When it comes to commercial kitchen cleaning, floors may play a more critical role than formerly believed in food safety and preventing the spread of disease. Studies indicate floors can become reservoirs of health-threatening pathogens, and we may have as many as 50 direct and indirect contacts with floors every day.
For instance, every time we tie our shoes with laces that have dragged on the floor, we are indirectly touching the floor. Gathering an electrical cord from the floor - indirect contact; picking up a utensil from the floor - indirect contact; picking up a carton of food stored on the floor - once again, indirect contact.
Because of this, proper floor care is imperative to help stop the spread of disease. However, the ways floors are typically cleaned do not necessarily help stop the potential for cross contamination. In fact, they may actually be contributing to the problem.
The Typical Kitchen Floor Scenario
Cleaning a floor is a difficult and demanding job as many commercial kitchen cleaning professionals know. Quite a bit of food and the ingredients used to prepare food have a nasty habit of landing on commercial kitchen floors. The problem is amplified because of the grease used in cooking. It becomes airborne and, over time, helps adhere food debris to the floor.
Normally, the following steps are used to clean kitchen floors:
- The floor is swept.
- Buckets are filled with water; a chemical, often a powerful degreaser or bleach is added to the water.
- The floor is mopped and may also be 'decked down' to loosen debris from the floor.
- The entire floor may be mopped once again, to rinse the floor and remove chemical residue and any remaining debris.
- The buckets and mops are stored after use.
Although this procedure is employed in thousands of restaurants around the world every day, let's take a look at its potential problems.
First, all the mopping, sweeping, and decking make commercial kitchen cleaning labor intensive. Second, degreasers and bleach can be harmful to the user and the environment. Third, and this may be most important, several studies dating back nearly 30 years report that mopping floors with used buckets and mops can actually spread disease.
According to a hospital study published in the American Society of Microbiology journal, April 1971, 'if mops are not kept adequately cleaned and disinfected, and if the water is not changed frequently enough in the buckets, the mopping procedure may spread heavy contamination through the hospital.'
Commercial Kitchen Floor Cleaning Alternatives
Aware of this problem and looking for ways to clean commercial kitchen floors faster and more thoroughly, some food service facilities have installed compressed-air type cleaning systems. These can be effective; however, they also have their drawbacks.
For instance, the systems can be costly to purchase and install. Additionally, the floors usually still need to be mopped after cleaning, reducing worker productivity and potentially spreading contaminants as discussed earlier. Finally, breathing the mist generated by these systems is potentially harmful.
An alternative to mops, buckets, and compressed-air systems that appears to address these drawbacks is the Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning® systems. According to Jonathan St. Dierre, a Quebec janitorial contractor, the system involves three steps:
- Using the no-touch machine, chemicals are applied to all floor areas to be cleaned.
- The machine then rinses the floors; the rinsing is actually a form of agitation for it loosens and helps remove floor debris. This is a very important step in all cleaning procedures.
- A built-in vacuum system is then used to vacuum up the debris, rinse and soiled water, and any remaining solution (which may also be removed down floor drains).
St. Dierre reports that the floor does not need to be swept first and there is no mopping, so worker productivity is improved considerably. Also, because all contaminants are rinsed away or vacuumed up, the floors are left more hygienically clean.
Because restaurant kitchens can be small, congested locations, cleaning professionals can consider newer no-touch systems that perform all of the same steps with comparable effectiveness, but with a much smaller footprint. These smaller systems appear promising as a solution to the hygienic cleaning problems commercial restaurants must address.
Matt Morrison is communications manager for Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch Cleaning system and other tools and products designed for professional cleaning.