Clean? Sanitize? Sterilize? Do You Know The Difference?

When researching a cleaning service pay close attention to the words used in a a cleaning service advertisement for services offered. Does the service offer to clean, deep clean, sanitize or sterilize? And what exactly is the difference? Knowing the answer to that question will let you hire a cleaning service for your specific needs.

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Cleaning involves removal of surface dirt


The term 'cleaning' usually applies to the manual or mechanical removal of physical dirt or deposits from a surface. When a cleaning service uses a vacuum to clean your floors and carpets or soap and water to clean your kitchen counters, they clean the surface of any deposits, dirt or debris. Cleaning may reduce the amount of germs and does not necessarily kill disease causing micro-organisms, and if done incorrectly can actually spread germs from one room to other areas across your home. 


Sanitizing refers to reducing the number of micro-organisms found on a surface, and is a completely different process from cleaning the surface. Sanitizing usually follows cleaning, and is done with the help of hot water, steam treatment or chemicals. Areas like kitchens and bathrooms can benefit from a periodic sanitizing post a thorough cleaning.

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Steam can be used to sanitize surfaces after cleaning


Sterilizing means the removal of all micro-organisms, and as you may imagine that is next to impossible in a home environment. Very few services will therefore offer to 'sterilize' during a routine cleaning. The maximum that most professional cleaning agencies will offer during a deep clean is to sanitize specific areas, like the bathrooms and kitchen, or objects like upholstered furniture, carpets or mattresses, to reduce disease and allergy causing micro-organisms and dust mites. This too normally comes at an extra charge. Any cleaning service that offers to sterilize your home should be questioned regarding the cleaning process they follow, you may find that they offer to disinfect your home, and may specialize in services like a post illness disinfecting cleaning but not sterilizing.

You could hire a cleaning service to clean your home, your carpets, an apartment you own that has been vacated by tenants or just a bathroom or kitchen. The words sanitizing and cleaning are often used together in cleaning service advertisements, be sure to know the difference and get the service that you expect and pay for!

Ranjita Bhandari

The Author

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