excellent idea.


What is considered a sanitizer?

To get really technical, a sanitizer is technically defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, as a chemical that can kill 99.9% of germs on hard surfaces. That may seem like an excellent amount, but it does not compare to disinfectants. Sanitizers are great for hand usage and can kill most harmful bacteria on contact.


hand sanitizer


When do you sanitize?

Sanitizing is acceptable in most situations. It is what we do with our hands, and in general, prevents the spread of most viruses or bacterial infections. You can sanitize most hard surfaces, including toys, countertops, bathroom fixtures, and more. Hand sanitizers are an excellent way to eliminate most harmful contaminants from your skin as well as spreading them to other surfaces. 


What is considered a disinfectant?

Disinfectants are much stronger, and when used properly, can kill 99.999% on non-porous surfaces. Disinfectants can become sanitizing solutions if they are diluted enough. An excellent example of this would be bleach. And it’s concentrated form is strong enough to be labeled a disinfectant. However, once it’s diluted past a certain point, it becomes a sanitizer. Bug Guys Pest Control uses disinfectants in our virus protection plan to give customers a higher degree of cleaning versus sanitization. We use EPA-approved products that are proven effective at killing viruses, including COVID-19.


disinfectant spray product


When do you disinfect?

Disinfecting can be done, and most of the same places that are sanitizing are but will be especially helpful in places where food is concerned. Disinfecting kitchen surfaces, including the countertops, faucets, sink, stove, and more, is an excellent way to stop the transmission of foodborne illnesses and or cross-contamination. Likewise, in the commercial setting such as restaurants, disinfecting is a must in the kitchen area.



Keeping your home, car, and office clean is not only good for its appearance but can also stop the spread of certain contaminants. When done routinely, the chore for keeping areas clean is less troublesome and takes less time. After reading this article, you should have a firm understanding of when to sanitize and when to disinfect—knowing the difference between when to sanitize and disinfect can help you determine which cleaning products will work for your needs.

Remember to read the label to understand the proper usage for whatever product you are using. You should also not mix certain chemical cleaners, including bleach and ammonia. Mixing these chemicals won’t provide added cleaning power, but can be harmful to your health. 

For those that are looking for an excellent start to disinfecting their homes, protecting against certain viruses such as the Coronavirus in a safe manner, Bug Guys Pest Control offers virus protection plans throughout the Coachella Valley. Contact us today by visiting us online by clicking here or giving us a call at 442-227-8409.