The Difference Between Cleaning, Disinfection and Sterilization | Easyway Maids

May 26,

Coronavirus is still in full-swing, as of writing this article. People, naturally, have a lot of concerns and questions about how to properly sanitize things and keep themselves safe.

There are a lot of terms that get bandied about, as cleaning services start offering more “sanitization” type services.

First of all, the term “sanitizing” is more of a catch-all for “reducing the number of germs on a surface to a safe level”. This of course, depends on what pathogen you’re trying to avoid, and what the federal, state, or local standards are.

As such, sanitizing doesn’t have as concrete a definition as the terms discussed below in this blog post. You can pretty much use it in reference to cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization all together. Sanitization kind of encompasses all of these words, depending on context.

However, the other terms below have established definitions. If you’re hiring a maid service to sanitize your house, make sure to note the words they use. They mean very specific things, so it’s good to have an understanding of what they are promising you by using these words in reference to their house cleaning:


Especially if we’re talking about viruses, cleaning refers to the physical removal of germs from a surface. Not the killing of germs on the surface, and not a complete removal.

This is a general term that doesn’t have a scientific standard like disinfection and sterilization. However, don’t underestimate the power cleaning can have in protecting you from pathogens.

Coronavirus in particular is very susceptible to soap and other products that physically pull the virus off a surface. This is why hand-washing is just as good as using hand sanitizer.

COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, which means that they have a protective fat layer. This fat layer is actually disadvantage to the virus, because it sticks very easily to soap. This means that as you rinse a soap surface, you’re washing the virus off of it until its such a low viral load that you cannot get infected from that surface anymore.

All of this is a long way of saying that YES, cleaning DOES help get rid of Coronavirus in a way similar to disinfection. It may not kill the virus itself, but it washes it away.


Disinfection refers not to the removal of the virus from a surface, but the killing of the virus itself so it can no longer infect a host.

An example of this would be an alcohol-based cleaner, used to wipe down a surface. It kills 99.99% of the viruses, leaving a viral load so small it cannot infect a human.

Some bacterial spores can survive disinfection, and so it is not considered a “complete” sanitization of surface.

Many maid services may also offer disinfection services these days. This is a perfectly reasonable service to offer, just make sure they’re actually wiping down all the frequently used areas like remotes and light switches.


Sterilization is the highest level of cleaning and germ-killing: it refers to killing all pathogenic microorganisms on surface. Sterilizing will kill the bacterial spores that are unaffected by disinfection techniques.

This level of cleaning is almost exclusively reserved for the medical community. This is what your surgeon does to their scalpel and surgical tools before they operate to make sure they can’t spread infect.

Any company that claims to be “sterilizing” your home is not telling the truth, unless they plan to launch your house into the center of the sun.

Sterilizing is crazy overkill for any home, and would be almost impossible. Watch out for any company that claims to be able to do this!


To review:

  • Cleaning = washes pathogens off a surface
  • Disinfection = kills almost all pathogens on a surfaces
  • Sterilization = completely kills all pathogens on a surface.

Be safe out there!

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