Biosecurity 101: Cleaners vs. disinfectants

Dairy_Farm_665847_blogBiosecurity is a huge topic, but it can be summed up as preventing the spread of harmful microorganisms.

A crucial part of this prevention is the proper cleaning and disinfection of facilities, objects in the environment, and basically anything that can spread microbes to another area or animal.

But what exactly does it mean to “clean” something versus “disinfecting” it? True, they go hand-in-hand, but there are some major differences.


It’s easiest to think of cleaning as the process by which all of the visible dirt and ick is removed. The detergent in cleaners helps get rid of organic matter, such as dirt or animal droppings, which may contain or spread disease. In fact, if done properly, cleaning can eliminate the vast majority of contamination.

Cleaning also helps expose as much of the target surface as possible by removing caked-on organic matter, which allows its cohort, the disinfectant, to be more effective.


While cleaning gets rid of the stuff we can see, disinfection tackles the microbes that we can’t. Disinfection is the process of using chemicals to kill microbes, thereby preventing their spread.

For the best results, it’s important to allow enough contact time between the disinfectant and the surface to ensure the disinfectant can work properly.


Cleaning and disinfection are important components to biosecurity – without proper cleaning, disinfectants can’t get at the surfaces they’re supposed to, well, disinfect. Without disinfectants, a surface may look clean, but harmful microbes still could be hiding there. Although, each case (and facility) is different and has specific biosecurity needs, they all have one thing in common—the desire to prevent the spread of illness and protect humans and animals from the spread of dangerous microbes.

For more on Neogen’s cleaners and disinfectants, click here.

For more on biosecurity from Neogen blog, click here.


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