Although the “bucket and rag” method may be the industry standard for cleaning surfaces in restaurants, if not performed properly, these techniques can be ineffective at best. Cleaning and sanitizing with reusable towels requires constant monitoring of the sanitizing solution, the surfaces being cleaned, and the towels themselves. Proper storage, laundering and disposal of towels also contribute to the success of a cleaning program – and if any of these variables fall behind, cross-contamination is a very real possibility.
Keep Towels Clean
Towels can trap grease, oil and fats, which protect pathogens and allow them to survive the sanitizing solution. Keeping sanitizing towels clean, laundering daily and disposing of heavily soiled towels can help eliminate cross-contamination and maximize the effectiveness of your cleaning solution.
Keep them Separated
Towels used on surfaces where raw animal proteins are processed should never be used on or near ready-to-eat (RTE) food prep surfaces. Doing so can spread harmful pathogens throughout the facility, potentially causing an outbreak.
Clean, then Sanitize
Proper surface sanitizing with reusable towels requires the surface to be cleaned first, to remove all food debris, fats & oils, prior to sanitizing. The surface can then be sanitized with a different towel that has been stored in the sanitizing solution. Once a surface has been sanitized, it should only be wiped with a sanitizing towel.
Get it Right
Choosing a sanitizer that eliminates foodborne pathogens is critical. Some sanitizers don’t kill all the germs found in restaurants, so be sure to check labels to confirm that you’re getting the most effective sanitizing products you can.
Maintain the Solution
A surface cleaning program is only as effective as the sanitizing solution, and as it is used, its concentration changes. As towels are stored in the solution, they absorb the active ingredients, and dilute the solution. Likewise, as food particles and other debris enter the bucket, the concentration changes. The solution should be changed throughout the day, to ensure maximum efficacy.
While reusable towels and dilution-based sanitizers can be effective and prevent the spread of germs in restaurants, it’s important to keep a close eye on these issues. When your sanitizing efforts falter, you could be at risk for an outbreak. For more details on the most common cross-contamination risks associated with current sanitizing techniques, click here. Hal King, Ph. D. and CEO of Public Health Innovations has put together a comprehensive article on the most common issues with the bucket and rag.