Cleaners, Sanitizers, and Disinfectants – What’s the Difference?

The cleaning game is full of buzz words: disinfectants, cleaners, sanitizers, and so much more! What does it all mean? Understanding the basic differences between cleaners, sanitizers and disinfectants is the beginning of having a perfect moving in or out clean. This understanding will also help you talk to your cleaning company about how they clean up your personal space.

Cleaners, Sanitizers, and Disinfectants - What's the Difference?


A cleaner comes in a powder, spray, or liquid that is not labeled as a sanitizer or disinfectant. It works well for removing debris, dust, or dirt from a variety of surfaces, and works well in creating a visually appealing area. However, it only removes particles. It does not remove disease, or help stop the spread of illnesses. Cleaners will not remove viruses or bacteria. These products are never enough to create a thorough, safe, and healthy clean.


These products are typically sprays, and are labeled specifically as sanitizers. They help remove some fungi, bacteria and viruses, but do not necessarily kill them. According to AOAC International, a sanitizer must reduce 99.9% of contaminants on a surface within 30 seconds to be considered effective. However, it is essential to remember that the sanitizer only reduces the contaminants. It does not completely kill everything that might be harmful on all surfaces.


Disinfectants are most commonly used in homes, as they are most convenient and kill almost 100% of all bacteria that cause disease. The United States Environmental Protection Agency dictates that disinfectants must reduce all pathogens on surfaces by 99.9% within 10 minutes to be effective. Most households will use cleaners and disinfectants together for a more thorough clean.

Sanitizers are typically used in food service, or in kitchen areas in the home. Disinfectants help remove pathogens in bathroom areas, while cleaners help pick up dust around other living areas. Ideally, all three products will be used in a well-cleaned home. Contact us to talk about our product lineup, and how we can thoroughly clean, sanitize, and disinfect for you.