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The difference: Cleaning, Sanitizing, Disinfecting, Sterilizing

Ironically this BLOG was drafted March 17th (2020). And with all the craziness of the Covid19 Pandemic and having to close the doors of my business, I totally forgot to post it...duh.

But with business in other states opening back up and ours eventually, I more now than ever want people to be aware of the difference between the processes of Cleaning, Sanitizing, Disinfecting, and Sterilization because they are NOT one in the same.

While EVERYTHING requires cleaning and sanitizing, not everything is required to, or even can be sterilized.

PSA Impressions, Body Solutions AKA Pampered Therapy & Jazmyn Lashes DOES ALL!

These are not my own words, this information was taken from different articles online...because they can put it it better terms than I can.


Cleaning is done using detergent, but it doesn’t *kill* bacteria or other microorganisms,

Cleaning physically removes soil from a surface with the aid of a detergent or other cleaning agent.


Sanitizing is not a substitute for cleaning, but takes cleaning a step further by reducing the number of bacteria and other microorganisms on the surface of the object. Sanitizing can help prevent disease transmission and contamination.

However, a sanitized surface is NOT sterile or completely free of bacteria.

Sanitizing is the act or process of making something sanitary (clean) in relation to the conditions that affect cleanliness, hygiene, and favor health.

Sanitizing is a chemical process that lessens and even kills germs on surfaces to make them safe for contact. Usually you sanitize dishes and utensils after using them. You also sanitize bed linens, gowns, and towels.

In the United States, sanitizers are agents that destroy 99.999% of BACTERIA in 30 seconds during the Official Detergent Sanitizer Test (a public health test).


Disinfection is the destruction of viruses, bacteria, and fungi on *surfaces* that have come in contact with a client's skin, such as brushes and spatulas. Proper disinfection leaves a surface highly unlikely to transmit infection or cause disease. Disinfection is only for non-living surfaces because disinfectants are damaging to living skin and may lead to irritation or allergic reactions. Disinfectants kill 100% of CERTAIN microorganisms, but because disinfectants do not kill ALL microorganisms, especially bacterial spores, they are different from sterillants (something that kills 100% of all microorganisms = sterilizes). Disinfectants are NEVER used on people, only inanimate surfaces.

Disinfectants kill a wider range of microorganisms than sanitizers. They destroy all organisms in 10 minutes during the AOAC Use Dilution Test, a test regulated by the EPA to determine the efficiency of disinfectants.


Sterilization is the complete destruction of all microscopic life on a surface. Hospitals use sterilization on surgical tools. Chemical sterilization is too hazardous for salons; however, pressurized steam sterilization (autoclaving) of nippers, files, and other tools is required in some areas and is preferred by some salons. Surfaces such as table tops and foot spas can’t fit into an autoclave and must be disinfected instead.

Chemical sterilants are specialized chemicals, such as glutaraldehyde or formaldehyde, which are capable of eliminating all forms of microbial life, including spores. The term sterilant conveys an absolute meaning; a substance can not be partially sterile.

Autoclaving at a temperature of 121⁰C (250⁰F), at 15 to 20 psi is one of the most convenient and effective means of sterilization available. The time is measured after the temperature of the material being sterilized reaches 121ºC (250ºF). Care must be taken to ensure that the steam can circulate around articles in order to provide even heat distribution.

Dry heat sterilizers are specialized ovens operating at 160° (320°F) or 170°C (340°F) for periods of 1-2 hours respectively. They are efficient for sterilizing glassware, metals, or other non-porous heat conductive materials. It is unsatisfactory for organic and inorganic materials that can act as insulation and is also unsuitable for heat labile materials.

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