The Right Way To Use Sanitizers and Disinfectants

Sanitizers and disinfectants have been on our radar ever since COVID-19 hit us. But what’s the difference between the two? And can they be used interchangeably?

Sanitizer vs. Disinfectant: Same, Same But Different

While both products are designed to fight off the COVID-19 virus and reduce its survival, they aren’t exactly alike. A sanitizer brings germs to a safe or permissible level by removing them (cleaning) or killing them altogether (disinfecting). Disinfecting doesn’t attempt to clear away the germs but kills them.

When To Use What

A hand sanitizer is meant to be used as a hand-rub to clean your hands when soap and water aren’t available. It must contain 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol for use as hand rubs to ward off COVID-19.

Household disinfectants target and eliminates germs on surfaces or objects. They do not, however, clean if the surface is dirty, so you’ll need to do that separately. The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recommends phenolic disinfectants or bleach/1% sodium hypochlorite solution.

Sanitizers for the home may be made for both cleaning and disinfecting but will typically have to be applied/used differently. For instance, a concentrated bleach solution can work as a disinfectant. But if that same solution is diluted more, it could be used as a less strong sanitizer.

How To Use Them Correctly: Tips For Best Results

  • With both sanitizers and disinfectants, first clean away any visible dirt or grease as this reduces their effectiveness. Use soap and water or detergent to clean the grime away and then use the product to neutralize the virus.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions described on the bottle. If the use of gloves and protection for the eyes is suggested, use them.
  • Ensure the room is well ventilated so that the fumes don’t bother you.
  • Do not mix solutions. Stick to one kind at a time.


  1. How To Clean and Disinfect, CDC
  2. Green Cleaning, Sanitizing , And Disinfecting, University Of California
  3. COVID-19: Guidelines On Disinfection, Indian Ministry Of Health & Family Welfare
  4. Hand Hygiene Recommendations, CDC
  5. Sanitize vs. Disinfect: What’s the Difference?
  6. Cleaning and Disinfection for Households, CDC