Kitchen Cleaning Starts with Keeping Your Cleaning Tools Clean was published for client AVMOR
When it comes to the proper and effective commercial kitchen cleaning, we often find that cleaning tools—the items we use to help keep the kitchen clean and healthy— are the very items that can spread disease. According to a 2007 report by the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition:
Cleaning tools can be a significant source of microbial contamination [in a commercial kitchen] if not cleaned. Cleaning tools like brooms, mops, squeegees, buckets, sponges, scrapers, foaming equipment, water guns, etc., should be cleaned and sanitized … [and] stored clean, dried, and secured.*
Keeping cleaning tools clean and sanitized is always an issue in all kinds of facilities, if for no other reason, the cleaner the tools, the more professional the cleaning worker looks. But it is an especially pressing issue when it comes to keeping a commercial kitchen clean.
- Raw meats, fish, and poultry and the juices produced by these food items can breed many pathogens until adequately cooked. These fluids often find their way on to cleaning tools during the cleaning process.
- Similarly, fruits and vegetables, depending on where they are grown, can be a source of pathogens until effectively cleaned or cooked. These food items can also contaminate cleaning tools.
- Cleaning tools collect soils and contaminants. This means, as they are used, instead of removing, they can spread these contaminants to other areas of the kitchen.
In fact, it is such a concern in food processing facilities, that surfaces are always being tested to see if pathogens – or potential pathogens are present. They often do this by using ATP (adenosine triphosphate) rapid monitoring systems. While these monitors do not say what pathogens may be on a surface, a high ATP reading indicates cause for concern.
Further, earlier this year, the American Society for Microbiology, published a report suggesting that special “paper stickers,” are proving to be an effective way to determine if contamination exists on surfaces. The stickers absorb contaminants. While they still must be analyzed, in a laboratory or through a testing process, the entire procedure can be relatively fast and easy.
This means cleaning professionals should do all they can to keep a commercial kitchen clean and it all begins with their tools. Here are some “best practices” and guidelines to follow:
- After each use, thoroughly clean tools to remove grease, oil, food residue, and soils. Allow to air dry.
- Remember that when we clean and sanitize or clean and disinfect cleaning tools, it is always a two-step process. We clean first to remove soils and then sanitize or disinfect. The cleaning process help the sanitizer or disinfectant work more effectively.
- If using a floor machine, clean and disinfect the housing, shroud, wheels, and squeegee, as well as the stem of the machine, after using. This applies to the hand-control area and cord as well.
- Never “mix use” cleaning tools; brushes, brooms, mops, even floor squeegees used in restrooms or the “front end” of a restaurant should not be used in the kitchen
- If using a hose to spray down floors, walls, counters, and other surfaces, rinse clean the hose and the sprayer control and allow to air dry.
- Before using cleaning tools, first wash your hands and then put on gloves; this prevents soils on our hands from finding their way onto cleaning tools and also protects the hands.
- Always store cleaning tools off the ground; this allows them to air dry more thoroughly and prevents them from coming in contact with floor-surface moisture or soils.
- Never store cleaning tools near food preparation areas or where food is stored. Keep them separate and in a designated area.
- If possible, lock the storage area where cleaning tools are stored. During the course of the day, a kitchen worker may use a tool such as a mop or broom without cleaning it afterward. If contaminated, it can spread contaminants in the kitchen.
- If working with a cleaning cart, clean and disinfect the cart. Remove all supplies before cleaning. Pay special attention to cracks, crevices, joints, handles, and the wheels of the cart. This is where soil and contaminants build up.
- Place cleaning chemicals on shelves, or even better, enclosed wire racks. The racks hold the containers in place, helping to prevent tipping and spills, which could cause chemicals to splash onto surfaces or food, in someone’s eyes, or on a person’s skin.
- Because of language issues, develop a color-coding system for each type of cleaning solution: degreasers, sanitizers, disinfectants, and so on. These designated colors should also be on the shelves or racks on which these products are stored to avoid using the wrong product.
- Make sure cleaning solutions are kept in their original containers and are properly closed when not in used; this prevents airborne pathogens from potentially contaminating the solution.
- If mopping floors, change the mop head frequently and machine wash after each use; waiting to change the mop head once it looks soiled is too late. The mop pole and housing must also be cleaned and disinfected.
- Dishrags and towels, whether used by kitchen staff or when cleaning the kitchen, become highly contaminated very quickly. They must be frequently changed and laundered after use. Sponges should not be used in a commercial kitchen because they become heavily contaminated and hide soiling.
- Always have two laundry bags at hand, one for clean dishrags and towels and one for soiled dishrags and towels.
- Do not store filled trash liners near cleaning tools or closets where cleaning tools are stored.
- Pay attention to small cleaning items; for instance, dustpans can also be a source of contamination, along with small brooms and hand pads. Clean and disinfect the pan and hose off pads and brooms and allow to air dry.
- Develop a cleaning tool cleaning and maintenance plan. This should be written down, implemented, and displayed prominently in the kitchen. This ensures those in charge of cleaning are fully aware of their responsibilities.
When it comes to cleaning tools used and keeping a commercial kitchen clean, keeping them looking presentable means very little. Thorough and effective cleaning of the tools used in the kitchen is the best way to keep workers and consumers healthy. Cleaning professionals can never be too cautious when the health consequences can be so severe.
*JIFSAN Good Aquacultural Practices Program: Effective Cleaning and Sanitizing Procedures by Alan Parker, 2007.