Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

House Cleaning Company Reston VA

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting: What’s the Difference?

Many homeowners might assume that cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting all serve the same purpose: to get rid of germs. However, each task requires different tools and amounts of time while serving distinct cleaning needs. For example, sanitizing and disinfecting target microscopic germs on surfaces where they tend to spread and accumulate—such as toilets and doorknobs—while general cleaning removes visible messes from any surface. Hire a professional house cleaning company to clean, sanitize, and disinfect your home so you can enjoy its benefits without moving a muscle.

The Smart Choice Cleaning team understands how demanding home upkeep can be. Therefore, we offer residents of Reston, VA, a wide array of residential cleaning options, from maid services to tile and grout cleaning and carpet care. We also provide a 100% money-back guarantee to all clients. For a free residential cleaning estimate, call (703) 455-1440 or visit our website today.

Below, we discuss the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting:

What is the Purpose of Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting?

Germs—particularly viruses and bacteria—are everywhere. Some are helpful, like the estimated 100 trillion “good” bacteria in everyone’s stomachs that allow us to digest food and extract nutrients. However, other species can crop up around our homes and make us sick or threaten our health.

These “bad” bacteria are the targets of routine cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting your home. Keeping them at bay helps protect you and your loved ones. Yet thorough, frequent cleaning takes time and effort that some homeowners simply lack. So, hire professional house cleaners to handle the cleaning you cannot and keep your family safe.

Which Surfaces Require Such Care?

The high-traffic zones in your house—doorknobs, handles, bathrooms, and the kitchen—accumulate abundant germs and require cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. However, germs spread! Therefore, less obvious places—countertop corners, light switch covers, and remote controls—are crawling with harmful bacteria and viruses.

For cleaning, it’s best to do too much than not enough. Professional cleaners have the time and energy to meticulously clean your house, catching and disinfecting even the tiniest, darkest nooks and crannies. Given their experience in the field and top-of-the-line products, they can turn your home into a shining and germ-free space in no time.


First, cleaning involves the removal of visible dirt and organic matter from home surfaces, such as countertops and floors. While cleaning may affect germs, they are not the primary target of this process. Cleaning requires soap—or detergent—and water to wash away the food, dust, stains, and other messes common to all homes.

While it does not necessarily kill germs, cleaning can help remove them from the target surface. Yet common cleaning implements—rags, dusters, brooms, and otherwise—often miss microscopic life. Still, cleaning is essential to a home’s overall climate and sanitation. It should occur before sanitizing and disinfecting, as the visible messes it treats often serve as vectors for germs.

Whether you wish to take better care of your home this new year or continue routine maintenance, hire a professional cleaning service to handle the job for you. Their work will give you more time to enjoy the place you call home.


Next, sanitizing revolves around using chemics to kill bacteria. It can reduce the number of germs and pathogenic agents in your home. However, as per the EPA, sanitation products are not designed to kill viruses, a critical segment of disease agents.

Sanitizing involves numerous tasks, such as mopping your floors with chemicals and water, washing dishes in the dishwasher, or wiping down remotes with antibacterial wipes.


House Cleaning Company Reston VA

Finally, disinfecting is the “heavy-duty” option that kills all germs on a target surface, including bacteria and viruses. It requires concentrated chemicals, such as bleach and alcohol solutions, to disinfect areas with high traffic: toilets, sinks, doorknobs, hand railings, light switches, and more. 

The process involves leaving the chemical agent on the target surface for some time to ensure the germs are dead. Disinfecting products can be potent and dangerous, so professionals follow careful steps when using them:

  • Storing products in their original containers or labeling new containers carefully
  • Avoiding a mixture of cleaners and disinfectants unless their labels say it is safe to do so
  • Using gloves when handling the chemical
  • Storing them out of reach of children and pets

Again, professionals clean before disinfecting, as the latter focuses on destroying germs rather than removing blemishes. Put simply: cleaning removes surface-level dirt, sanitizing reduces the number of germs and bacteria, and disinfecting kills and eradicates germs and bacteria.

A House Cleaning Company Like No Other in Reston, VA!

From our residential maid services to our upholstery and oriental rug cleaning, Smart Choice Cleaning is an exceptional house cleaning company. Residents of Reston, VA, can take advantage of both our year-round residential and commercial cleaning services. We guarantee great prices and excellent results every time. If you’re looking for a reliable house cleaning company nearby and want to learn more, contact us at (703) 455-1440.

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