Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting

Welcome to this week’s What’s the Difference!

Today, we’re clearing up:

What’s the Difference between…





Rather than spending my time in lockdown baking gorgeous loaves of sourdough, I’ve devoted myself to a less sexy, less Instagram-worthy hobby: cleaning. Instead of hand-birthing freshly baked bread every weekend, I stay sane by chasing specks of dust with my brand-new vacuum cleaner and literally washing the walls of my apartment. 

But is all this tidying and scrubbing and rearranging doing anything to kill the contagion that has shut down society as we know it? Does SARS-CoV-2 care that I’ve labeled every single type of spice and grain and legume in my pantry? 

Short answer: Nope. Long answer:

Cleaning removes dirt, dust, and germs from surfaces or objects using soap and water. The key word here is “remove” — the process doesn’t necessarily kill germs, but by removing many of them, it lessens the risk of infection. 

Sanitizing and disinfecting go beyond soap and water, using chemicals to kill germs, not just remove them. 

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards. Disinfecting, however, is more powerful than sanitizing: It pretty much kills ‘em all.

According to the CDC, people should routinely clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces during the pandemic, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Wash them all with water and soap/detergent first, then disinfect them with a product that’s 
EPA-approved to kill the coronavirus.

As for your hands, washing them with soap and water for 20 seconds should do the trick — or, in a pinch, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 

For more detailed instructions (and a lot more information!), check out 
the CDC’s official guidelines.

Thanks for tuning into this week’s What’s the Difference! See you next week!

Special shoutout to Eric Koeppel for the topic idea.

About The Author

What’s the Difference is a newsletter created by Brette Warshaw, a consultant and writer living in New York City. She has worked with companies such as RAMONAOpenTableLIVELYFood52, and Open Society, and she was the Chief Operating Officer of the late cult food magazine Lucky Peach. She studied history and creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, and wrote her thesis on Jell-O marketing in the Great Depression. In her spare time, she enjoys throwing dinner parties and organizing her pantry.

Visit Brette’s website!