Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Frequency Table

It's one thing to know surfaces need cleaning, but it's an entirely different thing to know when to clean. How often and how much are up to personal preference, but if you've ever wondered what the "rules" to cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting everyday objects, know you are not alone.

First, it's important to understand the differences between three words often mistaken for each other: cleaning, sanitizing,  and disinfecting.


Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.


Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.


Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Dwell Time:

Dwell time, or contact time, is the amount of time disinfectants need to remain wet on surfaces to properly disinfect. This is an important consideration when purchasing cleaning supplies for fighting coronavirus. When paired with proper training, this can go a long way toward ensuring surfaces have been effectively sanitized and disinfected. Dwell times vary by disinfectant and target organism type, like bacteria, virus or fungi. They range from 30 seconds to 10 minutes or more.

While a disinfectant may kill some of the organisms immediately upon contact, it must be allowed to dwell on the surface for the time period stated on the chemical’s packaging in order to achieve a 100% kill claim.

Germs (Microbes):

Bacteria - are tiny, one-celled creatures that get nutrients from their environments in order to live. In some cases that environment is a human body. Bacteria can reproduce outside of the body or within the body as they cause infections. Some infections that bacteria can cause include ear infections, sore throats (tonsillitis or strep throat), cavities, and pneumonia.

Viruses - These microbes need to be inside living cells to grow and reproduce. Most viruses can’t survive very long if they’re not inside a living thing like a plant, animal, or person. Whatever a virus lives in is called its host.

Fungi - These are multicelled, plant-like organisms. Unlike other plants, fungi cannot make their own food from soil, water, and air. Instead, fungi get their nutrition from plants, people, and animals. They love to live in damp, warm places, and many fungi are not dangerous in healthy people.

Protozoa - These are one-celled organisms that love moisture and often spread diseases through water. Some protozoa cause intestinal infections that lead to diarrhea, nausea, and belly pain.


Areas Before Use After Use Daily Weekly Monthly Notes

Food Preparation Surfaces

Clean, and then sanitize Clean, and then sanitize Use a sanitizer safe for food contact


Clean, and then sanitize If washing the dishes and utensils by hand, use a sanitizer safe for food contact as the final step in the process; use of an automated dishwasher will sanitize
Tables/Highchairs Clean, and then sanitize Clean, and then sanitize
Countertops Clean Clean, and then sanitize Use a sanitizer safe for food contact
Food Preparation Appliances Clean Clean, and then sanitize
Mixed Use Tables Clean, and then sanitize Before serving food
Refrigerator Clean
Toilet & Diapering Areas Clean, and then disinfect Clean, and then disinfect
Changing Tables Clean, and then disinfect Clean, rinse, disinfect
Potty Chairs Clean, and then disinfect Use of potty chairs is not recommended, but if used should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
Hand Washing Sinks & Faucets Clean, and then disinfect
Countertops Clean, and then disinfect
Toilets Clean, and then disinfect
Diaper Pails Clean, and then disinfect
Floors Clean, and then disinfect Damp mop with a floor cleaner/disinfectant
Child Care Areas Clean, and then disinfect Clean, and then disinfect Clean, sanitize, and then disinfect
Plastic Mouthed Toys Clean Clean, and then Sanitize
Pacifiers Clean Clean, and then Sanitize Reserve for use by only one child; use dishwasher or boil for one minute
Hats Clean Clean after each use if head lice present
Door & Cabinet Handles Clean, and then disinfect
Carpets and Large Area Rugs Clean Clean
Small Rugs Clean Clean
Machine Washable Cloth Toys Clean
Dress-up Clothes Clean
Play Activity Centers Clean
Drinking Fountains Clean, and then disinfect
Computer Keyboards Clean, and then sanitize
Phone Receivers Clean
Sleeping Areas Clean Clean and disinfect
Bed Sheets & Pillow Cases Clean
Cribs, Cots, & Mats Clean
Blankets Clean


With this knowledge in hand, you can clean, sanitize, and disinfect your way to a time in a not-so-distant future where the world feels just a little bit more normal. Stay safe, stay clean, and stay looking for the next brighter day!

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