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The Differences between Germs and Bacteria

Stay clear of both germs and bacteria year-round.

Germs, bacteria, viruses – are they all the same thing? The first step to keeping you and your family healthy is understanding what germs are out there. Read on to discover how germs work and what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Are Germs and Bacteria the Same Thing?

Germs and bacteria are related, but they aren’t the same thing. “Germ” is an umbrella category which bacteria falls under — it’s a type of germ. There are four major types of germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.1

  • Bacteria: There are good bacteria — like the probiotic bacteria in yogurt that helps your gut function — and bad bacteria, which can make you sick. These single-celled organisms get nutrients from their environments: you, your child, or any other living being. Illnesses like strep throat or food poisoning are caused by bacteria.
  • Viruses: Viruses are tiny — even smaller than a single cell bacterium. They can only survive when living inside something (or someone) else, but can live on surfaces for short periods. The common cold or the flu are typical sicknesses caused by viruses.
  • Fungi: While a mushroom may come to mind, these plant-like organisms are more than toadstools. Most fungal infections, like athlete’s foot or a yeast infection, are pretty mild, but can be harmful to those with compromised immune systems.
  • Protozoa: This lesser-known type of germ is one of the most dangerous. Protozoa, a moisture-loving organism, is often spread through contaminated water — though some varieties can live outside the human body for long periods of time. Amebiasis or giardiasis are two illnesses caused by protozoa.

Viruses are the most common nuisance to everyday health. Preventing viral infections is a top priority, since they can cause many illnesses from the flu to pneumonia — even chickenpox! To better protect against potential viruses, it’s first helpful to understand what they are and how they differ from other germ types like bacteria.

What is a Virus?

A virus is a category of germ, referring to a bit of genetic material packaged inside protein. Although both viruses and bacteria can cause diseases, there’s no need to worry about them equally. While almost all viruses cause disease, most bacteria are actually good for people — and the planet.2 All viruses require a living host, like yourself, in order to live. Bacteria can produce their own energy and food by pulling from their environment. Killing viruses through safe, chemical-free cleaning products is the most effective way to combat germs and keep your world clean.

How Do Germs Spread?

Germs spread super easily, which is why it’s so important to be vigilant about keeping yourself and your loved ones protected. Germs can spread through direct contact with another person or animal, like a hug, a handshake, or a slobbery kiss from your pet dog. They can also be transmitted through shared surfaces, like countertops or doorknobs. Bodily fluids, like sweat or blood, can also spread germs — so make sure to wipe down any equipment at the gym before and after using. Finally, food can actually be a secret transmitter of germs. Anyone preparing, serving, or eating food should take all precautions to reduce germs by thoroughly handwashing.3

Top Tips to Keep Germs at Bay

  • Wipe down. Think about all the places you touch on a day-to-day basis. Kitchen counters, toilet seats, sinks, knobs, switches, keyboards, and more. The hidden culprit for many germs: your smartphone!4 Use a damp wipe every few days to clean off gunk that may be on the surface. For the ultimate peace of mind, use SoClean’s O3 Smarthome Cleaning System. The Device Disinfector can be used as a powerful antibacterial phone cleaner that kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria through activated oxygen technology.5 It’s a great way to reduce the risk of viruses living on your phone’s surface.
  • Wash up. Washing your hands before a meal may be standard in your household, but are you doing it for long enough? It’s best to wash your hands for 20-30 seconds6 with soap and warm water. Try humming the “Happy Birthday” song from start to finish, twice through. Make sure to do this before and after eating, after using public transit or shared spaces like public restrooms, and after visiting anyone who may have a cold. Keep a small tube of hand sanitizer around, so germs never catch you off guard.
  • Keep to yourself. If you’re feeling sick, or have a cough or fever, make sure to stay at home and away from loved ones to avoid spreading germs. Make sure to toss tissues as soon as they are used and wash your hands regularly. Be conscious of sharing foods, drinks, or personal items like cosmetics, to make sure your loved ones stay healthy.
  • Air it out. If you care about what food you put in your body, why wouldn’t you prioritize the air you breathe every day? Change the filters in your home air filtration system frequently – at least every six months7 – to make sure you and your family are breathing the cleanest possible air. Consider investing in a small air purifier to improve indoor air quality with the touch of a button.

The best way to prevent germs from getting in the way of your life is to get ahead of them. Prevent infections through regular disinfecting, hand-washing, air filtering, and simple lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of germ transmission. By understanding the different types of germs and bacteria out there, you’re well on your way towards a better clean and healthy living.


  2. Mayo Clinic
  3. MN Department of Health
  5. SoClean
  7. CNET