Guide to Cleaning Product Labels

When we clean our homes, is it best to use antibacterial, disinfectant or sanitizing cleaners?  What’s the difference between those labels?  Is it better to use one in the kitchen and another in the bathroom?  Well here’s an easy guide to knowing what these designations mean and where they are best put to use.

First, know that it’s the EPA that defines and regulates these claims.  Manufacturers must meet the standards below in order to label their products accurately.

As its name suggests, “antibacterial” products must kill or suppress the growth of bacteria on non-living surfaces. They do not kill all germs or get rid of viruses or fungi; their target is bacteria.  Antibacterials, such as rubbing alcohol are short-acting and appropriate for home use.  Long-acting antibacterials, such as triclosan, may be more effective in settings such as hospitals, where the risk of infection is greater.

Sanitizers reduce the amount of micro-organisms, like fungi, bacteria, and viruses on a surface to a level public health codes or regulations deem safe, usually destroying 99.9 percent of disease-causing micro-organisms.  They can fail to destroy some pathogenic bacteria, and should not be used to thoroughly clean surfaces that have been exposed to meat, poultry, fish or eggs.  When properly applied, sanitizers generally work within 30 seconds.

With respect to hand sanitizers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using soap and water first (the length of time we should wash our hands is the length of two rounds of “Happy Birthday”.)  If soap and water are not available the use of hand sanitizers is recommended.

Disinfectants destroy and inhibit the growth of microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, and viruses on non-living surfaces. To be labeled as a disinfectant, a product must kill 99.9999 percent of micro-organisms.  They should be used to clean surfaces that have been in contact with foods such as eggs, meat, poultry and fish.  It takes between five and ten minutes for disinfectants to destroy germs.

It is recommended to remove grease and dirt from surfaces with basic soap and water prior to proper disinfecting and sanitizing.

By using green living product lines such as Seventh Generation or a DIY cleaner which uses effective ingredients such as vinegar or essential oils, you can minimize the risk of suffering the effects of exposure to the harsh chemicals used in most commercial cleaners.

How to Make a Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Battle the Top 10 Germ Hot Spots
Top 10 Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean the House


Cinderella Maid Service
Past Member 6 years ago

I read your article which I assume has been written after deep thought. I have been following you for a while and have asked my friends also to do so.

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jessica w.
jessica w6 years ago


Ida J.
Ida J6 years ago


David N.
David N6 years ago

Thanks for the article and the great information.

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn6 years ago

thank you

Alison Personal Messages
Alison A6 years ago

Great info, thanks for posting.

Noemie L.
Noemie L6 years ago

Interessant, thanks.

Carole K.
Carole K6 years ago

First read & commented on this article on 10/09/2010. Re-read today via Daily Action. TY for the summary article & review of it today.I would agree that cleaning is over-rated & over-done; that's why I do as little of it as I possibly can. LOL!

Margaret  Marge F.
Marge F6 years ago

Thank-you for the informative article. Interesting information on the differences between the various types of cleaning agents.

patricia m lasek
patricia lasek6 years ago

Thanks fortheinfo.