Cleaning is the removal of visible soil (e.g., organic and inorganic material) from objects and
surfaces and normally is accomplished manually or mechanically using water with detergents or
enzymatic products. Thorough cleaning is essential before high-level disinfection because
inorganic and organic materials that remain on the surfaces of instruments interfere with the
effectiveness of these processes.
Sanitizing is meant to reduce, not kill, the occurrence and growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
When you sanitize a surface you are reducing the number of bacteria present by 3-log (99.9%).
Disinfection describes a process that eliminates many or all pathogenic microorganisms, except
bacterial spores, on inanimate objects. In order for a product to be classified as a disinfectant it
must have a minimum 6-log reduction (99.9999%) of all bacteria, viruses, and fungi listed on its
product label. Each of the various factors that affect the efficacy of disinfection can nullify or
limit the efficacy of the process. Factors that affect the efficacy of disinfection include prior
cleaning of the object; organic and inorganic load present; type and level of microbial
contamination; concentration of and exposure time to the germicide.