A reader writes: "I struggle with how to define "clean" since each customer seems to have different expectations. Any assistance would be appreciated."

1. "Clean" like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The short answer is "free of any soils or contaminants including pathogens." The following are my definitions which others may not agree with.

2. The challenge is applying any definition of "clean" to a specific area since not all areas are created equal and have differing requirements.

3. The act of cleaning has to do with removing soils from a surface with no determined kill rate for microorganisms.

a. To be "clean" a surface should be free of all visible soils but there is no guarantee that there are not microorganisms/pathogens present.

b. Wiping a table with a dry or dampened cloth would remove soils and possibly their food supply for microorganisms from a table top.

c. Remember that a clean, dry surface exposed to light and air is a major deterrent to growth of microorganisms.

4. Following are some suggested definitions:

a. "Sanitizer" is a chemical or process that does not have an EPA registration number but has proven effective in killing microorganisms.

b. "Disinfectant" is a product with an EPA registration number that has proven in laboratory conditions the ability to kill 99.9999999% of the microorganism on a surface when used as directed.

c. "Contact" or "Dwell" time has to do with the required time for an EPA registered disinfectant to be effective.

d. "Aseptic" level cleaning in this instance has to do with being free from pathogenic microorganism by utilizing processes such as cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilizing where appropriate.

e. "Fomite" has to do with any inanimate object such as a toy, door handle or other surface that can enable the transmission of pathogens unless it has been treated with the appropriate cleaning/disinfecting process.

The challenge is to use the correct terms to describe desired outcomes.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.