The words ‘sanitising’ and ‘disinfecting’ are often used interchangeably. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two terms. This is especially the case now, during Pandemic time, when there is an emphasis on both sanitising and disinfecting in every walk of life. However, because they are both more prevalent than ever, it is important to know the difference. Knowing the difference between ‘sanitising’ and ‘disinfecting’ will help you choose the right products and services – for yourself, home and business.

Both sanitisers and disinfectants destroy existing microbes (either though killing them outright or by rendering them harmless, by ‘deactivating’ them). Unless otherwise stated on a bottle targeted at something specific, they also kill a wide range of microbes.


Sanitisers kill 99.9% of all bacteria, fungi and viruses

  • Sanitisers reduce the number of microbes on a surface – e.g. your hands when you use hand sanitisers. You also cannot use sanitiser to treat an infection, or on its own where there is already a high concentration of bacteria, or to ‘disinfect’ wounds. They are not strong enough to clear up an existing ‘infection’. They will, however, help prevent the infection from happening in the first place.
  • Sanitisers are fine to clean surfaces such as home kitchen counter-tops and bathrooms. However, they are usually ‘quick use’; if you want to ensure a surface is truly clean, you need to use a disinfectant.


Disinfectants kill 99.999% of all bacteria, fungi and viruses

  • Disinfectants are stronger than sanitisers. They are suitable for use on non-porous surfaces and are better choice than sanitisers for commercial use as they are more effective in killing bacteria.
  • Different disinfectants are designed for different applications – e.g. you can’t use the same disinfectant for a drain and a baby’s bottle.
  • Some disinfectants require the products to be left on the surface being disinfected for a period pf time. Other are designed for immersion of the material or object being disinfected.

The main difference between sanitising and disinfecting is strength and application. It’s fine to sanitise your hands when entering a shop, but you need to disinfect surfaces that are known to collect high concentrations of pathogens.