When to clean, sanitise and sterilise?

Ask most people, and they will have a good idea of what it means to clean something (although some people’s idea of cleaning leaves a lot to be desired), but how many people understand the difference between sanitising and sterilising, and when best to use the different methods.


In the vast majority of day-to-day circumstances, simply cleaning surfaces thoroughly and regularly is sufficient to keep people well and areas safe, presentable, fresh smelling and pest free. Cleaning essentially means removing dirt and debris through wiping, washing, brushing, vacuuming etc and often includes the use of water and detergents.

Cleaning is always the first step. You cannot sanitise or sterilise a surface without first cleaning thoroughly.


In some circumstances, it may be necessary to sanitise surfaces. This involves the application of heat and/or chemicals (or other processes) to a surface so the number of micro‐organisms on the surface is reduced to a level that is safe for food contact and does not permit the transmission of infectious disease.

Situations where sanitisation is required includes food preparation surfaces where raw meat has been placed, periodic sanitisation of desks etc. or for infection control on frequently touched communal surfaces such lift buttons, door handles, and in the healthcare sector.


Sterilisation requires the destruction and removal of all micro-organisms, something that can only be achieved in strict environments and with the use of very harsh chemicals or specialist technology – think surgical equipment.

Sterilisation is an extreme act and difficult to achieve. Even when something is sterilised, it won’t stay that way for long unless it is kept in a sterile environment.

In our modern lives, we have been conditioned to think that in order to maintain a safe and clean environment, we need to obliterate everything with bleach and kill 99.9% of bacteria. Now this is clearly important in some scenarios, but with harsh chemicals comes other problems like allergies, toxicity, indoor air pollution, water pollution etc.

The key is to know when to clean, when to sanitise and when to sterilise. As a professional cleaning contractor, our cleaners are trained in the safest and most effective methods of cleaning any environment. We can advise on what level and frequency of cleanling is necessary to maintain a healthy, clean and safe office or school.

To learn more about our cleaning services in Bristol, Bath and the South West of England, call us today on 0800 4488026.