To disinfect is to literally "free" from infection. This term has come to imply chemical treatment of an inanimate surface or substance to rid it from harmful micro-organisms.
Three Levels of Disinfection
- High-level disinfectants
Are chemical sterilants, which when used for a shorter exposure period than would be required for sterilisation, kill all microorganisms with the exception of high numbers of bacterial spores.
- Intermediate-level disinfectants
May kill mycobacteria, vegetative bacteria, most viruses, and most fungi but do not necessarily kill bacterial spores.
- Low-level disinfectants
May kill most vegetative bacteria, some fungi, and some viruses.
Sanitising is the reducing of the number of bacterial contaminants to levels judged safe by public health authorities. It implies a degree of physical cleanliness, i.e. sanitiser is applied to a pre-cleaned surface.
This should not be confused with sanitising or disinfecting. To sterilise means to destroy all forms of life applied especially to micro-organisms, including bacterial, mould & spores.
There are no degrees of sterilisation, an item is either sterile, or it is not. If is is not sterile it is contaminated.