Trading Standards Institute Advice

Cleaning and disinfection

This leaflet is for all food businesses, including those involved in catering, food production, food preparation, retail premises, restaurants, pubs, cafes, and fast-food shops.

The term 'cleaning and disinfection' is used to describe the processes that reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria to an acceptable level which will not affect the safety of the food that we produce. This will help to improve the image of your business to customers and staff and make it a nicer place to work.

  • cleaning is the removal of food debris, grease and dirt
  • disinfection is about reducing the number of harmful organisms to a safe level
  • sterilisation is the destruction of all micro-organisms

Why does this matter?
Under current UK food safety law you must keep your food premises in a clean and hygienic condition. The condition of your premises can have a huge effect on staff morale and the success of your business.

Your customers and clients, as well as your staff, will form a first impression of your business that needs to be positive. Food is a competitive market and this first impression is important.

A clean, organised work area will meet the requirements of the law, help your business reputation, and will help you increase your sales and keep your customers and staff.

If you are short-staffed, you may be tempted to not clean as much as you should. You need to organise your cleaning so that tasks can be completed routinely.

Organising the job
The usual way of managing your cleaning activities is by writing a cleaning schedule. Your cleaning schedule will be more complicated the larger your business becomes.

You could write one schedule or break it down into different schedules for days, weeks and longer periods. All cleaning schedules should provide the following information:

  • what needs cleaning
  • how often it needs cleaning
  • who is doing the cleaning
  • how it is being cleaned (equipment and chemicals)
  • what is to be used for safety reasons (for example, rubber gloves or goggles)
  • a signature to show that the job has been done (monitoring)

The signature is very important because it shows which jobs have been missed or haven't been finished, as well as showing and confirming which jobs have been done.

A cleaning schedule is an excellent way of managing tasks and an important part of a food safety management system.

How to do it
Most of your cleaning will be done by hand, but you should think about where machines may make things easier.

You might want to buy a dishwasher to save time. A dishwasher is a more efficient, more hygienic and cost-effective way of cleaning your kitchen utensils and equipment, but it may be expensive to buy and maintain.

For manual washing you should have two sinks - one to wash, and one to disinfect.

However you clean, you should follow the principles of six-stage cleaning:

  1. remove food leftovers and debris
  2. main wash, using detergent
  3. rinse
  4. disinfect
  5. rinse
  6. dry (air-dry if you can)

You must disinfect anything that comes into contact with food. You must also disinfect anything you touch such as taps and handles on doors and fridges. 

What will I need?
If you are going to do most of your cleaning jobs by hand, you will need a selection of waste bins, brooms, brushes, buckets, mops, cloths and scouring pads (and sometimes special equipment such as griddle stones or wire brushes).

You should make sure you have enough equipment so that you can clean one set while you use another. Your cleaning equipment and cleaning materials also need to be cleaned. This is really important as you will not achieve a good standard of cleaning if your cleaning equipment is dirty. You need to keep your equipment in a good condition and replace it when it's worn.

You might want to colour-code your equipment and to separate tools that are used in different areas and for different jobs - for example, colour-coded cloths for toilets and bathrooms

You need to decide whether to use disposable or reusable cloths. Either way, you should use each cloth only for one thing and must wash all cloths at high temperatures each day.

What cleaning chemicals should be chosen?
If you are a small business or working from home, you may want to buy your cleaning products from a local shop or supermarket. Retail products are meant for home use and are normally considered lower-risk (less hazardous) products as long as you follow manufacturers' instructions.

You will need to make sure they are 'food safe', which means that they are non-toxic and non-tainting - they will not affect the flavour of the food.

If you have a larger business, you may buy your cleaning products from a supplier or wholesaler. They will be able to give you advice about the best choices for your business.

You should use as few cleaning chemicals as possible as this reduces the risk of using the wrong product for the wrong job.

Most businesses choose a general-purpose detergent, a sanitiser or disinfectant and a degreaser. If you're using machines such as a dishwasher, you must use the right cleaning products, such as dishwasher detergent and rinse aids.

  • detergent breaks down grease and dirt
  • disinfectant reduces bacteria to a safe level. Use chemicals, hot water (82°C or above) or steam - you should remember that the chemicals and hot water need time in contact with the surface to work (they don't work immediately)
  • a sanitiser is a combination of detergent and disinfectant and is usually very easy to use - spray and leave, or spray and wipe

You must always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use and especially the contact times that are specified for disinfectants and sanitisers. If you do not keep to these instructions you could be wasting your money and not achieve proper disinfection.

More information
You will find further guidance in our other leaflets on this website. Information can also be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

Alternatively, contact your local environmental health service for advice.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance.

© 2017 itsa Ltd.