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Training Tip: Maintaining a Cleaning Schedule

Cleaning Schedule Cartoon

Kitchen cleaning checklist

Cleaning is an essential part of food safety in a food service establishment. If your facility is not cleaned properly, customers could get sick, pests could enter and infest your establishment, and many more undesirable consequences will likely occur. Some tasks, such as cleaning a meat slicer or sweeping under equipment, may inadvertently be forgotten about. Learning to manage cleaning tasks is a critical part of your duties as a food manager. To help you and your employees clean your establishment effectively, it is important to create a cleaning schedule.

Cleaning schedules

Cleaning schedules can help you and your employees know what needs to be cleaned and how often it should be cleaned. Some things, like food preparation utensils and surfaces, should be cleaned very often. Other parts of the restaurant may not need as much attention, but still should be cleaned regularly. A cleaning schedule allows your employees to record what needs to be cleaned, how often it should be cleaned, when it is cleaned, and who cleaned it. You can create a cleaning schedule by walking through your establishment and making note of what needs to be cleaned.

In the 2017 FDA Food Code laws and regulations explain how frequently surfaces and equipment should be cleaned. These regulations help clarify when food-contact surfaces and non-food-contact surfaces should be cleaned. Build your cleaning schedule around these laws and regulations.

Food-contact surfaces

Any food-contact surface, such as a knife or cutting board, constantly used with time/temperature control for safety (TCS) foods should be cleaned at least every four hours. Why the four hour rule? It’s because TCS foods require time or temperature control to help control the growth of dangerous pathogens. And within four hours, foodborne bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels. Serving food with high levels of bacteria can get your customers sick. Even if you cook the food properly, the bacteria can still be at high enough levels to get your customers sick. The list of TCS foods includes meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy and dairy products, protein-rich plants, cooked vegetables, potato dishes, and more. Pay close attention to the special equipment that comes in contact with TCS foods in your establishment. For example, a meat slicer needs to be cleaned regularly because it comes into regular contact with meat.

If a food worker is switching tasks, such as switching from cutting meat to slicing vegetables, the food-contact surfaces and equipment used should be cleaned and sanitized between tasks. This helps prevent cross-contamination and keeps your food safe.

Non-food-contact surfaces

Non-food-contact surfaces are surfaces that do not directly come into contact with food that will be prepared or served. They need to be cleaned regularly, but not as often as surfaces that come in contact with TCS foods. The 2017 FDA Food Code has many recommendations for cleaning such surfaces. For example, iced tea dispensers and consumer self-service utensils that do not come into contact with TCS foods (tongs, scoops, ladles, etc.) should be cleaned at least every 24 hours. Equipment, such as ice makers and beverage dispensers, should be cleaned according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the instructions are not available, clean them often enough to keep soil and mold from accumulating.

In addition to the items mentioned above, floors, walls, ceilings, light fixtures, equipment, and other components of your restaurant should be cleaned often enough to keep soil and debris from accumulating. Doing a thorough walk-through of your establishment will help you determine how often to clean these items. Some may need to be cleaned daily, while others may only need to be cleaned weekly or even monthly. If you are unsure how frequently something needs to be cleaned, clean it more often than you think it should and then adjust the frequency of cleaning as needed.

Other cleaning tips

Regularly check to make sure that the cleaning is getting done correctly, and that your employees are fully trained on what is expected of them. Observe employees doing their cleaning duties and inspect their work afterward. If you notice something is not fully clean or needs more attention, retrain your employees and let them know what else needs to be done. Evaluate your cleaning schedule often to see if anything needs to be cleaned more frequently or if something needs to be added to the list.

As always, if you suspect anything is contaminated or needs attention, be sure it is cleaned immediately. Check with your local regulatory authority for other regulations or guidelines they have for your area. For more information about cleaning and other managerial control documents, visit

Food safety reminder

Clean and sanitize ice machines regularly to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

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Janilyn Hutchings

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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