7. Cleaning & Sanitizing

Cleaners and Sanitizers

Cleaning and sanitizing procedures must be part of the standard operating procedures that make up your food safety program. Improperly cleaned and sanitized surfaces allow harmful microorganisms to be transferred from one food to other foods

Cleaning is the process of removing food and other types of soil from a surface, such as a dish, glass, or cutting board. Cleaning is done with a cleaning agent that removes food, soil, or other substances. The right cleaning agent must be selected because not all cleaning agents can be used on food-contact surfaces

For example, glass cleaners, some metal cleaners, and most bathroom cleaners cannot be used because they might leave an unsafe residue on the food-contact surface

Types of Cleaners:

Detergents are the most common type of cleaning agent and are used in home and commercial kitchens. They work by breaking up dirt or soil, making it easy to wash it away.
The detergents used in commercial kitchens are usually synthetic detergents made from petroleum products and may be in the form of powder, liquid, gel or crystals.
Degreasers are sometimes known as solvent cleaners and are used to remove grease from surfaces such as oven tops, counters and grill backsplashes
Most food businesses now try to use non-toxic, non-fuming degreasers in their operations to prevent chemical contamination.
Abrasives are substances or chemicals that depend on rubbing or scrubbing action to clean dirt from hard surfaces. In commercial kitchens, abrasives are usually used to clean floors, pots and pans.
Abrasives should be used with care as they may scratch certain types of materials used for kitchen equipment such as plastic or stainless steel.
Acids (Delimers)
Acid cleaners are the most powerful type of cleaning agent and should be used with care. If they are not diluted correctly, acid cleaners can be very poisonous and corrosive.
Acid cleaners are generally used to remove mineral deposits and are useful for descaling dishwashers or removing rust from restroom facilities.


Heat and chemicals are commonly used as a method for sanitizing in a restaurant. The item to be sanitized must first be washed properly before it can be properly sanitized. Some chemical sanitizers, such as chlorine and iodine, react with food and soil and so will be less effective on a surface that has not been properly cleaned.

Sanitizing Methods

There are three methods of using heat to sanitize surfaces – steam, hot water, and hot air. Hot water is the most common method used in restaurants and the item being sanitized must be exposed to the hot water for at least 30 seconds.
If hot water is used in the third compartment of a three-compartment sink, it must be at least 171°F (77°C).
If a high-temperature warewashing machine is used to sanitize cleaned dishes, the final sanitizing rinse must be at least 180°F (82°C). For stationary rack, single temperature machines, it must be at least 165°F (74°C).
Chemicals that are approved sanitizers are chlorine, iodine, and quaternary

Food-contact surfaces can be sanitized by either:

  • Soaking them in a sanitizing solution
  • Rinsing, swabbing, or spraying them with a sanitizing solution

Sanitizer Testing

Every restaurant must have the appropriate testing kit to measure chemical sanitizer concentrations. To accurately test the strength of a sanitizing solution, one must first determine which chemical is being used — chlorine, iodine, or quaternary ammonium. Test kits are not interchangeable so check with your chemical supplier to be certain that you are using the correct kit. The appropriate test kit must then be used throughout the day to measure chemical sanitizer concentrations.

Factors that influence the effectiveness of the sanitizer:

Sanitizers should be mixed with water to the correct concentration
Not enough sanitizer may make the solution weak and useless
Too much sanitizer may make the solution too strong, unsafe, and corrode metal
Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct temperature
Contact time
The sanitizer must make contact with the object for a specific amount of time. Minimum times differ for each sanitizer.
Water hardness and pH
Find out what your water hardness and pH is from your municipality. Work with your supplier to identify the correct amount of sanitizer to use.

The concentration of a sanitizing solution is denoted using the notation: parts per million (ppm)

Guidelines for the Effective Use of Sanitizers

Chemical Concentration Contact Time Advantage Disadvantage
Chlorine 50 – 99 ppm in water between 75 and 100°F 7 seconds Effective on a wide variety of bacteria; highly effective; not affected by hard water; generally inexpensive Corrosive, irritating to the skin, effectiveness decreases with increasing pH, deteriorates during storage and when exposed to light, dissipates rapidly; loses activity in the presence of organic matter.
Iodine 12.5 – 25 ppm in water that is at least 75°F 30 seconds Forms brown color that indicates strength; not affected by hard water; less irritating to the skin than chlorine; activity not lost rapidly in the presence of organic matter Effectiveness decreases greatly with an increase in pH; should not be used in water hotter than 120°F; might discolor equipment and surfaces
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds Up to 200 ppm in water that is at lease 75°F 30 seconds Nontoxic; odorless; noncorrosive; nonirritating; stable to heat and relatively stable in the presence of organic matter; active over a wide pH range Slow destruction of some microorganisms; not compatible with some detergents and hard water

Machine Warewashing

Most tableware, utensils, and other equipment can be cleaned and sanitized in a warewashing machine. Warewashing machines sanitize by using either hot water or a chemical sanitizing solution

  • Check the machine for cleanliness at least once a day
  • Make sure all detergent and sanitizer dispensers are properly filled
  • Scrape, rinse, or soak items before loading them into the machine
  • Load racks correctly and use racks designed for the items being washed.
  • Check temperatures and pressure at least once a day
  • Check each rack as it comes out of the machine for soiled items
  • Air-dry all items
  • Keep your warewashing machine in good repair.

