Disinfecting vs. Sanitizing

Properly Disinfecting and Sanitizing

To sanitize or disinfect in your home, you generally start with bleach and cool water in a bucket (hot water decreases effectiveness). Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Make sure that you're using a bleach concentration appropriate for household rather than industrial use. Concentrations of 5.25 percent or 6 percent hypochlorite are safe for use in the house.

If you're sanitizing, use 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water (or 1 teaspoon to 1 quart). Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and spray the item you want to sanitize (or dip from the bucket and wipe the item with paper towels). Leave the solution on the area for at least one minute before rinsing. This solution can be used on toys, eating utensils and objects that will come into contact with mouths.

If you're disinfecting, mix 1/4 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Since this concentration is stronger, use it only to disinfect areas that will not have contact with food or mouths – like changing tables, potty chairs, hospital areas and floors. You also should expose the area to bleach solution for a longer period of time. As we mentioned earlier, the official test for disinfecting mandates that all germs must be killed in 10 minutes, but usually an exposure of two to three minutes is enough.

Related Articles


  • ALLQA Products. "Sanitizing with Bleach." (June 26, 2012). http://www.allqa.com/ChlorineSanitizing.htm
  • Antimicrobial Laboratories. "AOAC Use Dilution Test." (June 26, 2012). http://www.antimicrobialtestlaboratories.com/AOAC_Use_Dilution_Test_for_Disinfectants.htm
  • Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department. "Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting." June 2008. (June 11, 2012). http://hennepin.us/files/HennepinUS/HSPHD/Public%20Health%20Protection/Epidemiology/Daycare%20Manual/1085_s2aclean.pdf
  • Maryland Public Schools. "General Sanitation Guidelines." (June 26, 2012). http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/5FCFA874-2853-4247-ACC4-F11196C07F93/10596/GeneralSanitationGuidelines.pdf
  • Hillyard: The Cleaning Resource. "Disinfectants Vs. Sanitizers." (June 15, 2012). http://www.hillyard.com/ProductsServices/UniversityofHillyard/Disvsant.htm
  • National Food Service Management Institute. "Food Safety Grab and Go Lesson." (June 11, 2012). http://www.nfsmi.org/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20100917025848.pdf
  • NCRKids. "Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards." (june 11, 2012). http://nrckids.org/CFOC3/HTMLVersion/AppendixJ.pdf