What is the difference between a detergent and a sanitiser?

What Is The Difference Between A Detergent And Sanitiser?


Detergent, disinfectants and sanitisers are all used in cleaning. But there are important differences between them. Using the right equipment and products will ensure that cleaning is effective. In this article, we answer the popular question “What is the difference between detergent and sanitiser?”

What is cleaning?

Cleaning is the removal of dirt, grease and contamination. In a food business, cleaning is essential to maintain high standards of hygiene and to ensure that food produced is safe by protecting it from physical, microbiological and chemical contamination. The right cleaning products must be used to ensure that cleaning is effective.


A detergent is a product that removes dirt and dissolves grease. It is a surfactant that can help you remove dirt and grease from dirty dishes and preparation areas. Using detergent should be one of the first and more important steps in cleaning. The reason for this is because it helps to lift dirt and grease. It is crucial to bear in mind that detergent does not kill bacteria.


Disinfectants are chemical products that reduce bacteria to a safe level. They can be used after a detergent to ensure that any remaining bacteria are destroyed. 

They are often used to clean food contact areas (such as chopping boards, or counters) and hand contact areas (such as taps or fridge handles). 

Hot water at 82c or steam can also disinfect. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using chemical disinfectants.

Disinfectants must be left on for a certain amount of time to destroy bacteria, this is called the contact time, and it will vary from brand to brand.


A sanitiser is a combination of a detergent and a disinfectant. It is, therefore, used to remove dirt, dissolve grease and reduce bacteria to a safe level. Sanitisers are very practical; however, the detergent in them is greatly diluted and is, therefore, only useful on surfaces that are not very dirty.


The process of sterilising involves destroying all microorganisms (bacteria and their spores); this is not something that can be achieved effectively in a food production area. Effective cleaning and disinfection of all food contact and hand contact areas are sufficient to ensure the production of safe food.

Training Available

Envesca offers the following courses, all of which include details on cleaning products and procedures.

Level 1 Award in Food Safety

Level 2 Award in Food Safety

Level 3 Award in Food Safety

Level 4 Award in Food Safety

If you would like to discuss the various options with our friendly team give us a call on 01452 898180

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