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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans get sick from consuming contaminated food or beverages every year. This isn’t surprising considering commercial kitchens can serve as a hot spot for germs and bacteria if they aren’t properly maintained. Regardless of whether the kitchen is in a high school cafeteria or a five-star hotel restaurant, ensuring your commercial kitchen is a clean and healthy environment should be a top priority. To keep guests safe and prevent food and bacteria buildup, many kitchen managers implement strict protocols and cleaning guidelines. One example, is requiring kitchen staff to clean all surfaces and cooking equipment following each use. Additionally, many kitchens follow a defined labeling or color-coding systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also publishes the Food Code every four years, which can guide your employees to ensure they are up-to-date on the specific food safety concerns that apply to your facility.

While these types of internal regulations are undeniably necessary for maintaining a sanitary commercial kitchen, facilities also need to ensure they cover the areas that aren’t visible or routinely maintained by the kitchen staff. To guarantee your facility receives proper attention, consider taking a second look at the following areas:

Conveyor Ovens

Because commercial conveyor ovens are costly to purchase and frequently used, you must properly maintain them. Failure to properly clean your oven results in reduced efficiency, shorter life expectancy and food product consistency issues. Additionally, thorough cleaning will reduce the risk of oven fires, improve cook times and increase energy efficiency. In addition, to following the details in the owner’s manual on everyday maintenance, it is recommended that facility and restaurant managers have a trained technician at their disposal – whether on staff or a contract cleaner – who can implement a full, in-depth oven cleaning. There are various components, such as belts, rack, air fingers and insulated panels that make up your oven and proper cleaning may require full disassembly by a specialized professional. For daily maintenance, kitchen staff should use a brush or scraper to remove grease spills and debris. On tougher grease, a water dampened cloth can help loosen the debris from removal. Train kitchen staff to properly clean spills and loose debris as they occur to eliminate buildup on the equipment.

Kitchen Floors

One of the most important jobs to complete before closing the kitchen each night is to clean and sanitize the kitchen floor. It is no secret that the floors quickly become dirty from the hustle and bustle of foot traffic, fallen food and equipment grease. Although the floors aren’t considered a food contact surface, improper cleaning leads to bacteria growth and food buildup which can cause food-borne illness and attract vermin. In order to properly clean the floor staff must thoroughly sweep it first. This involves reaching underneath and behind all equipment. The floors should then be washed with a heavy duty commercial cleaning solution to ensure complete elimination of bacteria.

Exhaust Hood Systems

In addition to wiping down visible areas of your exhaust hood regularly, it is necessary to routinely conduct a deep cleaning of the exhaust plenum, ducts and roof exhaust fan. Cleaning of these items will not only remove grease and improve ventilation but also reduce the risk of a costly and dangerous kitchen fire. Your kitchen exhaust system is the primary defense against fire hazards. It is important to clean the full system to ensure an overall cleaner facility and comply with local health and fire safety codes. According to the National Fire Protection Association Standard-96, which outlines fire safety requirements, commercial kitchens should be deep cleaned and sanitized at a frequency that is appropriate for the type of cooking your kitchen handles. For example, solid fuel-burning systems require monthly cleaning, while most moderate volume cooking operations, such as cafeteria kitchens, only require cleaning on a quarterly or semi-annual schedule.

Dumpster Pads

Every facility and restaurant manager knows the dumpster area is easily forgotten and can quickly get out of hand. Not only does trash attract pesky animals and vermin to your facility but the area can quickly become saturated with hard to clean grease and oil. Although the dumpster is located on the exterior of your building, it is important to routinely clean your dumpster pad. To start, kitchen staff should spray down the area around the dumpster with a hose on a weekly basis to remove bacteria and debris. This will help maintain a safe environment for employees who frequently come into contact with the bacteria-filled zone. Using a pressure washer to clean the area will help keep the dumpster pad as clean as possible, reduce unpleasant smells and improve the general appearance of your business.

Kitchen Equipment

After each use, the kitchen staff is typically responsible for cleaning and sanitizing all utensils, pots, pans, baking sheets and other frequently used items and areas. However, these items can quickly become saturated in tough grease that may prevent kitchen staff from fully cleaning the equipment. Many facilities invest in a soak tank service to ensure thorough cleaning of their equipment, while also reducing the labor of their kitchen staff. A soak tank service steeps hard to clean kitchen items overnight in a biodegradable cleaning solution, resulting in clean and ready to use kitchen items when staff arrives the next day.

Walk-In Refrigerators

Because the kitchen’s walk-in refrigerator is used for storing a variety of food and products it is incredibly important to keep this area clean and bacteria-free. Kitchen employees should be educated on how to properly clean and sanitize this area. Similar to the kitchen floor, walk-in refrigerator floors should be cleaned daily with a commercial-grade cleaning solution following a thorough sweeping. To avoid the growth of mildew, staff should also regularly wipe down the ceilings and walls. In addition to properly organizing and arranging products on the shelves to avoid cross-contamination, clean the shelving unit at least once per week. Prior to cleaning the walk-in refrigerator, reference the owner’s manual to ensure you are using a cleaning solution that will not damage the refrigerator’s finish.

Stay Strict

These hard to reach or hidden areas can be difficult to clean. Strict staff managed cleaning policies will ensure your commercial kitchen is receiving the cleaning attention it needs to remain properly sanitized. By keeping these hard to clean areas in mind, facility managers will not only create a cleaner commercial kitchen but will also create a healthier facility for employees and guests.

EcoCare is a green certified commercial cleaning service that provides commercial kitchen cleaning. We have offices in Austin and San Antonio, TX, have years of experience and would love to meet your companies needs.

Credit: Cleaning & Maintenance Management Magazine by Chelsea Keeton