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The Guide to Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

The Guide to Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

We’re always told to clean our rooms, clean our teeth, clean our bathrooms, spring clean, etc. But we’re often rarely told to disinfect. Cleaning and disinfecting are not the same thing, but both are very important. First, let’s dive into what exactly cleaning and disinfecting entail.

What is basic cleaning?

Basic cleaning are your regular chores like dusting, vacuuming, and general bathroom and kitchen cleaning. Basic cleaning also applies to hygiene—things like brushing your teeth, showering, and washing your hands.

Housekeeping Associates has a great list of things to do in your home for a basic clean and a deep clean. A basic cleaning should be done often and shouldn’t take too much time, especially if you keep it up. But a deep clean is something that should be done every two weeks or once a month, depending on the area and how often you use it.

A woman cleans a floor

What does it mean to disinfect?

According to MedlinePlus, an online resource through the U.S. National Library of Medicine, to disinfect something means using chemicals to kill germs. Often these chemicals need to remain on the surface for a period of time. Disinfecting does not clean a surface.

How do you disinfect vs. clean?

Since both methods are different, they each have specific instructions to ensure you are doing them correctly.


To disinfect something, you need to use specific chemicals (e.g., alcohol or bleach) or use something like UV light. When using a liquid disinfectant, you need to leave it on the surface you are cleaning for whatever time is recommended. It’s important with disinfectants to read the label and follow the detailed instructions. This will ensure your safety as you disinfect and that the product is doing its job.

For UV light disinfecting devices like the ones from PhoneSoap, whatever surface or item you're trying to disinfect must stay in the PhoneSoap unit for 10 minutes to kill 99.99% of germs.* The PhoneSoap Pro is the only unit that has a 5-minute cycle. PhoneSoap units use a patented design and powerful UV-C lights for true 360-degree disinfection of anything that fits inside. Want to disinfect tablets, remote controls, and game controllers? Try our large capacity HomeSoap.

To fight bacteria and viruses on surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, desks, and appliances, reach for the new SurfaceSoap UV wand. It kills 99.99% of germs with just a swipe.**

PhoneSoap can disinfect your phones


Often warm soapy water is the best way to clean a surface. Cleaning is often done to remove visible dirt, grime, or dust. Cleaning is very physical, and you will see a difference, whereas disinfecting is often hard to see since germs are microscopic. Cleaning does remove some germs, but not as many as disinfecting.

Why should you do both?

Cleaning and disinfecting are necessary and important. Cleaning will remove visible dirt, and disinfecting will ensure most of the germs are gone. Dirt and germs are everywhere. It’s important to clean since disinfecting can’t remove dust, grime, or dirt. And cleaning can’t remove all germs. Make sure to clean before you disinfect to get the best results, and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, even if they don’t appear dirty. Germs are still there.

It’s easier than ever to clean and disinfect your home and the things you touch every day. By combining cleaning and disinfecting and adding them to your daily routine, you’ll better tackle all those tough-to-kill germs.

*Testing was conducted in a laboratory setting on actual phones, Apple watch, headphones, credit cards, and keys with a variety of pathogens, including Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Coronavirus 229E. Real-world results may vary depending on size, shape, and material of phone or phone case. For more information, click here.

*SurfaceSoap UV was tested by BIOSCIENCE LABORATORIES, LLC against Salmonella enterica (ATCC # 10708), Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC # 6538), and HCoV-OC43 (Zeptometrix #0810024CF). SurfaceSoap UV was tested by scanning glass slides containing these microbes and shown to kill up to 99.99% of the previously specified bacteria, and 99.9% of the specified virus strain. Tests were performed with the SurfaceSoap UV moving at 3 inches per second and held 1 inch from the exposed surface.

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