Disinfecting Wipes vs. Sanitizing Wipes

22nd Jul 2021

Disinfecting Wipes vs. Sanitizing Wipes

Disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces protect us from diseases such as bacterial and viral infections. And products like cleaning wipes make it much more convenient to kill germs. If you are searching for these wipes for your facility, you may wonder whether you need sanitizing or disinfecting options.

Many individuals and business owners may not even be aware of a difference between disinfecting versus sanitizing wipes. To care for your customers and keep your facility clean with the right products, learn the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing with the guide below.

Addressing Germs With Sanitizing and Disinfecting

Germs are what often cause illnesses in the human body. They're invisible to the human eye, and they live on almost every surface in the world. While you are likely used to hearing "germs" as a general term, there are four distinct categories:

  • Bacteria: These tiny single-cell organisms aren't all bad — good bacteria can increase our gut health, among other things, but many kinds of bacteria are bad for us and can cause disease.
  • Viruses: These organisms are so small you can't even see them under the average microscope. Viruses can't replicate or reproduce on their own, which is why they attach themselves to your cells and cause harm to your body.
  • Fungi: Fungi can be multi-celled and thrive in damp, warm environments. Fungal infections aren't usually dangerous, but they can become serious for those with immune-suppressing disorders.
  • Protozoa: Like bacteria, protozoa are single-cell organisms, and they love water, so diseases from protozoa are usually spread through contaminated water.

Bacteria and viruses are the most important germs to combat since they are so prevalent and can lead to serious diseases. Both can live on surfaces for extended periods of time. But viruses often lose their ability to cause disease within a short time frame, as they're dependent on living beings to replicate.

Germs live everywhere, but they are often concentrated on certain high-touch or high-use areas, such as doorknobs and handrails. They can even be spread through the air by riding around on respiratory droplets. One study documented an unlikely place for an enormous concentration of bacteria — the kitchen sponge. Researchers found that 75% of kitchen sponges had harmful Salmonella and E. coli bacteria living on the sponge. That makes cleaning wipes a better option for eliminating germs throughout your business.

Is There a Difference Between Sanitizing and Disinfecting?

The short answer — yes. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the difference between the terms sanitize and disinfect is that sanitizing decreases the number of germs on surfaces to a safe level. Disinfecting eliminates and kills a majority of germs on the surface. Solutions for sanitizing don't have the same strength as disinfecting solutions, so that's really where the difference between the two lies.

While many people use the terms sanitize and disinfect interchangeably, they are actually very different. Knowing the difference can help you decide what products to use where, and how effective they will be at killing or reducing germs.

EPA and FDA Standards

Any product that claims to control pests, bacteria or viruses must register with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They do this for public safety reasons — if companies misinform consumers about the safety of their products, there could be consequences, including the spread of harmful diseases.

The EPA has standards for sanitizing and disinfecting products. Surface disinfecting products must face more rigorous standards than surface sanitizing products. Products that are only sanitizing cannot claim to be disinfecting because they don't kill germs, but some products can be both sanitizing and disinfecting if they fit both standards. Bleach, for example, can be a disinfectant in more concentrated forms and a sanitizer in more diluted forms.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates antibacterial soap, hand sanitizers and antiseptics for use on people while the EPA dictates products for use on surfaces. For hand sanitizers, the FDA recommends solutions with 60% or more alcohol to ensure the sanitizing effects. A sanitizing product reduces the number of germs rather than completely disinfects your hands.

Sanitizing Wipes

The difference between sanitizing and disinfecting is that one is stronger than the other. However, that doesn't mean sanitizing wipes aren't effective. Sanitizing wipes are skin-safe, meaning you can use them on your hands and delicate surfaces without worrying about the effects of disinfectant chemicals. All sanitizing wipes from Wipes.com are bleach-free and alcohol-free to make them as safe as possible without causing damage.

The FDA designates a sanitizing wipe as one that can kill up to 99.99% of bacteria in a time frame between 30 seconds and five minutes. To back up those claims, all sanitizing wipes need to pass the Official Detergent Sanitizer Test.

Applications of Sanitizing Wipes

There are numerous ways to use sanitizing wipes, and their effectiveness at quickly reducing the bacteria on surfaces and hands makes them a great choice. While these are certainly not the only applications for sanitizing wipes, cleaning these areas can be very effective at reducing the transmission of harmful bacteria:

1. Hard Surfaces

Sanitizing wipes are perfect for use in high-traffic areas like doorknobs, handlebars and counters. In addition to disinfecting procedures, sanitizing wipes can help reduce the amount of bacteria that builds up in these areas throughout the day. Grocery stores often provide wipes for customers to clean their hands and carts before shopping, and breakrooms can benefit from sanitizing wipes for use among employees.

Other high-touch items in workplaces include bathroom doorknobs and surfaces. Providing sanitizing wipes in the bathroom, in addition to antibacterial soap, can help reduce the spread of germs in this area by allowing people to clean surfaces quickly before use.

