Cleaning vs. Disinfecting Surfaces

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces can go a long way in preventing the spread of illnesses, like Coronavirus Disease 2019 (coronavirus, COVID-19). But how do you know which needs to be done and if you’re doing it correctly? The key is in knowing the difference between the two and what is required for each.


This involves removing dirt from a surface. It’s usually what you’re doing when washing with soap and water. It may not kill bacteria or viruses, but it sends them down the drain, or wiped off on a paper towel or cloth that gets thrown away or washed.


When disinfecting, you’re actually killing germs. For coronavirus, this can be done by using one of the products approved by the EPA for this use. The surface may not look any cleaner, but it can reduce the spread of illness.

Which Should You Do?

The best way to reduce the spread of germs, especially if someone in the home is ill, is to do BOTH. Clean the surface first to remove dirt and grime, then disinfect. Check the product label to see how long you need to let the surface air dry before wiping. Once dry, if disinfecting food contact surfaces or toys, rinse with water.

For more information on how to clean to prevent the spread of coronavirus, visit and follow the latest advice from the CDC.


Learn More About Disinfectants

What Are Antibacterial Disinfectants, Anyway?

The Role of Disinfectants

Disinfecting and Disinfectants



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