Difference Between Disinfect & Sanitize

Kristeen Cherney

Aside from cleaning areas of the home, you may opt for a commercial disinfectant or sanitizer in order to kill disease causing viruses and bacteria. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, agents that sanitize and disinfect are different.


Disinfecting involves heat, bleach or commercial products to destroy bacteria on surfaces. Sanitizing agents are designed to destroy germs so that a particular surface is safe enough to use.


When used properly, sanitizers can destroy 99.99 percent of disease-causing germs. However, Schiff Consulting explains that disinfecting methods are superior, as sanitizers can fail in destroying some pathogenic bacteria.

Time Frame

Disinfectants destroy germs between five and ten minutes while sanitizers work within 30 seconds.


All sanitizers and disinfectants should be kept away from children. An alternative to a store-bought disinfectant is bleach. The Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) recommends that you dilute ¼ cup of bleach per gallon of water.


Surfaces must be cleaned prior to proper disinfecting and sanitizing. Basic soap and water removes grease and dirt.