2. Hands

Sanitizing wipes are safe for use on the hands because they're so gentle. Alcohol and bleach, kinds of disinfectants, can dry out the skin and may even transfer harmful chemicals to your body. While there is a chance frequent use of sanitizing wipes can dry out your hands, they won't harm your skin as disinfectant wipes may.

Be sure to keep sanitizing wipes away from the eyes and face. Certain chemicals in the wipes may be harmful if they get into the eyes, and the skin on the face can be especially delicate.

3. Gym Equipment

Sanitizing equipment with wipes can greatly reduce the number of harmful germs that live on the high-touch areas and equipment at gyms. Repeated use of weights, treadmills, yoga mats, stationary bikes and other equipment at gyms can lead to a buildup of germs and body fluids. In one study, free weights from three different gyms had 362 times the amount of bacteria than an average toilet seat. Therefore, it's crucial to sanitize these items.

4. Daycare Centers

For young children especially, you can't always control what they touch and put in their mouths. That's why sanitizing wipes are safe options for daycare centers. Before mealtimes, wipe down seats, tables, doorknobs and countertops with a sanitizing wipe to reduce the number of germs on the surface without introducing harmful chemicals where the children will eat.

Other ways to use sanitizing wipes at daycare centers are on the toys and changing tables. Since bacteria can live on surfaces for a while, sanitizing toys and play equipment throughout the day will prevent the harmful buildup of bacteria. Additionally, changing tables should be cleaned before and after each use, and sanitizing wipes won't irritate babies' skin.

5. Phones

Think about how many times a day people touch their phones, put their phones down on public surfaces and hold their phones to their faces. These devices can be carriers of harmful bacteria, and they can travel with us wherever we go. To avoid this, wipe down your phone and phone case with a sanitizing wipe. The wipes are safe for use on screens — just avoid cleaning inside the ports or speakers. 

Pros and Cons of Sanitizing Wipes

With an enormity of applications, sanitizing wipes have great benefits — they:

  • Are great for daily use.
  • Won't cause fading on surfaces.
  • Can be used on hands and skin.
  • Are hypoallergenic and non-toxic.
  • Won't degrade plastic, vinyl, rubber or metal.
  • Won't harm electronics or screens.

Although sanitizing wipes are fantastic for use in a variety of settings, they may not be the best product in all situations. For example, they:

  • Cannot kill viruses or fungi.
  • Reduce bacteria count but do not completely disinfect surfaces.

Disinfecting Wipes

Disinfectant wipes are also called antibacterial and antiviral wipes because they can kill bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces. The EPA regulates disinfecting products, so be sure to select a disinfectant that has passed their standards. Disinfectant wipes must be scientifically proven to kill 99.999% of germs on hard surfaces.

Disinfecting wipes from Wipes.com are bleach-free, so they're safer than other disinfecting wipes and won't harm surfaces sensitive to bleach. Note that disinfecting wipes do contain chemicals that can be harmful if ingested. 

Applications of Disinfecting Wipes

Disinfecting wipes can be used anywhere there is a possibility for bacteria and virus transmission, but there are certain limitations. Since disinfectants are stronger than sanitizers, you shouldn't use them on surfaces where food will be prepared or served, and it's a good practice to wash your hands after disinfecting to remove any irritants from the wipes.

1. Emergency Care Centers

Since sick and injured people frequent emergency care centers, disinfecting wipes are great for surfaces in these establishments. Sick individuals may frequently touch certain items, like railings, handles, pens and counters, so disinfecting these surfaces thoroughly is essential. Most emergency centers see a large number of people every day, which increases the risk to patients and employees.

When it comes to sanitizing wipes versus disinfecting wipes, emergency care centers need something that can kill rather than reduce germs. Disinfecting wipes are best because they provide a powerful clean and can reduce the transmission of both bacteria and viruses.

2. Locker Rooms

One study found locker room faucet handles were the most germ-infested surface in gyms, with over 545,000 colony-forming units of bacteria per square inch. Disinfecting wipes in locker rooms will kill off the harmful bacteria and viruses and help keep patrons safe.

In addition to bacteria, fungus growth is also a risk in locker rooms because of the damp environment. If your skin comes into contact with a shower or bathroom floor that has dermatophyte, a kind of fungus that causes athlete's foot, you might bring that fungus home with you. Disinfecting wipes kill fungi to reduce the transmission of fungal infections in locker rooms.

3. Schools

Older students are less likely to put objects like toys, doorknobs and equipment in their mouths, so disinfecting wipes can help protect them without risking their health. Since kids can bring all kinds of germs to school with them, it can be a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses. To prevent outbreaks of disease and infection, disinfect high-touch surfaces like desks, tables and chairs.

4. Public Restrooms

In addition to proper handwashing — for at least 20 seconds — disinfecting procedures are important to keep people safe in public restrooms. Wipe down surfaces like counters, stalls, faucets, toilet seats and handles with disinfecting wipes to kill germs that can spread disease.

