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Difference between Cleaners and Disinfectants

Difference between Cleaners and Disinfectants


Never in the past had I raised such a question What is the difference between a cleaner and disinfectant?”and i’m sure you would have also not thought much about it.

It was when disinfection was recommended for keeping covid -19 virus at bay that i encountered the usage of the word at a domestic level .

All these days i was happy that i had kept things around me clean and avoided falling ill. So what was i actually doing by cleaning ?

Several questions flashed in my mind and started looking for answers. I have compiled them to share it with you, as it would be of use to all.

What is cleaning?

By definition it is the process by which dust, infectious agents and unwanted materials are removed to keep surfaces clean. Here again infectious material removal happens if soap is used and the cloth used for wiping is effectively able to hold the germs, else only dirt or dust is removed leaving behind germs to survive.

What is a disinfectant, does it kill micro organisms?

A non toxic disinfectant kills micro organisms like fungi, bacteria and virus which are present on hard /non porous surfaces.

How does a disinfectant kill micro organisms?

There are two mechanisms by which micro organisms are killed

1. Destruction of cell wall.

2. Hindering the metabolism of the organism.

Are disinfectants chemicals?

Yes, they are chemicals. Biodegradable and eco-friendly disinfectant cleaner are also available which are better alternatives.

Is using disinfectant safe?

Use of disinfectants within the advised limit with the prescribed precautions should not have issues. But using chlorinated disinfectants like hypo at frequent intervals damages the mucous membrane, its highly irritable.

Can we use disinfectant on dirty surfaces?

No, disinfectants are not effective in killing germs when the surface to be treated has dust or substances like oil grease, food particles etc. on it.

Having got a clear picture on the difference between cleaning and disinfection, my attention turned to digging deep into disinfectants.

Why disinfection is important? There is a lot of stress on it,can we go without it ?

With the prevailing pandemic situation every thing around has to be disinfected to keep away the virus. Going without it would be risky at this point of time specially where the movement of people is high. Common touch points need special attention, common areas like walk ways, storage areas also need disinfection.

Conclusion: Cleaning removes only visible dirt but disinfection removes (kills) micro-organisms.

There are a lot of places that need to be cleaned and then disinfected, at almost frequent intervals to keep away germs. As there is an increase in the frequency of disinfection the need to use a safe disinfect is a mandate.

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