Organized, Clean, Sanitary, Sterile: Defining the Terms

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defining the terms
Heather says:

It dawned on me last night -because even in my head the clock is off- that after nearly three years of posting I have never described the difference between: clean, organized, sanitary, and sterile. Well… hang on because it isn’t that difficult.

I’ve got lots more easy to understand and very practical information in my book: Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living – Cook it, Clean it, Fix it, Wash it

A home can be organized and still be filthy. Organization is simply a matter of creating a place for all of your stuff. Sometimes that place is the landfill, recycling center, or thrift store.

A clean home can still be unsanitary. The act of cleaning only implies the removal of dirt.

home organizing tips
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Sanitary? That’s the killing or removal of microorganisms to an acceptably safe level. The legal version of this term depends on local health codes, here at I stick with the USDA’s guidelines. It’s possible to have a disorganized but clean and sanitary home, it’s just a pain in the butt.

And sterile? Sterile implies a state where all microorganisms have been killed or removed. Sterile is for operating rooms.

Got it?

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16 thoughts on “Organized, Clean, Sanitary, Sterile: Defining the Terms”

  1. so my home is unorganized, semi-clean all the time (as i cycle thru clean up after 3 children), and my home is clean when guests arrive. My mother's home is sanitary 24/7/365 and sterile when guests arrive! — got it – rofl.

  2. I need to move some of my neuroses from one area to another. Sheesh.

    Actually what's really sad is that I'm a nurse and (this is embarrassing, but I guess we can file it under an early Sunday confessional) I am privately such a slob. At work I tidy up, clean, sanitize, and occasionally sterilize ALL THE TIME since I work with cancer patients who have no immune system. We have a clean hand and an unclean hand when we do procedures, for example. Everyone gets their bed linens changed every day. Etc, etc. At home, notsomuch.

    I think I'm going to go change my sheets now.

  3. Hmmm. I think my house is sanitary and organized on the day that I clean. And then a bit lived-in for the rest of the week. Sterile? Nope. Funny timing, I just posted my cleaning schedule on my blog today. But I don't have kids. I imagine when I do, my cleaning schedule will go down the drain with the rest of my spare time!

  4. OK not sure where the best place to post a question is but I have one for ya…….How is the best way to clean a mattress?? Dec 2008 I splurged and upgraded from a queen bed to a fabulously huge king size bedset.I'm wondering how is the best way to clean the mattress? I have a small "spot" cleaner by hoover (I think)-and I use that to get stains/spills-thank goodness there have only been a few.But I've been thinking how does everyone clean their mattresses? I've heard of putting it outside and letting it "air out" but that's not feesable where I live.Recently in a yoga catalog I saw a sanitizing "wand" sort of thing (uses UV I think) and have thought about getting that.Just curious as to what other people do…..THANKS


  5. I will share this post with my dad. His house is always very organized but not sanitized yet he complains about my sanitized but disorganized home.


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