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What’s the Difference Between Decontamination & Disinfection?

​​You hear it on the news every day – how important it is to protect yourself from COVID-19. There are conflicting reports as to how long the virus can last on surfaces and it ranges from just a few hours to several days. Because of this, there has been a record-breaking interest in coronavirus disinfecting services in offices, businesses, residences, and more.

What is disinfection? What is decontamination? Unfortunately, terms like disinfection, cleaning, decontamination, and sterilization have become muddled and a bit confusing. These words are being used interchangeably, but in reality, they all have different meanings and different purposes.

Cleanliness Vocabulary Commercial Property Owners Need to Know 

To help you have a better understanding of what each of these cleaning terms means, and when you may need to apply them to your commercial cleaning situation, we’ve put together a handy guide so you can confidently discuss your business or apartment building’s cleaning needs with professionals. 

  • Decontamination – This is a term that is fairly general in nature and can be applied to any type of process that reduces the contamination and pathogens in an area or on an object. This isn’t a precise term but does require that the number of pathogens is reduced by a certain amount. Decontamination may be used in relation to pathogens, dirt, radiation, or other forms of contaminants. Processes used to decontaminate include things as simple as soap and water to sterilization with an autoclave. It can also mean that all forms of harmful sources have been neutralized.
  • Cleaning – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define cleaning as removing visible soil from surfaces and objects and usually involves the manual or mechanical use of water with enzymatic or detergent products. Soil does not necessarily refer to dirt, but rather any visible contaminant that can be left on a surface. The biggest distinction you need to understand between cleaning and other treatments is that cleaning doesn’t say anything about microorganisms or other contaminants invisible to the naked eye. This means that a surface may technically be clean to the naked eye but still contaminated by bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. Because dirt and other organic matter can reduce the efficiency of sterilization and disinfection, cleaning is often used as a pre-treatment to these processes to make them more effective.
  • Sanitization – Sanitization, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency is the use of a device or chemical product to reduce the number of germs on objects and surfaces to a level that is considered safe by public health requirements and standards. This process is similar to cleaning in that it renders an area safer, but not necessarily safe. It is also often used as a pre-treatment for additional processing.
  • Disinfection – This term is defined by the FDA as the destruction of microorganisms and other pathogens by chemical or physical means. It is a less-lethal process than sterilization because it destroys most, but not necessarily all, microbial forms. Bacterial spores are a major point of distinction between sterilization and disinfection because disinfection cannot kill these spores. However, viruses don’t reproduce via spores which is why treatment for coronavirus has centered around disinfection.
  • Sterilization – Sterilization is a fairly straightforward term. It is the process where all microorganisms are destroyed, including bacterial spores. This is the gold standard for decontamination but can only be performed using a recognized sterilant and an approved procedure. Steam is generally the preferred method if it is compatible with the surface or object being sterilized.

Contact Us for Questions

Contact Fresh Foam about commercial cleaning and odor removal services for businesses, commercial offices, and apartment buildings in NYC, NJ, and PA. Our commercial no-rinse foam cleaner & deodorizer uses a unique foam decontamination technology that sticks to any surface, absorbs dirt, and saves you money! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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