Cleaning and sanitising

One of most effective ways for making sure your food stays safe is to keep a clean premises. This will help to prevent contamination in the food you prepare and sell.

You need a cleaning system for every area of your business. This includes your premises, equipment and vehicles used to transport food.

Staff responsible for cleaning and sanitising should understand:

  • what needs to be cleaned
  • how to use different chemicals
  • how to take apart equipment such as food processors to clean and sanitise them correctly.

What is cleaning?

Clean means ‘clean to the touch’, that is, free from any food waste, dirt and grease.

Cleaning is the removal of particles so that the item or surface looks clean, feels clean and is free of odours. This is usually achieved using water and detergent. Microorganisms will be removed but the cleaning process is not designed to destroy microorganisms.

What is sanitising?

Sanitise means to reduce the number of microorganisms on surface to a level that does not permit the transmission of infectious disease.

Sanitising involves applying heat and/or sanitising chemicals to a surface.

What needs to be cleaned and sanitised?

Anything that comes into contact with food must be cleaned and sanitised. This includes:

  • plates and bowls
  • cutlery
  • glasses, cups and mugs
  • utensils for preparing and serving food
  • cutting boards
  • preparation benches
  • storage containers and trays
  • food display units
  • food preparation sinks
  • hand wash basins.

Processing fresh food using dirty equipment will transfer contamination and possibly harmful bacteria.

Food utensils and equipment must be cleaned and sanitised before each use and between being used for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Equipment and utensils may also need to be cleaned and sanitised if they have been used for long periods to prepare or process potentially hazardous foods. Equipment with surfaces that are difficult to get at such as stab mixers, blenders, meat slicers and can openers, may need to be dismantled first.

The surfaces that food may come in contact with must also be cleaned and sanitised.

Planning for cleaning and sanitising

When planning your cleaning and sanitising program, remember the following points:

  • start at the back and work towards the front. Start high and work your way down
  • single-use paper towels are better than cloths. If you use cloths, they must be washed in hot water and allowed to dry after every use
  • use the right size brush or cleaning tool for each task
  • use food-grade detergents and sanitisers, always following the manufacturers instructions
  • clean as you go
  • keep cleaning chemicals away from food storage areas
  • disassemble equipment such as the meat slicer before starting to clean it
  • a dishwasher will sanitise most small equipment, cutlery, plates and glasses, but drip-dry equipment or use clean tea towels where this is not possible
  • educate staff on correct cleaning and sanitising procedures
  • provide regular checks on cleaning carried out and instruct staff where required
  • make sure the containers for garbage and recycled matter are large enough for the amount of waste you produce and are capable of being easily cleaned
  • ensure that all equipment used for cleaning (eg. mops, buckets, cloths, brooms etc) are also kept clean.

Cleaning procedures and records

A cleaning procedure is a set of written instructions that describe everything that needs to be done to keep your business clean. It sets out the tasks of cleaning and sanitising, how often each job needs to be done, how it should be done, and who should do it.

A cleaning record is a way of documenting that the cleaning tasks have been done by the responsible personnel.

What does a cleaning procedure and record look like?

Begin at the back of your premises, write down every piece of equipment that needs to be cleaned as you walk towards the front.

Then, write down how you will clean that piece of equipment, how often you will clean it, what materials and chemicals will be used and who will do the cleaning. These instructions will be noted on the cleaning procedure.

How to clean and sanitise

The six steps for effective cleaning and sanitising are:

  1. Pre-clean: scrape or wipe away food scraps and other matter and rinse with water.
  2. Wash: use hot water and detergent to take off any grease and dirt. Soak if needed.
  3. Dry: allow to drip dry or dry using single use towels.
  4. Final Rinse: wash off sanitiser if necessary (refer to manufacturer’s instructions).
  5. Sanitise: use a sanitiser to destroy any remaining bacteria.
  6. Rinse: rinse off detergent and any loosened residue.

Some equipment with surfaces that are difficult to get to, such as stick mixers, blenders, meat slicers and can openers, may need to be dismantled first.

Business must also ensure shopping trolleys, baskets and checkout conveyors are appropriately cleaned and maintained.

What needs to be cleaned?

Items which do not come into contact with food need only be cleaned. This includes:

  • Floors
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Rubbish bins
  • Windows
  • Refrigerators
  • Cool rooms and freezer rooms
  • Light fittings
  • Cupboards and shelves
  • Cleaning equipment (mop, buckets etc)

Methods for sanitising

  • domestic dishwashers are not usually suitable in a business due to high volume of items and the time it takes to run a cycle hot enough to sanitise
  • commercial dishwashers generally use heat (greater than 80°C), or chemical sanitisers added to the dishwasher. If using heat, the surface temperature of items in the dishwasher should be checked e.g. with an temperature-sensitive indicator tape (like a pH strip but for temperature) or with a maximum-registering thermometer attached to items with tape or an elastic band.
  • a laser thermometer directed at items as soon as the dishwasher is finished and opened can also be used with a minimum surface temperature of 71°C.
  • clean and service the dishwasher regularly (including filters).
  • the items must stay in the hot water for at least 30 seconds
  • usually, sinks that can deliver hot water of at least 80°C, have a heating element within the sink
  • the water temperature may need to be checked with a thermometer to make sure it stays hot enough for the whole time needed
  • be careful to avoid burning hands.
  • most chemical sanitisers include chlorine-based compounds (e.g. bleach), quaternary ammonium compounds, alcohol, iodophors (iodine), organic acids (e.g. peracetic acid) and hydrogen peroxide
  • follow the manufacturer’s instructions, take care to make sure the:
    • correct dilution rate is used
    • required contact time is adhered to and
    • the product is within the expiration date.
  • the concentration of bleach (chlorine) needed will vary based on the water temperature. The table below shows how much bleach is needed to make a sanitising solution
  • utensils, equipment and surfaces can be left to air dry (no rinsing required). If stronger concentrations than recommended are used, rinsing is required before air drying.
  • items must be submerged for at least 30 seconds (contact time)
  • diluted bleach solutions should be discarded after 24 hours because the active ingredient breaks down and becomes ineffective.
Water temperatureBleach
Plain unscented household bleach (4% chlorine)

Commercial bleach (10% chlorine)

49°C6.25 ml2.5 ml
38°C12.5 ml5 ml
13°C25 ml10 ml

What is not a suitable sanitiser

  • vinegar and lemon juice are not effective sanitisers and should not be used
  • methylated spirits is unsuitable as it can leave chemical residues
  • disinfectants and cleaning agents designed for use on floors and toilets are not suitable for use with food contact surfaces because they may contain fragrances, colours or other chemicals that may not be food-grade.


The following records can be used when cleaning and sanitising: