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What is the Difference Between Cleaning, Antibacterial/Sanitizing, & Disinfecting Wipes?

You might think the terms cleaning, anti-bacterial or sanitizing, and disinfecting seem interchangeable, but there is a big difference between them when it comes to popular wipe products. Now more than ever, it’s essential for everyone to know the differences.

For starters, we need to talk about germs. Germ is a general term that describes microbes like viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Any time someone touches a surface, they leave germs behind. Most surfaces have some form of germs on them regardless if they’ve been touched recently. Germs are everywhere, and they thrive in virtually all environments on Earth.

While some germs are good, helping our immune systems and our bodies remain in balance, bad germs are notorious for causing illness and infection. That’s why it’s critical for you to understand when and how to use cleaning, anti-bacterial, and disinfecting wipes in your home, gym, office, or any other high-traffic area.

Wipes come in three basic types and Sportsmith carries them all. 

  1. Clean and deodorize - these clean but make no claims to kill anything.
  2. Antibacterial/Sanitizing - these kill but are safe for use on the skin. Many wipes, including our Sportsmith wipes have antiviral properties as well.
  3. Disinfecting - these are the top antiviral antibacterial wipes. They are the only type that can be certified by the EPA to kill certain viruses and bacteria. If they are also on the EPA List N, they are certified to kill COVID-19 (SARS CoV-2).

Need-to-Know: Facts About Cleaning, Antibacterial/Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Wipes

  • What is COVID-19? COVID-19 is a Coronavirus, and it is "enveloped", which means it has an outer envelope (called a lipid) and likes to stick to surfaces. Enveloped viruses like COVID-19 and Influenza are also easy to kill with disinfectants. All the disinfectant has to do is weaken the envelope, and the virus will die.
  • Many disinfecting and anti-bacterial wipes are anti-microbial. That means the active ingredients tend to kill microbes like viruses and bacteria.
  • Disinfecting wipes should be used in areas of your home or workspace you interact with most frequently, like doorknobs, light switches, remotes, and toilet handles. Other items include equipment like keyboards, treadmills, barbells, and other machines that see regular use.
  • Disinfecting wipes require a dwell time, which is why you must leave the surface wet for a period of time for maximum effectiveness. Use according to the label.
  • Disinfecting wipes shouldn't be used on sensitive surfaces or fabrics, especially if they contain bleach or alcohol.
  • Always check disinfecting wipe packages for EPA approval – this should come in the form of a long EPA registration number. Remember, a product must be on the EPA List N for guaranteed effectiveness against COVID-19.
  • Anti-bacterial or sanitizing wipes can be used for surfaces and body parts since they are typically gentler in nature. Many sanitizing wipes use alcohol or QUAT formulas.
  • You should keep all cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting wipes out of reach of children.
  • Just because you used cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting wipes on surfaces around you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash your hands! Keep your hands clean to further minimize the spread of germs.
  • Even if a surface looks clean, that doesn’t mean it’s disinfected. Always take precautions when touching surfaces with your bare hands. The first line of defense is washing your hands often and wiping down hard surfaces with the appropriate wipe.
  • Use caution when using any wipes on your skin. FDA-approved wipes are safe for use on the skin, but any person may have a reaction to the ingredients in any wipe.

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