“411” on Cleaning and Sanitizing
Do you ever find yourself wondering…“if one cup of cleaning
solution is good….2 cups must be even better” or “I
could save time and effort if I combine the three sink method for washing
dishes into two steps?” Stop the presses…hold the phone!
These are just a few of the misconceptions that can lead to inadequate
cleaning, ineffective sanitation, and equipment damage. The following
information explains the reasons behind the cleaning and sanitizing
Cleaning and Sanitizing: What’s the
There are two steps to having a clean and sanitary kitchen. The first
step is “cleaning” and the second step “sanitizing.”
The cleaning process involves washing surfaces with warm, soapy water
and rinsing to remove the soap and remaining food residue, grease, and
dirt. Cleaning removes what you can see. Sanitizing takes place after
cleaning and removes or kills the organisms you cannot see. Although
the two are linked, they are separate processes. Surfaces must be cleaned
for sanitizing to be effective.
Most surfaces that have been soiled or contaminated may be cleaned with
the proper use of cleaning agents. Detergents are cleaning agents that
have the ability to remove contamination and soil. They aren’t
designed to kill bacteria, but instead act as a surfactant to lift dirt
and germs off a surface so that they can be rinsed away. When detergent
is combined with action, a cleaner surface is produced.
The last step in the cleaning process is sanitation. In order to sanitize
a surface effectively, it must be clean. If a sanitizer is applied to
a soiled surface, it will not be able to penetrate the soil and inactivate
the microorganisms. The soil renders the sanitizer ineffective. Therefore,
it is imperative that a surface be clean before sanitizer is applied.
Chemical sanitizing generally involves either immersing the object
in a sanitizing solution for a specific amount of time or spraying/wiping
the object with the solution and allowing it to air-dry. Chemical sanitizers
differ in their effectiveness on certain organisms and in the concentration,
temperature, and contact time required to kill bacteria. Common chemical
sanitizers include chlorine, iodine, and quaternary ammonium compounds
or “quats.” Two most common chemical sanitizers seen in
food service are chlorine and “quats.”
Chlorine is most commonly used and is the cheapest. It is effective
in hard water, but is inactivated by hot water above 120°F. Chlorine
bleach solutions must be tested regularly and changed as necessary to
ensure that the solution is working to sanitize. Using too much chlorine
in a solution can pit stainless steel and aluminum surfaces and irritate
skin, while using too little will not sanitize the surface.
Quaternary Ammonium or Quats
are generally odorless, colorless, non-irritating, and deodorizing.
They also have some detergent action and they are good disinfectants.
This sanitizer is not as quickly inactivated by food particles as chlorine
solution and is non-corrosive to metal surfaces. However, some quaternary
ammonium compounds are inactivated in the presence of some soaps or
soap residues. Other disadvantages are, it leaves a film and does not
kill certain types of microorganisms, the antibacterial activity is
reduced in the presence of organic matter (dust/skin) and hard water
can also reduce its effectiveness. Because of these considerations,
careful product selection is important. The exposure time necessary
for surface and immersion will vary; follow manufacturer’s instructions.
* For all sanitizers, follow manufacturer’s label directions
for mixing the solution and allowing for the required surface contact
time. The process used in manual dishwashing involves the following
- Rinse, scrape, or soak all items before washing.
- Wash items in the first sink with the detergent solution. Water
temperature should be at least 110°F. Use a brush, cloth, or scrubber
to loosen soil. Replace detergent solution when suds are gone or water
- Immerse or spray-rinse items in second sink. Water temperature should
be at least 110°F. Remove all traces of food and detergent. If
using immersion, replace water when it becomes cloudy, dirty, or suds
- Immerse items in third sink filled with hot water or a chemical-sanitizing
solution. If hot water immersion is used, the water temperature must
be at least 171°F. Items must be immersed for 30 seconds. If chemical
sanitizing is used, the sanitizer must be mixed at the proper concentration.
(Check at regular intervals with a test kit). If using bleach, use
1 Tablespoon bleach per gallon of cool water and allow items to be
immersed for 1 minute. Water must be correct temperature for the sanitizer
used. Air-dry all items on a drain board. Do not use towels to dry
- More is NOT better. Sanitizing solutions must be correctly prepared
to be effective. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when
preparing sanitizing solutions, and check the concentration of the
sanitizer using a test kit. Using too high a concentration can result
in off-flavors or odors in foods, can corrode equipment, waste money,
and violate local health department rules.
- Don’t cross contaminate with cleaning cloths. Use separate
cloths for cleaning and sanitizing. Store cloths in sanitizing solution
between uses. Prepare fresh sanitizing solution regularly.
- Closely follow the temperature recommendations for sanitizing agents.
Very hot water, above 120°F, may prevent chlorine bleach fromsanitizing.
- When detergents, used for cleaning dishes, mixes with chlorine bleach
in the sanitizing rinse, it disables the chlorine part of the bleach
and renders it ineffective as a sanitizer.
- If soapsuds disappear in the wash water or appear in the rinse water,
the water temperature cools, orthe water becomes dirty or cloudy,
drain and refill with clean water.
- Containers should be labeled to identify contents and directions
- Air-dry all items on a drain board. Wiping or drying the equipment
with towels can recontami-nate equipment and can remove the sanitizing
solution from the surfaces before it has finished working. Cloth towels
are notorious at harboring germs and transferring them from one surface
- Not all bleaches are the same. Bleaches registeredwith the EPA will
have the EPA symbol on the bottle label. The bleach must contain 5.25%
or 6% sodium hypochlorite in order to be an effective sanitizer. DO
NOT use scented bleach.
The director and employees share responsibilities for knowing and using
standard procedures for a clean and sanitary food service. Food safety
is everyone’s business. To have a safe environment every person
in food service must be properly trained and committed to high standards
of cleaning and sanitation.