When you’re running a busy catering business, keeping the kitchen spotlessly clean can seem like a very tough task. Standards for food hygiene in commercial kitchens are — understandably — very high and, as a result, there are lots of things you need to do before, during, and after every shift to satisfy the myriad rules and regulations. This will help to safeguard the health of your customers and protect the reputation of your business.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the commercial kitchen cleaning procedures that all restaurants should follow, so you can be sure your establishment meets legal standards of cleanliness. We’ll cover:
• What are the official rules and regulations?
• How often should I clean kitchen appliances and equipment?
• Creating a commercial kitchen cleaning checklist:
o Before every shift
o During each shift
o After each shift
• Essential restaurant cleaning products and equipment
What are the official rules for cleaning your kitchen?
All professional caterers are legally obliged to meet the regulations set by the HSA. If your restaurant isn’t up to scratch, you could fail the HSA’s regular hygiene inspections, which would result in your restaurant being closed until you solve the problem, and could even lead to your food licence being revoked. Additionally, having a poor hygiene rating from the HSA never looks good — and, as restaurants in some areas are required by law to display their rating where customers can see it, it could result in lost business.
A good hygiene routine should be based on the four Cs of food hygiene: cooking, chilling, cross-contamination, and cleaning. According to the HSA not cleaning thoroughly enough is one of the most common reasons why food businesses face prosecution. Introducing thorough and stringent cleaning practices as soon as you open your restaurant will help to ensure that all of the food you serve is safe to eat, as well as reduce the risk of contamination that could make your customers or staff ill.
How often should I clean commercial appliances and cooking equipment?
Different cleaning procedures are required for different parts of your kitchen. As a general rule, areas and appliances that are used most frequently during everyday cooking and food prep should also be cleaned the most often, and those that come into direct contact with food will need extra attention. In this section, we’ll give you a rough idea of how often each area and appliance should be cleaned, so you know what you should be doing and when.
Appliances and equipment
Hobs and ovens: Any spillages should be wiped up after each shift to prevent a build-up of grease and grime, and the interior of the oven should be cleaned using a specialist oven cleaning product once a week. Commercial catering ovens should be deep cleaned by a professional service at least once every six months, too.
Coffee machines: Espresso machines should be cleaned and flushed with hot water and a specialist cleaning fluid once a week.
Kettles: Kettles and water boilers should be cleaned and descaled once a month, or once a week if you serve a lot of hot drinks every day.
Microwaves: The interior of your microwave should be cleaned at least once a week, and any spills should be cleaned as soon as they occur during shifts. Microwaving a bowl of water for one minute can help to loosen any dried-on dirt or grime before wiping down the interior with a cloth and some antibacterial cleaner.
Refrigeration: The interiors of your fridges should be wiped and sanitised between every shift, and given a deep clean once a week. Fridge hygiene can have a big impact on the quality and safety of your food, so there’s quite a lot to remember — take a look at our complete guide to fridge hygiene and safe storage to learn everything you need to know.
Hoods, vents, and exhausts: A clogged ventilation system or cooker hood can have a knock-on effect on the rest of your kitchen, as it won’t filter out vapour and condensation as effectively, which leads to unhygienic build-ups of grease and grime on other surfaces. So, it’s recommended that restaurants that do not use a deep fat fryer every day clean their vents and hoods a minimum of once every 90 days. For fast-food restaurants or those that frequently use a deep fat fryer, deep cleaning should take place once every 30 days.
Floors: Any major spillages must be cleaned up as soon as possible during a shift, as not only do they present a hygiene hazard, but they also put your staff at risk of slips and falls. The floor should also be swept or hoovered and then mopped and cleaned using a disinfectant antibacterial floor cleaner after every shift.
Countertops and work surfaces: Worksurfaces that are used for food prep should be wiped clean between tasks, and then thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after the shift has ended.
Sinks and washing stations
Sinks, taps, and draining boards: Just like any other kitchen surface, these should be cleaned and sanitised after every shift.
Drains: They’re often out of sight and out of mind but, if they aren’t cleaned regularly, they can quickly become blocked, which could put your sinks and plumbing out of action. So, you should be sure to clean your kitchen’s drains once every couple of weeks with a professional-grade drain cleaner, and then flush them out with hot water. This will remove any blockages and ensure a hygienic sink area.
Waste disposal units: It’s recommended that professional waste disposal units are washed once a month to remove build-ups and unpleasant smells. You never want to pour bleach or drain cleaner into the unit, as this can damage the plumbing and corrode the inner mechanisms of the machine. Instead, flush the unit with hot water and add a bit of dish soap. You can also buy specialist cleaning products that will get rid of any stubborn build-up or lingering smells.
Grease traps: Commercial kitchens produce far more waste fats, oils, and grease than the average residential kitchen, which is why grease traps are a legal requirement in most commercial kitchens. These machines intercept waste fats and oils and filter them out before they enter the waste pipe, which helps to prolong the lifespan of the plumbing and stops them from clogging up municipal sewer systems.
