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The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting

    the difference between cleaning and disinfecting

    the difference between cleaning and disinfecting

    The home is supposed to be a haven for relaxation, recuperation, and escaping the pressures of the world. Unfortunately, we wind up bringing home some of the world and its germs via our dirty hands, shoes, clothing, and phones.

    Even if your Chicagoland home looks clean, it could still be hiding contaminants that could affect your health. Now, in the wake of a COVID-19 pandemic, making sure you are cleaning and disinfecting your home is more crucial than ever. In doing so, it’s important to also be sure you know the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, and are using them both to combat the virus and protect the health of your family. 

    Medical experts agree: Dr. Michael Schmidt, professor of microbiology at the Medical University of South Carolina and chair of the American Society of Microbiology’s Council on Microbial Sciences, says that the best way to protect your family is to be sure you’re cleaning and disinfecting your home’s trouble areas. This includes high-touch surfaces and the hard-to-reach places that you might not even see or recognize. He also has some helpful tips for recognizing the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, and using both processes to your advantage to disinfect your home from coronavirus. Read on to see what he has to say.

    What is Cleaning?

    Cleaning is the process of wiping down surfaces and areas of the home to slow the spread of germs and dirt. 

    Dr. Schmidt points out that after washing our hands, the next best way to protect the family and disinfect your home from coronavirus and bacteria is to wipe down high-touch surfaces. This includes countertops, doorknobs, light switches, and common surfaces. You can do this twice a day with a microfiber cloth dampened in a solution of hot water and an all-purpose cleaner. 

    “The slight abrasion of the microfiber cloth and the cleaning solution will lift and dilute any microbes that have settled on the surfaces,” says Dr. Schmidt. And don’t forget about your electronics and phones: “Since electronics don’t hold up well to soap and water, use an alcohol wipe with at least 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean cell phones, remotes, and keyboards.”

    What is Disinfecting?

    Disinfecting is the process of killing germs and bacteria using specific approved cleaning solutions/agents. Disinfecting eliminates the spread of germs. 

    Disinfecting is the number one way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your home, but it should be taken on with caution, according to Dr. Schmidt. 

     “Disinfecting cleaners can give a false sense of security if they are not used properly and are only necessary if someone in the household is ill,” says Dr. Schmidt. The crucial areas to address are surfaces shared by family members and those that come in close contact with bodily fluids. If you have dirty windows, they aren’t a big health concern, but a doorknob touched after a sneeze can be.

    It’s important to read labels and follow the directions on products. Cleaning products labeled as disinfectants will adequately kill viruses and bacteria if used correctly. But if the label promises to just “sanitize” a surface, the fine print might say it’ll kill 99.9% of the bacteria, but not mention if it’s effective against viruses or fungi. When using disinfectants, make sure to follow the recommended contact time (sometimes referred to as “dwell time”), which is the amount of time the surface should be visibly wet to give the product time to work.

    What’s the difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting?

    Cleaning shouldn’t be confused with disinfecting. Here’s the key differences: When you clean, you remove germs, but don’t kill them. When you disinfect, you kill the germs to rid surfaces and your home of them. This difference is important because though you might clean surfaces well, small amounts of germs and bacteria are left to grow — which can perpetuate the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.

    Disinfect Your Home From COVID-19

    Disinfecting is a process that should be left to the professionals — especially given how quickly COVID-19 can spread throughout a home. If you need help with deep cleaning and disinfecting your Chicago area home or business, contact us at ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons. We can disinfect your home from COVID-19 safely and effectively, and we’ll do it according to CDC guidelines. Not only do we use the proper EPA-approved disinfectants, but our professionals receive the necessary training and field experience to service your home or workplace to achieve the highest standards of cleanliness and customer satisfaction.

    If you do choose to DIY disinfecting your home from COVID-19, make sure you are wearing the proper personal protective equipment and using EPA-approved disinfectants. Before disinfecting anything in your house, decide whether you’ll wear gloves and what kind. Rubber gloves are more durable and reusable, but disposable latex ones also work. And of course, remember to always wash your hands with soap and warm water after using any cleaning products that may be harmful or abrasive to your skin.

    ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons is an MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving Chicago, Oak Park/River Forest, and the North Shore.  ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons provides Disaster Restoration Services including  COVID-19 Cleaning Services, Water & Flood Damage Restoration, Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration,  Mold Remediation, and a wide range of interior specialty cleaning including Hoarder & Clutter Cleaning,  Post-Construction Cleaning,  Carpet Cleaning, and Upholstery Cleaning to residential and commercial customers. ServiceMaster Cleaning By Simons provides Specialty Cleaning Services For Chicago, Oak Park-River Forest, and the North Shore.  For more information, give us a call at 773-376-1110 or


    • Nasutsa Mabwa

      Nasutsa Mabwa is President of ServiceMaster by Simons, a MBE/WBE City of Chicago and State of Illinois certified firm. She is a 2020 Daily Herald Business Ledger C-Suite awardee, a member of Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40 and a 2018 ServiceMaster(c) Achiever Award recipient. She is a Civic Federation Board Member, an Advisory Board Member for as President Elect on the Executive Committee for the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. She is IICRC certified for WRT & FSRT.

      About ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons
      Restoration By Simons is an MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving both Cook and Lake County, Illinois. Recently, the company was awarded a variety of honors, including the SB100 Best of Small Business Award Winner 2021, Bronze Stevie® Award in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year category in the 18th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business, recipient of the 2020 Better Business Bureau's Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, and the recipient of the 2020 Skokie Business of the Year Award, Honorable Mention Category. Restoration By Simons provides disaster restoration services including water and flood damage restoration, fire and smoke damage restoration, mold remediation, to residential and commercial customers in both Cook and Lake County IL.

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