Back to the Basics 101: Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting - Know the Difference

Back to the Basics 101: Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting - Know the Difference

In our everyday lives, especially post-pandemic, the terms "sanitizing" and "disinfecting" have become part of our regular vocabulary. But do we really know the difference between the two? Understanding the distinct roles of sanitizing and disinfecting is crucial for maintaining a healthy and safe environment. At SONO Wipes, we believe in providing you with the knowledge to make informed choices for your cleaning needs.

What is Sanitizing?

Sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of germs on surfaces or skin to a safe level, as determined by public health standards. This process doesn't necessarily kill all germs, but it does lower their numbers to a safe level, thereby reducing the risk of infection.

Sanitizing is typically used for:

  • Hands: Hand sanitizers are formulated to quickly reduce the number of germs on your hands. They're convenient, especially when soap and water are not available. These products often contain alcohol, which effectively reduces the presence of bacteria and viruses.
  • Food Contact Surfaces: In kitchens, sanitizing is essential to ensure that surfaces like countertops, cutting boards, and utensils are safe to use without spreading harmful bacteria. Food safety is a significant concern, and using sanitizers helps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

What is Disinfecting?

Disinfecting, on the other hand, is a more intensive process. It involves using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. Disinfecting doesn't necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting is typically used for:

  • Hard Surfaces: This includes areas like doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, light switches, and other high-touch surfaces where germs can easily spread. In environments with multiple occupants or high traffic, these surfaces can harbor a significant number of pathogens.
  • Healthcare Settings: In environments where the risk of infection is high, such as hospitals and clinics, disinfecting surfaces is crucial to prevent the spread of diseases. Medical equipment, patient rooms, and waiting areas must be regularly disinfected to ensure safety.

Why the Difference Matters

The distinction between sanitizing and disinfecting is essential for effective cleaning. Using the wrong method can leave you vulnerable to germs and potential infections. For instance, while hand sanitizers are great for quick germ reduction on hands, they are not suitable for cleaning surfaces. Conversely, disinfectants used on hands can cause irritation and are not designed for skin use.

The Science Behind Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Understanding the science behind these processes helps to highlight their importance. Sanitizers typically work by reducing microbial load through physical removal and/or chemical action. Common active ingredients include alcohol, which disrupts the cell membranes of microbes, causing them to die.

Disinfectants, on the other hand, contain more potent chemicals like bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or quaternary ammonium compounds. These substances are designed to kill a broader spectrum of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, by denaturing their proteins and destroying their cellular structures.

Choosing the Right Products

At SONO Supplies, we offer a range of products designed for both sanitizing and disinfecting needs:

  • Hand Sanitizers: Our hand sanitizers are formulated to be gentle on the skin while effectively reducing germs. They contain moisturizing agents to prevent skin dryness and irritation, making them suitable for frequent use.
  • Disinfecting Wipes: Ideal for hard surfaces, our disinfecting wipes are perfect for ensuring your environment is free from harmful pathogens. These wipes are pre-saturated with disinfectant solution, making them convenient and easy to use.

Best Practices

  • For Hands: Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content when soap and water are not available. Apply enough product to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • For Surfaces: Clean visibly dirty surfaces with soap and water before applying disinfectant to ensure maximum efficacy. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on the disinfectant label to ensure proper use, including contact time, which is the amount of time the surface should remain wet with the disinfectant.

Combining Efforts for Maximum Safety

For optimal hygiene, it's often best to combine both sanitizing and disinfecting practices. For example, regularly sanitize your hands and high-touch personal items like smartphones, while disinfecting shared surfaces in your home or workplace.


Knowing the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting can help you maintain a healthier environment, whether at home or in the workplace. At SONO Supplies, we're here to provide you with top-quality products and expert advice to meet your cleaning needs.

Stay informed, stay safe, and choose the right products for your specific needs. Visit SONO Supplies to explore our full range of sanitizing and disinfecting solutions.

For more insights and tips on maintaining a clean and healthy environment, stay tuned to our blog. Next week, we'll dive into the top 5 disinfecting practices for a germ-free home!

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