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Explore This IssueFebruary/March 2015
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Other Cleaning Culprits
While the “wet mopping” process is probably highest on the list of cleaning tasks that can spread soils, germs, and bacteria, instead of remove them, mops and buckets are not the only culprits. Another key culprit is cleaning cloths, whether
traditional terry cloth, which is often found in food service operations, or microfiber. Soils and microorganisms build up on them as they are used and eventually can move from one surface to another, potentially spreading harmful germs and bacteria.
For instance, it is not uncommon for custodial workers to clean restroom fixtures with a cleaning cloth that is then used to clean high-touch (frequently and commonly touched) areas, such as light switches, door handles, ledges, railings, etc. One very simple way food service managers can prevent this is to incorporate a color-coding system. A typical color-coded program for cleaning cloths looks something like this:
- Red: restrooms and restroom fixtures,
- Blue: kitchen area surfaces, counters, etc.,
- Yellow: high-touch areas, and
- Green: office desks, office equipment, chairs, office counters, etc.
Taking this a step further, some facilities now use what are termed “smart towels.” “Smart” because not only can they be used in a color-coded cleaning system, but they can also be folded into numbered quadrants. For instance, if sections 1, 2, and 3 have been used, the cleaning worker can fold the towel to quadrant 4, using a clean piece of the towel for each new cleaning task.
Making Floors Hygienically Clean
While it is relatively easy to prevent the spread of contaminants using cleaning cloths, it gets a bit more complicated when it comes to floor cleaning. However, there are ways and means possible.
One option is the use of a new generation of steam vapor machines. These systems heat water to 240 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, which is then pressurized to about 60 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi). The steam vapor can be used to clean floors, surfaces, restroom fixtures, and other areas. And, according to Benjamin Tanner, PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of Arizona, steam vapor provides “a nontoxic, environmentally friendly way to both clean and disinfect at the same time.”
In a commercial kitchen, steam vapor can be an excellent tool because it melts away grease and oil. However, the key drawbacks with steam vapor cleaning are that it can be a rather slow process and, when used on floors, it may require damp mopping after use to remove residue from the floor. Because our goal is to not use mops, this can be a problem. Further, considerable care must be taken when using steam vapor machines due to the very high heat generated.
There are also different types of hard surface equipment—some use a combination of steam or very hot, pressurized water. Advanced equipment features a vacuum system to recover cleaning solution as the machine is used, while others use a squeegee to move chemicals into a floor drain. Unfortunately, this squeegee process can be problematic because it can spread contaminants from one area to another when performed.
Another option is to use what the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), the worldwide cleaning association, refers to as spray-and-vac or no-touch cleaning systems. These systems inject chemicals onto the floor or surfaces being cleaned. Allowing for a few minutes of dwell time—enough time for the chemicals to effectively loosen and suspend soils—the same areas are then high pressure rinsed. The final step is vacuuming the just cleaned areas with the machine’s built-in wet vac system. While the process seems like it may be time consuming, ISSA reports in its book, 540 Cleaning Times, spray-and-vac systems can be as much as two-thirds faster than traditional cleaning methods, whether used to clean floors or restroom fixtures.
Testing for Results
The use of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) monitoring systems is certainly not new to the commercial food service industry. However, in most commercial kitchens, they are used to test cooking surfaces, tools, and equipment. As we know, while these devices do not indicate specifically that germs and contaminants are present on a surface, a high ATP count can serve as a warning that this might be the case.