Failing to implement proper cleaning and sanitising procedures in your food business can cause cross-contamination and make customers sick. Effectively cleaning and sanitising surfaces where bacteria live is a crucial step in keeping customers safe from food-borne illness.
Start by making sure your cleaning and sanitising tools are in good shape. Just because a sponge or towel looks clean and are frequently doused in cleaning agents, does not mean it is sanitary enough to use for your kitchen surfaces. Sponges can actually trap dangerous microorganisms in their porous material.
Replace sponges regularly — well before they look or smell bad — and run the sponge you’re using through a hot washing machine cycle or soak them in a bleach solution periodically.
Dish towels hold on to large amounts of germs, so you should use different towels for different tasks. For example, don’t dry your hands on the same towel you used to wipe a counter.
Every day, all kitchen surfaces should be wiped down with clean towels and strong cleaning agents, in order to kill organisms.
Cleaning is not the same as sanitising
These two processes require different tools and products, and have different purposes.
Cleaning removes all visible dirt, soil, chemical residues and allergens from equipment, utensils and work surfaces. Sanitising, which is performed after cleaning, reduces the number of microorganisms to a safe level. If the surface isn’t first cleaned, sanitising will be less effective.
All surfaces that come into contact with food must be cleaned and sanitised after every use — and this is especially true if you’re switching from working with raw and ready-to-eat foods. This could include dishware, glassware, cutlery, pots and pans, serving utensils, cooking equipment, as well as surfaces such as chopping boards, kitchen counters and tables where guests have dined. If an item is in constant use, it must be cleaned and sanitised at least once every four hours.
Items that have not had direct contact with food — such as chairs, floors, doors, walls and windows, under cushions, around light fixtures and curtains — must also be cleaned and sanitised regularly.
Schedule cleaning and sanitising for best results
In order to keep track of cleaning and sanitising, create a Kitchen Equipment Cleaning Schedule that includes daily, weekly and monthly tasks, with a checklist that employees must complete as part of their duties. This schedule should include:
- detailed instructions on how all surfaces need to be cleaned
- how frequently each item must be cleaned
- who is responsible
- which cleaning agents to use (including concentration, temperature and contact time)
- how to avoid contaminating food
All staff should be trained in the proper cleaning and sanitising process, and complete regular refresher training.
7 steps for cleaning and sanitising
Print out the Australian Institute of Food Safety’s (AIFS) 7 Steps to Effective Cleaning & Sanitising Poster and post it in prominent locations in your food business to help ensure employees are following the correct cleaning and sanitising procedure.
- Scrape: The goal of scraping is to remove all dirt, grease and food particles from the kitchen surface. Use a clean brush or cloth, and ensure all visible debris is gone before moving on to the next step.
- Rinse (first time): After scraps of dirt and food are gone from the surface, rinse with hot water — it should reach a temperature of 45°C or above.
- Apply cleaning agent: Use hot water and a cleaning agent to remove any grease or food that still remains after scraping and rinsing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to use the correct amount, and thoroughly clean surfaces with small grooves or indentations, as bacteria can hide in these spots.
- Rinse (again): Rinse the item again with hot water, at a minimum temperature of 45°C. This step is important as it removes any detergent and reduces the risk of chemical contamination.
- Sanitise: When using sanitiser, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the correct concentration and contact time. If you’re using a chemical sanitiser, be extra safe and test the solution with a test kit.
- Rinse (last time): A final rinse removes any remaining sanitiser or chemical agent that could potentially lead to cross-contamination of food.
- Dry: Always let items air dry as it’s more sanitary than using cloths or dish towels, which could potentially carry bacteria and actually undo your work.
Cleaning and sanitising should always be done right
Cleaning and sanitising helps to present a good image to customers. No one wants to eat in or purchase food from a place that’s unhygienic. And a good reputation boosts your business’s revenue.
Cleanliness also discourages infestations, as pests are attracted to scraps, crumbs, grease and other food residues. Food businesses are legally required to do everything possible to ensure a spotless, sanitary environment. Proper cleaning and sanitising procedures provide the best defense against a possible food-borne illness outbreak.
All staff in your food business should be trained in and regularly implement effective cleaning and sanitising procedures. Stay on top of your cleaning and sanitising processes with the help of our Restaurant Cleaning Checklist.