High-Temperature Machines

  • The temperature of the final sanitizing rinse must be at least 180°F (82°C).
  • For stationary rack, single temperature machines, it must be at least 165°F (74°C).
  • The machine must have a thermometer installed to measure the temperature of water at
    the manifold, where it sprays into the tank.

All dishwashing machines must have the ability to measure:

  1. Water temperature
  2. Water pressure
  3. The concentration of detergents and sanitizers

Chemical-Sanitizing Machines

  • Chemical sanitizing machines often wash at much lower temperatures, but not lower than 120°F (49°C)
  • Rinse water temperature in these machines should be between 75° F and 120° F (24° C and 49° C) for the sanitizer to be effective

Cleaning and Sanitizing in a Three-Compartment Sink

  1. Rinse, scrape, or soak all items before washing them in a three-compartment sink.
  2. Wash items in the first sink in a detergent solution that is at least 110° F (43° C).
  3. Immerse or spray rinse items in the second sink using water that is at least 110° F (43° C).
  4. Immerse items in the third sink in hot water or a properly prepared chemical sanitizing solution
  5. Air-dry all cleaned and sanitized items before storing them.

Cleaning In Place Equipment

  1. Turn off and unplug equipment before cleaning.
  2. Remove food and soil from under and around equipment
  3. Remove detachable parts and manually wash, rinse, and sanitize them or run through a warewashing machine
  4. Wash and rinse all other food-contact surfaces that you cannot remove, then wipe or spray them with a properly prepared chemical sanitizing solution
  5. Keep cloths used for food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces in separate properly marked containers of sanitizing solution
  6. Air-dry all parts, then reassemble
  7. Resanitize food-contact surfaces handled during reassembly.

Storing Utensils, Tableware, and Equipment

Improperly storing cleaned and sanitized equipment, utensils, and linens could allow them to become contaminated before they are used again. Contamination can be caused by moisture from flooding, drips, or splash. Food debris, toxic materials, litter, dust, and other substances might also cause it.

Only buy chemicals approved for use in a restaurant or food establishment. Store chemicals in their original container away from food storage and food preparation areas. If a chemical is transferred to a new container, label the container with the chemical name, manufacturer’s name and address, and potential hazards of the chemical.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Contact information
manufacturer name, address, emergency telephone number, telephone number for information, and the date the MSDS was prepared
Hazard ingredients and identity information
– hazardous components in the product
Physical and chemical characteristics
boiling point, vapor pressure, vapor density, solubility in water, specific gravity, melting point, evaporation rate, and appearance and odor
Fire and explosion hazard data
flash point, how to extinguish, special fire fighting procedures, unusual fire and explosion hazards
Reactivity data
stability, incompatibility with other products and substances, hazardous decomposition or byproducts
Health hazard data
signs and symptoms of exposure, medical conditions generally
aggravated by exposure, emergency and first aid procedures, health hazards (acute or chronic)
Precautions for safe handling and use
precautions for safe handling and use, such as steps to be taken in case the chemical is spilled; how to dispose; precautions to be take in handling and storing; and any other precautions, such as respiratory protection, ventilation, protective gloves, eye protection, other protective clothing or equipment.
Control measures

Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA)

OSHA requires that restaurants have a hazard communication program. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS or SDS) are the foundation of the program. The MSDS must be available for all hazardous chemicals used in your restaurant and so keep them in a binder or in a central file in the establishment. The following information should also be available:

  • a list of the hazardous chemicals located in each work area;
  • a description of how employees will be informed about the hazards in using chemicals;
  • emergency procedures for spills, leaks or other accidents.

OSHA also requires that all containers of hazardous chemicals:

  • be properly labeled, tagged, or marked with the name of the contents;
  • display appropriate hazard warnings. The hazard warning can be any message, words, pictures or symbols that convey the hazards of the chemical(s) on the container. The label must be legible, in English (and in other languages as needed), and prominently displayed; and
  • show the names and addresses of the manufacturers or other responsible parties. Worker training must also be a part of your hazard communication program. OSHA requires that program records are available upon request by workers and other designated government officials.