Is There a Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?

One kills germs, the other does not


During coronavirus quarantine, it’s more important than ever to make sure you aren’t cleaning and disinfecting your home the wrong way. Fears over the virus spreading have caused many to rush to grocery stores in an attempt to stockpile cleaning supplies. But when it comes to creating a healthier home, it’s important to know the difference between cleaning your home and disinfecting it.

DIY Home Maintenance Tips

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning means you are removing germs and dirt from surfaces — it doesn’t kill germs, but rather lowers the risk of them spreading infection. Disinfection refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. If you’re hoping to deep-clean your home, disinfectants should be used to kill germs on a surface after the surface has been cleaned.

To clean your home, you should wear disposable gloves and use soap and water. The CDC recommends routinely cleaning surfaces that you touch often, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, phones, toilets and more.

Disinfecting your home is slightly more involved. After cleaning with soap and water, you should use a household disinfectant like bleach to stop the spread of germs. According to the CDC, it’s important to follow the instructions on the back of the product to ensure you’re using it safely and effectively.

Products typically recommend a wait time before wiping disinfectants off surfaces to ensure optimal efficiency. They also provide precautions you should take before using the product, like wearing gloves.

According to the CDC, you can also use diluted household bleach solutions to disinfect your home. Make sure the product can be used for disinfection before applying it to surfaces. Also, some products like hand sanitizer expire, so make sure the disinfectant hasn’t passed its expiration date before using it.


If you’d like to make your own bleach solution at home, follow this guide — it’s a great way to save money on cleaning supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.