What does it really mean?

November 26, 2020 2 min read

What does it really mean?

Along with our altered way of life, we are all becoming increasingly acclimatised to the new language associated with this new normal. Plenty of unfamiliar words have made their way into our daily conversations, such as ‘social distancing’, ‘furlough’, ‘Zoom’, and as previously mentioned, ‘new normal’. However, some key words relevant to cleanliness are often being used interchangeably, despite their differences. We’ve put together this cheat sheet to help you understand what they mean and navigate your way to using them seamlessly, and correctly, in your communications.


A simple definition of clean means “free from dirt or pollution”. It is a more frequently used word, but very unspecific in its nature. Often it is referring to the use of water and requires a cleaning action such as scrubbing. Cleaning does not kill bacteria, viruses or fungi, it simply removes dirt or crumbs from a surface.


Sterilise specifically means “to clean by destroying germs or bacteria”, distinguishing it from ‘clean’ which is unspecified. After a surface has been treated, resulting in the elimination of all microbial life, then it can be referred to as sterilised. In professional environments something is only sterile if 99.9999% of bacteria, viruses and all pathogens are removed.


Sanitise is a more technical and specific alternative to ‘clean’. This word is derived from the Latin word for healthy and is partly responsible for the association with surgical conditions. Sanitising products are chemicals that work by lowering the numbers of germs to a safe level.


Infection as a word has been around for a long time. Disinfection entered language as an opposing term meaning to protect from infection, and in turn, subsequent medical practises became more precise. Disinfectants are chemical products which kill more germs than sanitisers. Disinfecting does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs; it simply eliminates all harmful microorganisms.


This term refers to an agent that kills a virus or suppresses its ability to replicate. This will stop it from multiplying and reproducing. This is specific to viruses.


A process or substance that destroys bacteria or prevents growth and replication. These do not reduce the risk for symptoms of viral infectious diseases. This is specific to bacteria.


Many of our products have both antiviral and antibacterial capabilities. View our sanitisation and disinfectant products here.


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