Clean, Sanitise, Disinfect, Sterilise

How often do we hear these terms used interchangeably? Let’s take a look at what they actually mean & which products are required for each task.


Most commonly done around the home, it removes visible soiling, dirt, impurities & germs from the surface or object but won’t necessarily kill them. By removing the visible impurities, it assists with preventing germs from spreading as quickly. Methods often involve the use of wiping or scrubbing of hard surfaces, washing or rinsing with hot water, soaps & detergents.

Common scenarios involving cleaning are:

  • Around the home: Wiping of walls, countertops, sinks, scrubbing of dishes


The act of reducing the level of bacteria identified on the products label to a safer level,  according to public health standards or requirements. Sanitising WILL NOT kill all bacteria & viruses. It often involves the use of chemicals such as a hand sanitiser, or a sanitiser for food processing areas. Whilst hand sanitisers may not be effective to eliminate all germs, they’re excellent to keep on hand in public scenarios where you may not have access to warm water & soap.

Scenarios commonly involving sanitizing:

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Hospitality & restaurants involving food processing


The process of disinfecting destroys or inactivates both bacteria & viruses which are identified on the specific products label. Disinfectants are generally a stronger formulation than sanitisers & cleaners. Ideal for high touch areas such as door handles, tap wear, toilets & public spaces. Different formulations will target different virus & bacteria strains. It is important to always refer to the product’s label to see what it is effective on & follow instructions for contact time. Often disinfectants are sprayed & then wiped away immediately, before given time to effectively work. They are available in a wide range of formulations such as wet wipes, spray, thickened gel & liquid.

Disinfecting is commonly used in:

  • General house holds: high touch surfaces, bathrooms, kitchen & food prep surfaces
  • Public spaces: public transport, shopping centres, work environments, childcare centres
  • Industry: medical, hospitality, retail.

It is important to note that to effectively SANITISE or DISINFECT any surface or object, it must be appropriately CLEANED first! This may require you to initially apply your chosen product once to wipe down any visible soils, then reapply allowing to sit on the surface for the recommended period of time as per the label, before wiping away.


This is often used by professionals in settings such as hospitals, surgery rooms, doctors offices & other medical venue’s where a high level of hygiene is critical. Whilst Disinfecting is effective against a large variety of germs & bacteria, Sterilization will remove ALL microorganisms, including those that aren’t harmful. It is unlikely that the general public will need to know how to sterilise their homes, however some methods of Sterilisation can include:

  • pressurized steam (autoclaving)
  • hydrogen peroxide gas
  • ethylene oxide (EtO) gas
  • ionizing radiation (typically used for medical equipment)
  • dry heat cabinets (for medical instruments)
  • infrared radiation
  • advanced filtration