The Difference between Cleaning and Disinfecting: How to Disinfect Your Home

Disinfection Services - ServiceMaster in Houston, TX

To prevent the spread of germs, viruses, and diseases, it is important to clean, disinfect, and sanitize, but these things are not all created equal. While they are all helpful in keeping us healthy and safe, one should know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting and which products are best to use for each.

The difference between cleaning and disinfecting is that cleaning simply removes germs, dirt, and dust from surfaces and objects while disinfection kills germs. Sanitizing simply lowers the amount of germs on surfaces to a level considered safe by public health requirements.

Below are more details regarding cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing:

  • Cleaning: Involves using soap (or detergent) and water to remove germs, dirt, and debris from surfaces. This doesn’t kill germs; it simply removes them.
  • Disinfecting: Involves using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces but doesn’t remove them or clean dirty surfaces.
  • Sanitizing: Involves using either low-grade chemicals or soap to lower the number of germs on surfaces.

In terms of preventing the spread of dangerous diseases like COVID-19, MRSA, E. Coli, Norovirus, H1N1 and more, disinfection is the best option. But even after germs are killed, they don’t simply disappear. They need to be cleaned and removed from the surface. This way, viruses and germs are completely killed and removed.

When cleaning and disinfecting your home, here are some other tips to keep in mind.

coronavirus cleaning tips

1. Clean high-touch surfaces often

When cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, each type of surface will vary for every home, but typically include the following:

  • Desks
  • Countertops
  • Computer mice
  • Keyboards
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Light switches
  • Door handles
  • Car handles
  • Stair railings
  • Kitchen and dining room tables
  • Video game controllers
  • Cell phones
  • Faucet handles

It’s always a good idea to disinfect these surfaces once in a while, but if there’s someone living in the house who’s sick, it’s especially important to clean and disinfect more than once a day. If any surfaces contain bodily fluids or blood, be sure to use gloves and a mask for protection. Also be sure to clean up any spills, followed by cleaning and disinfecting the area.

2. Clean and disinfect properly

covid-19Before using any cleaning or disinfecting product, always read the directions on the label. To kill household germs, use an EPA-registered disinfectant. Read the label carefully to make sure it’s effective against specific viruses like COVID-19. Finish by cleaning the area to remove the remaining germs.

To make the process more efficient, there are dual EPA-registered products that will both clean and disinfect surfaces to kill and remove germs. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully as different products will involve multiple and separate procedures. It’s also important to remember that the disinfection process usually requires a standing time of 3 – 5 minutes to be fully effective.

For phones, computers, and other electronics, use disinfecting wipes, but be sure to read the label first before using them. They may say the wipe must remain on the surface to keep it wet and allow the disinfection process to be fully effective. Just be careful with electronics that can only withstand the condition of being wet for a few minutes.

3. Use products safely

When cleaning and disinfecting, many products can be hazardous to one’s health, especially when not using PPE (personal protective equipment). Again, be sure to read all product labels before cleaning or disinfecting. A common example is always using gloves when handling bleach solutions.

Never mix any cleaners or products unless the directions say it is safe to do so. But keep in mind that powerful cleaners like ammonia and bleach can lead to serious injury or even death when combined.

If others are cleaning the house as well, make sure they also know to read the labels carefully so they know how to use the product properly to avoid accidents and clean and disinfect surfaces safely.

4. Properly handle waste

When throwing away waste and contaminated items, like masks and gloves, avoid touching the outside when possible. Before starting the cleaning and disinfecting process, keep the garbage can out in an easy-to-reach space so you don’t need to open any cabinets or doors to reach them. Also, when taking out the garbage, avoid touching any used tissues or other used items in the garbage. And of course, always wash your hands after any cleaning and disinfection project as well as after taking out the garbage.


To summarize each of the cleaning tips above, know that cleaning only removes germs from surfaces while disinfection kills them. Sanitizing only lowers the amount of germs on the surface. When cleaning the home, make sure to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces likes desks, countertops, tables, and electronics. Cleaning these surfaces at least twice a day is especially important if someone in the home is sick. Be sure to read the product labels carefully and to never mix any powerful cleaners like bleach and ammonia. Finally, keep the garbage in an easy to reach space, avoid touching contaminated items in the garbage when done, and always wash your hands after any cleaning project.

Hire a Disinfection and Cleaning Service

Disinfection ServicesAvailable to residents and businesses in the Houston, TX area, ServiceMaster Restoration and Cleaning provides cleaning and disinfection services to prevent the spread of dangerous infections and diseases like COVID-19. If you feel like a professional clean and disinfection is the best way to keep germs and viruses at bay, our team of IICRC-certified, trained, and experienced technicians are ready to help.

Our professionals use both advanced equipment and products to neutralize airborne viral particles while cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, including light switches, desks, countertops, chairs, bathroom fixtures and much more. We will also decontaminate the home or building with a broad-spectrum biocide used to fog the property and eliminate bacteria and viruses.

With our services, you can be sure your home or building is properly cleaned and safe to use, especially after exposure to infectious diseases.

Contact Us

For more about our disinfection and cleaning services in the Houston, TX area, contact ServiceMaster Restoration and Cleaning at 800-303-5844.