Sanitising Vs Cleaning: What’s the Difference?

Cleaning removes dirt, dust, debris, and visible contaminants from surfaces, objects, or spaces. It primarily focuses on making things visually tidy and presentable.

Sanitising, on the other hand, goes beyond cleaning by reducing the number of germs and microorganisms to a safe level, often through chemical agents or heat.

Sanitising aims to create a hygienic environment that minimises the risk of illness or infection by targeting harmful pathogens that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Cleaning vs. Sanitising

Common DifferenceIt focuses on reducing harmful microorganisms.Focuses on removing visible dirt and debris.
Basis of SurfaceIt is often used on surfaces that come in contact with people.Used on various surfaces and objects.
MethodologyUses disinfectants, heat, or other germicidal methods.Utilises wiping, scrubbing, vacuuming, etc.
SituationHigh-risk environments like hospitals, kitchens, etc.General maintenance in homes, offices, etc.
BenefitsReduces illness transmission and infection risks.Improves appearance and tidiness.
AdvantagesPromotes public health; prevents outbreaks.Enhances aesthetic appeal and comfort.
DisadvantagesSome sanitising agents may be harsh and require precision.It may not address invisible pathogens.
Compound UsedDisinfectants, antiseptics, UV-C light, heat, etc.Cleaning agents, water, soap, detergents, etc.
FrequencyOften required regularly in high-traffic areas.Regular maintenance may vary by environment.
CostOften, there is a higher cost due to specialised agents and methods.Generally lower cost with standard products.

What Does Cleaning Involve?

Cleaning involves removing visible dirt, dust, debris, and contaminants from surfaces, objects, or spaces. It is a fundamental step in maintaining a visually appealing and tidy environment.

Cleaning aims to improve the overall appearance and cleanliness of an area or object, making it more pleasant to the eye and creating a positive impression.

Critical aspects of cleaning include:

  • Dirt and Debris Removal: Cleaning removes loose particles, dirt, dust, and any visible mess accumulating on surfaces. This can include sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and wiping down surfaces.
  • Surface Appearance: Cleaning enhances the aesthetics of space by eliminating stains, smudges, and marks that can make surfaces look untidy or unkempt.
  • Physical Maintenance: Regular cleaning helps prevent the buildup of grime and dirt that can lead to the deterioration of surfaces over time. It helps extend the lifespan of objects and materials.
  • Tidiness: Cleaning contributes to a sense of order and organisation in a space. It helps create an inviting atmosphere and promotes a positive environment.
  • Health and Safety: While cleaning itself may not necessarily eliminate harmful microorganisms, it can still indirectly impact health by removing visible contaminants that might attract pests or contribute to allergens.

What Does Sanitising Involve?

Sanitising involves reducing the number of harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, to a safe and acceptable level.

Sanitising aims to create an environment that minimises the risk of illness or infection transmission. This process is essential in areas with a higher likelihood of spreading germs, such as healthcare facilities, food preparation areas, childcare centres, and public spaces.

Sanitising typically involves using chemical agents, heat, or other methods proven to kill or inhibit microorganisms’ growth effectively. Some standard methods and agents used in sanitising include:

  • Disinfectants: Disinfectants are chemical agents specifically formulated to kill or neutralise a wide range of harmful microorganisms. Disinfectants are commonly used on surfaces and objects that come into frequent contact with people, such as doorknobs, countertops, and medical equipment.
  • Antiseptics: Antiseptics are disinfectants specifically designed for use on living tissues, such as skin. Antiseptics clean and sanitise skin before medical procedures or in wound care.
  • Heat Sterilisation: High temperatures, such as steam or autoclave heat, kill microorganisms on medical equipment and certain food products.
  • Chemical Sanitisers: These are commonly used in the food service industry to sanitise dishes, utensils, and food-contact surfaces. They are safe for contact with food and are designed to eliminate harmful pathogens.
  • UV-C Light: Ultraviolet (UV) light with a specific wavelength, known as UV-C, is used as a germicidal agent to kill or inactivate microorganisms on surfaces and in the air.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: This chemical can be used as a disinfectant or sanitiser. After use, it breaks down into water and oxygen, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

Cleaning or Santising? What do you Need

Choosing between cleaning and sanitising depends on your situation, environment, and goals. Here’s a quick guide to help you decide:

Choose Cleaning When:

  • You want to remove visible dirt, dust, debris, and stains from surfaces or objects.
  • The main concern is improving the appearance and tidiness of an area.
  • There is no immediate need to address harmful microorganisms or pathogens.
  • You are dealing with general maintenance tasks in low-risk areas.

Choose Sanitising When:

  • You want to reduce the number of harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • The primary goal is to prevent the spread of illnesses and infections.
  • You work in high-risk areas like hospitals, food preparation spaces, childcare centres, and public facilities.
  • You must ensure the safety and health of individuals who come into contact with the sanitised surfaces or objects.


Recognising the difference between cleaning and sanitising is pivotal. Cleaning removes visible dirt, while sanitising reduces harmful microorganisms. Both are important – cleaning enhances appearance, and sanitising curbs illness spread, particularly in high-risk settings.

Cleaning uses wiping, scrubbing, and vacuuming, while sanitising employs disinfectants and heat. Combining both approaches is often best for optimal hygiene. Your choice depends on the situation, contaminants, and goals. In the end, understanding these processes ensures a healthier environment for everyone.

Our commercial cleaning services are designed to provide you with a practical and effective solution for maintaining a clean and hygienic workplace. Focusing on tangible benefits and real results, our services offer a clear advantage for those seeking a better cleaning option.

Call us today at 03 9114 9778 for comprehensive cleaning and sanitising services prioritising appearance and health. Whether you need a visually tidy environment or a germ-free space, our professional team has you covered.