While most grease traps are designed to be self-cleaning, you should still keep on top of maintenance to make sure yours are working as effectively as possible. You can ask a professional cleaning service to take care of this for you, although some models can also be emptied by hand — check the manufacturer’s instructions for more information.
Dishwashers, cutlery and glassware cleaners: It may seem counter-intuitive to wash a cleaning appliance, but weekly cleaning will ensure that your dishwasher is getting the best results. Wipe the inside down with an antibacterial cleaner, and then run the appliance on a sanitising self-clean cycle.
Hand washing stations: This is where your staff will sanitise their hands between tasks, so it’s only sensible to keep this space as clean as possible. The sink and taps should be cleaned with antibacterial cleaner after every shift. Don’t forget to sanitise any wall-mounted soap dispensers too, as staff will be touching these multiple times a day, often while their hands are dirty.
Creating a kitchen cleaning schedule
Any restaurant kitchen worth its salt needs to have a comprehensive cleaning schedule in place. By creating a plan, you can ensure that everyone knows what their duties are, and make sure that cleaning is done consistently during every shift.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to create cleaning checklists. Some of the benefits of creating a comprehensive cleaning checklist include:
• Increased accountability: Everyone knows exactly what their individual duties are, and can be held accountable for them if they don’t stick to them.
• It’s fairer for staff: Ensuring staff are performing the same tasks on every shift is more equitable.
• Tasks aren’t forgotten: There’s less risk of important cleaning tasks being forgotten, or easy-to-miss areas of the kitchen being neglected.
• Evidence of due diligence: You’ll have a record of your cleaning practice to show to inspectors.
• Consistency: If you always follow your checklist to the letter, your kitchen should stay consistently clean, which makes the whole job easier.
• Improves food quality: A hygienic kitchen reduces the risk of food becoming contaminated. Keeping food storage areas clean can help to prevent food spoilage, too.
• Prevents infestations: A rigorously clean environment is less likely to suffer from infestations of vermin or flies, which can be dangerous, costly to deal with, and seriously bad for your reputation.
To be properly effective, your schedule should be as specific as possible, so there’s no room for error or misunderstandings. You need to state which surfaces and appliances need to be cleaned, which chemicals or equipment to use, and how frequently cleaning should take place.
Some cleaning tasks will need to be done much more frequently, while others will only need to be carried out once a month, or even just once each year, so it’s sensible to create checklists that reflect this. In this section, we’ll talk you through what a typical cleaning schedule in a restaurant kitchen might look like.
Before a shift begins
Before any shift begins, kitchen staff should take a moment to prepare the kitchen and ensure that everything is sanitary before they start cooking. They’ll need to:
• Wipe down all surfaces with food-safe antibacterial cleaner and a clean cloth or sponge.
• Clean sinks, taps, and hand washing stations.
• Check ingredients and dispose of anything that has gone off.
• Ensure you have a supply of clean cloths and sponges on hand for quick wipe-downs between tasks.
During the shift
Most kitchen staff and cooks will do these things as part of their routine, but it’s still good to write a formal list. Staying on top of these tasks will reduce the amount of cleaning required once the shift has ended:
• Brush grills to remove any build-up of grease and food debris between cooking.
• Switch and clean cutting boards between tasks. Knives should also be cleaned between cutting tasks.
• Ensure rubbish is emptied as needed, rather than waiting until the end of the shift. Overflowing bins can easily lead to contamination.
• Spillages should be cleaned up as soon as possible, rather than leaving them until the end of the shift.
After the shift ends
After a shift has finished, a more intensive clean is in order. Your staff will need to ensure that all of the following tasks are completed before finishing for the day:
• Change cleaning cloths and sponges. Throw away any that are no longer clean enough to use.
• Deep fryers should be emptied and cleaned.
• Hobs should be cleaned thoroughly using a specialist hob cleaning product.
• Remove dirty chef whites and aprons and place them in a separate area, ready for laundering.
• Ensure all ingredients are covered and sealed properly before replacing them in the fridge overnight.
• Sweep the floor of walk-in fridges and storage areas.
• Sweep and mop the kitchen floor using a disinfectant or floor cleaner.
Cleaning up after a shift can be time-consuming, which is why many restaurants choose to hire a night porter. This is someone who comes in to clean the kitchen after all the other staff have left.
At the end of every week, you should take the time to deep clean appliances and equipment, and to go over any hard-to-reach or easily forgotten spots. If your restaurant is closed for a day or two, then this is a great time to see to the following tasks:
• Fridges should be cleaned out and sanitised with a food-safe antibacterial cleaning product. If you have a cold room, the floor should be swept and mopped.
• Beverage machines should be cleaned and sanitised. Kettles and coffee machines should be cleaned and descaled.
• Fryers should be deep cleaned and boiled out.
• Hard-to-reach areas — like underneath or on top of cabinets — should be cleaned and sanitised.
