Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting

Ask most homeowners the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting and you will probably receive a blank stare. While they seem similar and the two words are often used interchangeably, take it from a knowledgeable sanitation chemical supplier: sanitizing and disinfecting are not the same.

When a countertop is disinfected, the adult forms of bacteria and fungi are either destroyed or inactivated. Sanitizing, on the other hand, decreases the number of pathogens to an amount viewed as safe by public health standards. As an example, food-processing areas are typically disinfected (removing 100% of all organisms within a specified time, such as ten minutes) while other areas may be sanitized (destroying 99.999% for food service areas or 99.9% for non-food surfaces within 30 seconds). Because the chemicals may work quickly to destroy most of the bacteria and more slowly before killing all pathogens, several chemicals are listed as both sanitizers and disinfectants.

Among the list of sanitizing chemicals provided by sanitation chemical suppliers are hypochlorites, chlorine dioxide, iodophors, peroxyacetic acid, and quaternary ammonia compounds.

  • Hypochlorites: Hypochlorites are strong oxidizers. Their low cost and effectiveness give them the title of most widely used sanitizers.

  • Chlorine dioxide: Chlorine dioxide works on a greater pH range than hypochlorites, and is relatively safe to use in a solution. The cost is greater than hypochlorites, but less chlorine dioxide is necessary to sanitize an area.

  • Iodophors: Iodophors work best in slightly acidic conditions. Because the iodine content stains many surfaces, especially plastics, iodophors are typically used on glass surfaces. Iodophors are sustained release, giving continuous levels of sanitizer for extended periods of time without re-application.

  • Peroxyacetic acid: Peroxyacetic acid works well in temperatures below 4°C. Less corrosive and environmentally friendlier than hypochlorites, peroxyacetic acid is often combined with hydrogen peroxide for better results.

  • Quaternary ammonium compounds: Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) do not stain or corrode, and are relatively nontoxic. QACs also perform well in a wide pH and temperature range. Once QAC dries on a surface, an anti-microbial film is formed that prevents pathogen growth.

Knowing the difference between a sanitizer and a disinfectant will assist in choosing the correct product for your business needs. If you’re looking to purchase sanitation or disinfectant chemicals from a sanitation chemical supplier, look no further than Bell Chem. We’re located in Central Florida and we’re happy to help with all of your sanitation chemical needs. For additional information, contact us today at 407-339-BELL (2355).