Food service professionals have myriad cleaning products to choose from. Cleaning solutions typically used for commercial food service kitchen facilities include grill cleaners, cooktop cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, window cleaners, oven cleaners, degreasers, sanitizers, scrubbing powders, bienzymatic cleaners, stainless steel cleaners/polishes, and more.
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Cleaning solution containers are available in various sizes, anywhere from a few pints to 55-gallon containers. Some products have fragrances, such as lemon or berry, while others are fragrance-free. Solutions may be available as a foam, liquid, or powder. Some earned Green certification, while others contain what are considered more harsh ingredients that are not environmentally friendly.
Prices can vary based on the sizes of the containers and concentrations of the solutions as well. In addition, while they may contain similar ingredients, some work better in certain situations and on certain types of surfaces or are easier to work with.
This means food service professionals have an exhausting number of things to consider when selecting cleaning solutions to properly clean and maintain kitchens.
What often happens is they purchase the same cleaning solutions repeatedly or select different products from different manufacturers—commonly known as trial-and-error purchasing.
Issues and Concerns with Choosing Cleaning Solutions
Neither method—purchasing the same products over and over and trial-and-error purchasing—is effective. For instance, someone who selects the same products year after year may not be aware that newer products exist that may be more effective and/or less expensive. Administrators should know that chemical manufacturers typically do not introduce a new cleaning solution unless it is an improvement upon a comparable product of their own or from a competitor. It’s simply too expensive and time consuming to manufacture a new cleaning solution that does not stand out in some way.
Administrators with a trial-and-error purchasing program have the most to lose. It can be costly, especially if some cleaning solutions end up in the closet never to be used again. It can also be dangerous. Cleaning solutions, even Green certified solutions, are made of potent ingredients. Over time, the containers in the closet may release vapors or start to leak. When this happens, it’s possible the ingredients of different products will mix together, creating a major health risk.
Also, additional training is needed for selecting different types of cleaning solutions. This should never be overlooked. Many types of cleaning solutions have different dilution levels, so what works with one product may not work with another. For example, some products are applied to surfaces sparingly with a cloth, while others require more substantial concentrations and must be worked into surfaces using a brush. Therefore, for the safety of the crew as well as the health and cleanliness of the kitchen, training is needed for every different type of cleaning solution used.
What would happen if someone stopped purchasing cleaning products using either of these methods? They could save a lot of time and money, improve cleaning effectiveness, and enhance safety. If so, is there a way to make this happen?
While it is not a cure-all, conducting a product audit may do the trick.
The ideal way to understand a product audit is to see it in action. Imagine this scenario: A food service facility purchases four cleaners from four different manufacturers, all designed to clean griddles, stovetop grills, and cooktops. Let’s call them products A, B, C, and D.
Working with its janitorial distributor, at least one administrator, and members of the cleaning crew, the facility evaluates the products as follows:
Product A: Second least expensive, ranked third in performance;
Product B: Second most expensive, ranked first in performance;
Product C: Most expensive, ranked second in performance; and
Product D: Least expensive, ranked fourth (poorest in) performance.
According to this evaluation, it’s determined:
- While Product D is the least expensive, it is also the least effective, so it will not be purchased again;
- Since Product A does not seem to have any unique attributes, it’s eliminated;
- Product B is the costliest, but is also the most effective; and
- Product C is slightly less costly and almost as effective as Product D, the most costly.
The audit indicates Product C should be the only product selected to perform this cleaning task. It is slightly less costly but still performs well.
Once a product is selected using a product audit, administrators should choose larger quantities and possibly take advantage of volume discounts or rebates from the manufacturer.
The Role of Technology
Administrators need to view purchasing as a journey. To help them on that journey, software programs and online dashboards systems can compare cleaning and other products for cost and effectiveness as well as introduce other new products.
These systems also indicate if a product is, for instance, Green certified and by which certification organization. This is important to know because different Green certification organizations may have different focuses. Some may place more emphasis on indoor air quality while another may put more focus on the sustainability aspects of a products.
However, these software/dashboard systems should be viewed only as an aid. Before making any final purchasing decisions, it’s a good idea to consult with a janitorial distributor for their expertise so they can better explain the advancements of new cleaning solutions and technologies.
Wilson is the vice president of marketing for AFFLINK, a provider of supply chain optimization. Reach him at wmwilson@AFFLINK.com.
Cleaning Solution Purchasing Tips
Compare apples to apples. Most cleaning solutions used in commercial kitchens must be mixed and diluted with water. While the cost of two cleaning solutions may be comparable, in reality, one may be far more costly over time than the other. For instance, of two products that cost the same, if Product A requires one part chemical to five parts water, and Product B requires two parts chemical to five parts water, then product A is less expensive.
Ask the experts. It is always advised to work with an astute distributor of cleaning solutions. Many market different brands of kitchen cleaning solutions. Therefore, it often can more objectively identify those products that might work best in a specific type of kitchen.
Buy in bulk. If you have a large facility, always ask the distributor if discounts are available when making large purchases of specific products. Usually there are, but even if there are none, in some cases the distributor can work with the manufacturer to provide a volume discount.