• The inside of dishwashers and glassware cleaners should be wiped clean using a surface cleaner, and then run on a hot sanitising cleaning cycle. Not only will this keep it hygienic, but it will also help to prolong the life of your washer and ensure great results.
• Clean and sanitise your kitchen waste bins.
It’s also a good idea to review your stock of cleaning products and equipment and replace or reorder any essential items, like sponges or cloths.
• Clean out the drain pans and tubs to prevent a build-up.
• Clean and sanitise your waste disposal unit.
• Descale your dish and glassware washers using a specialist cleaner or descaling product.
• Check the ventilation units and extractor fans. If these are becoming dirty, it may be time to schedule a deep clean using a professional service. It’s usually recommended that this is done once every 3 months, though this depends on the activity in your kitchen: if you frequently use a deep fryer you will need to clean them more often than this.
Essential cleaning products and equipment
If you want to keep to your schedule and ensure your kitchen is completely hygienic, you’ll need to have a good selection of professional cleaning products and equipment on hand. In this section, we’ll take you through the basic items you’ll need to keep your kitchen clean and hygienic.
Cloths: Cloths are a versatile tool that can be used to wipe, polish, disinfect, and dry surfaces and equipment, so you never want to run out of them. Disposable cloths should be used whenever possible, as these can be thrown away after cleaning tasks to reduce the risk of contamination. If you do reuse cloths, you will need to sanitise them by cleaning them on a 90-degree wash cycle between shifts.
Sponges and scourers: You should have a plentiful supply of sponges and scourers on hand at all times, as kitchen staff and cooks will need them to wipe down surfaces and tools before, during, and after a shift. Remember, sponges can harbour lots of germs, so it’s important to change or sanitise them regularly.
Mops: The floor should be thoroughly washed and disinfected using a mop after each shift. A mop with an interchangeable head can save you money and will be more hygienic, as you can sanitise or dispose of the mop head after use.
Vacuum cleaner: This should be a professional-grade vacuum cleaner that is powerful enough to stand up to everyday use.
Griddle brush: This can be used to brush down the griddle between cooking.
Drain cleaners: Drains can be prone to stubborn build-ups, so it’s best to use a high-strength, specialist cleaning agent to unblock and sanitise them.
Sanitiser: Industrial strength antibacterial surface cleaners will kill bacteria and ensure a completely sanitary work surface for food prep or storage. A few grease-fighting cleaners will also come in very handy for tougher spillages and in areas around hobs and ovens.
Hand soaps: Don’t forget about the hygiene of your kitchen staff, too. Anyone who handles or prepares food will need to wash their hands very frequently, so you’ll want to provide antibacterial hand soap and a hand towel dispenser for this.
Floor cleaner: Everyday foot traffic and spillages will quickly make your floor dirty and unsanitary, so you will need a good antibacterial cleaner that is suited to your flooring material.
Beverage machine cleaning products: You can buy specialist cleaners that will sanitise the internal workings of your beer taps, soft drinks machines, and even coffee machines.
Deep cleaning equipment
From time to time, every professional kitchen needs an intensive deep cleaning session to make sure that all areas and equipment are as hygienic as they can possibly be. An intensive cleaning can also help to prolong the lifespan of your equipment, resulting in fewer repairs and a more efficient kitchen. So, sometimes you’ll need to go above and beyond your usual routine and use some heavy-duty deep cleaning equipment to deep clean your restaurant kitchen.
Steam cleaners are a must if you have a carpet in your client-facing areas, as they will help to remove stubborn stains from spillages and foot traffic. A jet washer can also be very effective at removing tough dried-on stains and grease from tiling, flooring, splashbacks, and extractor fans.
The importance of colour-coded cleaning equipment
It’s very important that the equipment and products you are using to clean your kitchen are kept for that area only. For instance, you shouldn’t be using the same mop and cloths in your kitchen and the toilets or guest dining area, because this can greatly increase the risk of spreading germs.
The best way to ensure that the right cleaning equipment is used in the correct area is to follow a colour-coded cleaning plan. This means colour coding your equipment according to the ‘zone’ in the restaurant where it is used, so it’s completely clear to all staff which items should be used in which area. To learn more about how you can use this method in your own business, take a look at our colour-coded cleaning infographic.
You should always be careful to store your cleaning products correctly, too. By far the most important thing is to keep cleaning products in a place where your customers can’t access them, even accidentally. Keeping all of your supplies in a locked cupboard is often the simplest and safest way to stop them from falling into the wrong hands. You should also be careful to keep all cleaning chemicals in the bottles and containers they are supplied in, as this ensures that the manufacturer’s instructions are easily accessible.
Given how stringent the rules and regulations surrounding food hygiene can be, keeping your restaurant clean can sometimes seem like a daunting task. But, as long as you follow the advice for commercial kitchen cleaning procedures that we’ve laid out here, you should be able to protect your customers, ensure the quality of your food, and safeguard your reputation.