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Should You Clean, Sanitize or Disinfect?

What’s more important to do in a restaurant, clean, sanitize or disinfect?  Well, you will not be surprised to find out that it is equally important to do all three. These are words that we have been hearing a lot about recently, especially during the pandemic. There is a ton of information out there from the CDC and the Environment Protection Agency that gives you guidelines on how to keep your restaurants up to date on running safely.  It is important for your staff to know the difference between them so let’s give a quick breakdown.


Cleaning is the removal of food and soil from the surface. Any unwanted material should be cleaned before you sanitize and/or disinfect. A few examples of cleaning would be wiping down tables, seats and menus to get rid of food particles, spills, dust etc.  Dusting light fixtures or pictures on the wall  in the restaurant. Scrubbing pots and pans with soap and water. Sweeping floors. It is important to note that “cleaning” does not kill pathogens. 


Sanitizing comes after cleaning and will reduce the number of pathogens and microorganisms such as bacteria and germs on surfaces to below levels the CDC deems safe. Sanitizing also inhibits the growth of bacteria and reduces the number of germs on a surface. You should note that sanitizing is extremely important but does not kill all viruses. You will need to check the label of the sanitizers. There are sanitizers that are safe to use around food, but make sure you read the labels so you know how long to allow the sanitizer to air dry on the surface. Food prep surfaces should be sanitized continually throughout the day. Examples of food prep surfaces would be countertops and work spaces, food equipment and cutting boards. 


Disinfectants will kill bacteria and viruses on hard, non-porous surfaces. It is the most effective way to kill viruses so it is important that you regularly disinfect high-touch items after you clean them. Keys areas to disinfect would be door handles, light switches, bathroom surfaces, menus keyboards, etc.  You must remember that disinfectants should never come in direct contact with foods. Ask your supplier to provide proper training in the use of disinfectants. The EPA has released a list of approved disinfectants for use against the coronavirus. The list goes into detail but always read the label of all products. 

I know that we’ve unpacked a lot of information here, but in our next article, 5 Steps to Clean and Sanitize Your Restaurant, we will be giving you a 5-step process on how you and your employees should clean and sanitize your restaurant to maximize both customer and employee health and safety. 



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Everyone in the restaurant industry is dealing with high employee turnover rates.

Everyone in the restaurant industry is dealing with high employee turnover rates. Some may be facing this problem more than others
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