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The differences between disinfecting and cleaning

The differences between disinfecting and cleaning

Hygiene and cleanliness were thrust into the spotlight during the global pandemic. People around the world had to rethink personal hygiene and businesses had to implement additional disinfection measures to protect their employees and customers. Many businesses still sanitise the hands of people who enter their premises and spend time disinfecting exterior and interior surfaces.

However, there are a few differences between disinfecting and cleaning. The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to cleaning as the removal of dirt, impurities and germs from a surface, however, cleaning does not kill germs. The CDC defines disinfecting as the use of chemicals to kill germs, but not necessarily to clean dirty surfaces.

In other words, cleaning may leave a surface looking new and shiny, but it does not necessarily kill germs, bacteria and viruses - it simply removes them. Disinfecting, on the other hand, eliminates bacteria and viruses, but it may not result in a visibly clean surface. Both cleaning and disinfecting are important and should be used in combination with one another.

Important considerations to note about disinfecting

When disinfecting a surface, it is important to remember the dwell time. This is the amount of time that the chemical disinfectant must remain on the surface in order to kill bacteria and viruses before being wiped off or rinsed. Dwell times can vary depending on the chemical used, so look for indications on the bottle. If the dwell time is not met, the disinfectant may not kill all germs and the process could be ineffective.

This can lead to a false sense of security. Businesses should consider hiring a professional contract cleaning company to disinfect and clean their premises properly. Our highly-trained staff members use the correct chemical disinfectants, the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and the right tools for the job. A contract cleaning service is likely to be more thorough and effective than in-house cleaning staff.

Proper disinfecting methods are vital

According to the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), spray-and-wipe methods of disinfection can miss up to 50% of surfaces. Visual inspection of a surface when disinfecting it is not a reliable method of ensuring that the entire surface has been sanitised. Cleaning staff needs to be thorough and careful when spraying chemical disinfectants to ensure an effective result that reaches all of a surface.

These chemicals are usually powerful and contain potentially harmful ingredients. They must be used with care and the appropriate PPE. Ideally, trained professionals should apply disinfectants once a surface has been cleaned thoroughly. Dirt can act as a barrier between viruses and the disinfectant. Professional cleaners will know how to use disinfectants correctly, responsibly and safely. To get an obligation-free assessment or a quote, contact IWESCO today for your professional contact cleaning and disinfecting needs.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.

We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.

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