In 2007, the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition released its “Effective Cleaning and Sanitizing Procedures” whitepaper that stated the following:
Cleaning tools like brooms, mops, squeegees, buckets, sponges, scrapers, foaming equipment, water guns, etc., should be cleaned and sanitized. Cleaning tools can be a significant source of microbial contamination [in a commercial kitchen] if not cleaned. Cleaning tools should be washed and sanitized after every use.
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This is quite similar to other studies that have concluded cleaning tools, especially floor mops, can be a source of contamination. This means these cleaning tools have the ability to spread pathogens and germ-causing diseases from one surface to another.
For instance, in a 1971 study published in Applied Microbiology investigating microbial contamination of mops and cleaning cloths in a hospital setting, researchers reported that mopping floors or wiping surfaces with contaminated tools can cause harmful pathogens to spread from one surface to another. These pathogens can then be touched by patients, causing disease through cross-contamination.
In regards to floor mopping, the study declared:
It was found that mops, stored wet, supported bacterial growth to very high levels and could not be adequately decontaminated by chemical disinfection. Laundering and adequate drying provided effective decontamination, but a buildup of bacterial counts occurred if mops were not changed daily or if disinfectant was omitted from the wash-water.
Mops and Water Retention
This study primarily found mops can and do spread health-risking contaminants in hospitals and these contaminants can spread from floors to other surfaces. The same can be said for using mops in food service facilities, restaurant kitchens, school cafeterias, and so on.
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The study also found mops are often stored wet, something that again is true in all types of settings. This contamination cannot necessarily be eliminated with chemical disinfection. The only option, according to the researchers, is to change mops daily.
However, let’s look at this advice a bit more closely. The reality is, mops and the cleaning solution in mop buckets often become contaminated as soon as the mopping process begins. Instead of changing them daily, as these researchers recommended, they need to be replaced several times throughout the day.
In fact, most medical facilities now have a policy that mops must be changed after cleaning each patient room. This stops the transfer of contaminants from one room to another. Hospitals believe that changing mops once a day is far too infrequent.
But when it comes to the use of mops to clean floors, there are two more issues food service professionals should be aware of.
- As the mopping process continues, and the mop and mop cleaning solution become further contaminated and collects soil and debris, the efficacy of the cleaning solution declines. This is true of most cleaning solutions as well as disinfectants.
- What is referred to as quat absorption often begins, which applies specifically to disinfectants. The active ingredients in disinfectants—quats—that kill germs and bacteria become absorbed into the mop. As this happens, effectiveness declines even more.
Therefore, the use of floor mops is not the best option for cleaning a commercial kitchen floor. Furthermore, any cleaning aid that retains water—cleaning cloths, sponges, wipes, etc.—should not be used for food service facility cleaning on a regular basis.
There are alternatives for all these tools and specifically floor mops, which will be discussed later. But first, let’s get a better understanding of food soiling and the types of soiling and contamination that can impact commercial kitchens and food service facilities.
Cleanliness to protect human health is always the goal, but is rarely achieved. This is because surfaces are continually becoming soiled, whether in a hospital, school, or a food service facility.