Cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants: we tend to think of these surface cleaning products interchangeably, but knowing the difference between them is more important than ever during the coronavirus pandemic. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) points out, only one of these home-cleansing categories is proven to kill coronavirus, and most Americans don't know which it is.

Think of it like this: cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants are tested to three different standards of rigor—cleaning products being the least rigorously tested, sanitizers being the middle ground, and disinfectants being the gold standard.

While cleaners can remove things like dirt and grime, they don't necessarily kill bacteria or viruses. Products are classified as sanitizers if they kill bacteria (the particulars of which will be listed on the product's label), but have not been proven to kill viruses. Finally, products classified as disinfectants have been thoroughly tested and proven to kill both viruses and bacteria.

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