5. Public Transportation

It's important to disinfect surfaces where many people touch things throughout the day. Public transportation systems like busses, trains and subways experience great influxes of people at peak times, which means the spread of harmful germs is particularly relevant in these places. Disinfecting seats, railings, doors, windows and poles can kill the harmful germs that appear in these high-traffic areas.

Pros and Cons of Disinfecting Wipes

The pros of disinfecting wipes are that they:

  • Kill bacteria and viruses in large quantities.
  • Eliminate common cold and flu viruses.
  • Are convenient ways to disinfect surfaces.
  • Offer the correct and safe ratio of cleaning solution to kill germs.

While disinfecting wipes are great at killing harmful germs that can cause diseases, you'll want to consider that they:

  • Can be harmful to the skin.
  • Might damage certain surfaces and materials.
  • Are not for use around food preparation.

Are My Wipes Disinfecting or Sanitizing?

You might have some cleaning wipes already, and there are ways you can tell whether the wipe is sanitizing or disinfecting. Sanitizing wipes are generally for use on hands and delicate surfaces more stringent cleaners may damage. Wet Ones is a brand that markets antibacterial and sanitizing wet wipes, but they do not have disinfecting properties. Brands like Clorox and Lysol sell both sanitizing and disinfecting wipes.

Healthcare professionals most often use alcohol wipes and antiseptic wipes to clean wounds or prepare the skin, but these wipes can also be used to sanitize surfaces in some cases. The difference between alcohol wipes versus disinfecting wipes is slight — if the alcohol wipes have a high enough concentration, they've proven effective at killing viruses and bacteria.

Deep Cleaning With Surface Wipes

You can enhance the disinfecting and sanitizing power of wipes by following these steps:

Step 1: Always Follow Directions

Read the directions for every cleaning product you use and be sure to follow them. While wipes are pretty straightforward, other cleaning agents you use may have a list of harmful reactions. For example, mixing ammonia, vinegar or rubbing alcohol with bleach is dangerous, so read the ingredients and directions to be sure you are safe.

Step 2: Clean Visibly Dirty Surfaces

Even though you're about to disinfect, that doesn't mean you can use wipes effectively on every surface. If there is dirt and debris on a surface, that can reduce the efficacy of disinfection and sanitizing wipes. For a deep clean, use a gentle household cleaner or soap and water to wipe down the surface first.

Step 3: Ventilate the Room and Disinfect

When you use any disinfectant, be sure to properly ventilate the room you are in. Some chemicals in disinfectants might be harmful if breathed in too frequently, so cracking a window, turning on a fan or opening a door can help ensure you aren't breathing in those ingredients.

Step 4: Wash Your Hands

If you use a disinfectant product without gloves, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to ensure all the harmful chemicals are washed away. Since sanitizing wipes are made for skin, you may not need to wash your hands unless they are dirty.

Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Which Products to Use

When deciding whether to sanitize versus disinfect, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you're using the right products in the right places. Ask yourself these questions if you're deciding which products to use:

1. Will Food or Young Children Come in Contact With This Surface?

If your answer is yes to this question, skip the disinfectant and use sanitizing wipes. Since they're bleach-free and alcohol-free, they are safer for use around kids and surfaces where food will be prepared or served. Just be sure to let the wipes work for the recommended time frame to ensure proper sanitization.

2. How Many People Will or Have Come Into Contact With This Surface?

Sanitizing wipes are great for a quick clean of frequently used areas. For spaces with extremely high volumes of people or increased contamination, such as in public restrooms and on public transportation, use disinfecting wipes. These will kill the germs on high-touch surfaces and better keep people safe.

3. How Frequently Is This Surface or Item Cleaned?

If every customer who uses a shopping cart wipes it off before use, sanitizing wipes will be very effective at preventing the spread of germs and disease. For items that go a few hours between cleanings, disinfecting wipes will be safer since more germs are able to build up in these places.

4. Will Sensitive Populations Be Using This Area?

Older adults, infants and those with certain immune-compromising diseases are at heightened risk of infections from bacteria and viruses. Diseases for sensitive populations can be extremely dangerous, so if they are or may be using an area, be sure to disinfect properly. Wipe down surfaces and items they might come in contact with using disinfecting wipes rather than sanitizing wipes.

5. Will Customers or Employees Be Using This Product to Clean?

If, like with shopping carts, customers will be using the product to clean off the items themselves, use hypoallergenic sanitizing wipes to prevent irritating their skin and reduce the transfer of possibly harmful chemicals. Employees will be able to use more protection and should be safe to use disinfecting wipes to clean surfaces.

Keep Customers Safe With Wipes From Wipes.com

If you own a business, knowing the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing can help you make informed decisions on the cleaning products that will keep your customers safe. At Wipes.com, our antibacterial and antiviral wipes are proven effective and are EPA and FDA approved to sanitize and disinfect surfaces.

Choose Wipes.com for your gym, school or other business where you need to clean surfaces regularly to keep people safe. You can order in bulk from us to save time and money, and we offer bucket, wall-mounted and floor wipe dispensers for your convenience.

Get all your cleaning wipes in one place at a great price with Wipes.com. Contact us online or call us for a quote if you plan to order large quantities.