I recently participated in a workshop where a fellow speaker changed my perception of Clean, Sanitize, Disinfect and Sterilize based on the concept of germ kill.

I had been promoting the concept that “cleaning” (simply wiping a surface) killed or removed around 50 percent of the microorganisms since it usually used a neutral detergent and cloth to remove the dust, food source and expose the surface to light and air which are anathema to most microorganisms.

My definition of “sanitize” was 50-99 percent kill rate using a sanitizer/disinfectant that needed a longer dwell time. This step was usually preceded by cleaning the surface first to remove any soils that could reduce the efficacy of the sanitizer/disinfectant.

My definition of “disinfect” was 99.999 percent kill rate when used correctly with prescribed dwell time. Again, the surface had to be cleaned of soils first before disinfecting was performed.

My definition of “sterilize” was 100 percent kill rate by utilizing an autoclave. Of course, sterilizing is not practical in most cases even though there are new products and processes that claim to kill 100 with fogs or lights.

The fellow speaker defined “sanitize” as 99.999 percent (to the third digit) kill rate. He then defined “disinfect” as 99.9999999 percent (to the seventh digit) when used correctly with sufficient dwell time. This was a revelation to me and I must admit that in most cases we may not be sanitizing or disinfecting as I perceive the processes currently being utilized in the industry. Since I have no reason to question this person’s credentials and knowledge I am going to rethink training and interpretations of what is clean and to what degree.

As the bar is raised or clarified, we must be willing to accept guidance and make changes as appropriate. Your comments and feedback are always appreciated. 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.