Cleaning is the process of achieving and maintaining an area that is considered visually free from debris, including dirt, food, faeces, blood, saliva and other body secretions. This is the removal of foreign material from areas and objects. Cleaning reduces the amount of organic matter that contributes to the spread of bacteria and viruses.

The actual cleaning process is achieved through the use of aids such as cleaning tools and cleaning agents. Cleaning tools such as mops, vacuum cleaners, cloths, floor scrubbers are used to achieve a level of visual cleanliness.

Cleaning is a simple, easy way to use the two essential components of cleaning, namely friction and the use of fluids. The first stage of cleaning is friction by rubbing and wiping the soiled area and fluids generally with water and a soap solution. Washing is one way to achieve physical cleanliness, usually with water and often with some kind of soap or detergent.

Cleaning Agents

Cleaning agents are substances that come in many forms but are generally liquids, powders, sprays or granules. Some cleaning agents can kill bacteria and clean them at the same time. Cleaning is important because it prevents dirt and contaminants from spreading to oneself and others. It’s about removing dirt, including stains, dust, bad smells, and clutter on the surface.

Clean First

A thorough cleaning is required prior to disinfection and sterilization, as inorganic and organic materials remaining on the surfaces of clinical instruments may interfere with the effectiveness of disinfection and sterilization. The disinfection or sterilization process will be less effective or ineffective if the soiled materials are left to dry or to be baked on a clinical device.


Disinfection is the process or act of destroying pathogenic microorganisms and removes most organisms on the surface. Disinfectants are antimicrobial agents that are used in non-living objects to destroy microorganisms that live on objects. Disinfectants work by destroying the cell wall of microbes or by disrupting metabolism.

Type of Disinfectants

There is a wide range of disinfectants used today. One of the most cost-effective disinfectants used is chlorine bleach (5 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution) which is effective against the most common pathogens, including difficult health-care organisms, such as staphylococcal antibiotic strains, fungi, and hepatitis B and C.


Sterilization is a term that refers to any process that eliminates or kills all forms of life, including communicable agents such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and spore.

Ways of Achieving Sterilisation

Sterilization can be achieved by applying chemicals, high pressure, heat, irradiation and filtration or a combination.

Recommendation for continuous good practice

As a service provider, whether you are a home care environment, dental or GP surgery, cleaning, disinfection and sterilization will be used at different times within your facility. It is recommended that you identify and record what needs to be cleaned, disinfected and sterilized and how this is achieved. Assess who is responsible for cleaning, disinfection and sterilization. Ensure that personnel are responsible, where necessary, for cleaning, disinfection and sterilization by providing instruction, information and training as appropriate. High Touch Surfaces is an example of what to record. High Touch Surfaces such as toilets, commode chairs, computer keyboards, chairs, armchairs, call bells and telephones must be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

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