The Difference Between

Cleaning, Disinfecting and Sanitizing

There are differences between these three words, and it is important that you know what they are.

  • Cleaning is getting the container free of visual debris such as food, lotions, soaps, etc. It is basically the removal of foreign material from areas and objects. Cleaning reduces organic matter and can be done by removing any labels and scrubbing the container with soap and water. You can clean your containers in the dishwasher but it does not sterilize them. Cleaning must be done before you can sterilize!

  • Disinfecting (or sanitizing) is the process of destroying and removing most organisms that are present on surfaces, reducing them to a safe level.

  • Sanitizing is to have a substrate deemed hygienic (from a public health perspective), thus sanitizers reduce, not eliminate, the growth of bacteria.

Sanitizing Glass

In order to avoid any contamination when refilling, make sure your container is clean and dry. Here are some quick tips to help you sanitize your containers. 


  • Large Pot

  • Filtered Water

  • Dish Soap


  1. Wash containers (wash lids, jars, and pumps)
    For Containers & Lids: Wash with soap and water. 
    For Pumps & Misters: Squirt soapy water through pump or mister, about 8 oz. Repeat with 8 oz clean water to rinse pump. Set on clean surface to air dry.

  2. Place jars right side up in a large pot. Fill the pot with filtered water until containers are covered with hot (not boiling water). Bring the water to a boil and leave boiling for 10 minutes. Do not boil plastic containers or parts.

  3. Remove from heat and allow the water to cool completely before removing containers with lifters or tongs. Allow containers to air dry on a clean surface.

  4. Store in a clean and dry place until ready to refill and reuse! 


Cleaning Plastics

By repurposing your plastic containers, you are keeping one less plastic out of the landfill.  Here is one way to help you prepare your plastic for refill.


  • Warm Water

  • Rubbing Alcohol

  • Dish Soap


  1. Clean your plastic container thoroughly with warm soapy water, making sure to remove all old cleaning or body care product residue.

  2. Disinfect bottles, spray nozzles, and lids with a diluted solution of rubbing alcohol with a ratio of 70% water to 30% alcohol.

  3. Be sure your containers are completely dry before bringing them in to be filled.  (Fun fact: Sanitizing with alcohol helps to evaporate excess water from small containers or containers with small openings that are hard to dry)