When you’re cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting foodservice areas, you have a choice of using a cloth and solution from a spray bottle or small bucket. Which you choose and where you use it depends on what you put in the spray bottle or bucket and what the solutions are being used for.
Spray bottles, for example, are handy for wetting surfaces with sanitizing solutions or disinfectants that require a specific dwell time in order to effectively do their job—reduce or kill microorganisms.
Sanitizing solutions made with quaternary ammonia (QUAT) or iodine, for example, require from 30 seconds to more than a minute before they can be rinsed or wiped off. Chlorine-based sanitizers only need seven seconds. Some disinfectants, for non-food-contact surfaces, take up to five minutes to reach full effectiveness.
Four factors influence the effectiveness of chemical sanitizers.
Spray bottle benefits
- Concentration—not using enough sanitizing agent will result in an inadequate reduction of microorganisms. Using too much sanitizing agent can be toxic.
- Temperature—generally chemical sanitizers work best at temperatures between 55°F (13°C) and 120°F (49°C). (See manufacturer’s recommendations for specific temperatures.)
- Contact time—to effectively reduce or kill microorganisms, the cleaned item must be in contact with the sanitizer (either heat or approved chemical) or disinfectant for the recommended length of time.
- pH—some chemicals, chlorine in particular, are affected by pH levels. The harder (and dirtier) your water, for example, the less effective and long-lasting a chlorine solution will be.
Sprays distribute solution efficiently, letting sanitizers and disinfectants fully cover surfaces undisturbed. Spray bottle tops come in colors for coding by solution, but you’ll likely need to label them so staffers know which sprays to use for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. Although employees should protect their hands with gloves when at these tasks, they might prefer using spray bottles over dipping a cloth into a bucket of solution.
Plastic buckets also are color coded and most come already labeled for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. There’s likely a higher tendency to empty and fill buckets with fresh, at-strength solution at the start of each task vs. spray bottles that might just go back on a shelf partly full.
- Solutions in spray bottles must be remade every 24 hours. Use single-use paper towels with spray-bottle solutions and cleaning chemicals.
- Solutions in buckets must be remade every 2 to 4 hours, or when the water becomes cloudy. Use disposable wiping cloths or single-use paper towels.
Be sure to train employees to follow manufacturers’ directions when making sanitizing or disinfecting solutions, along with these rules:
- Bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds (QUAT) are appropriate sanitizers for food-contact surfaces. Dilute them per the product label's instructions and use test strips (if possible) to measure solution's strength.
- Maintain bleach sanitizers between 50-00 ppm
- Maintain QUAT sanitizers between 200-400 ppm
- Keep cloths and buckets used for food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces separate, and either label and/or use color-coded spray bottles and buckets to identify them.
- Equipment or articles sanitized with a solution must be allowed to drain adequately before contact with food.
- Avoid using chlorine solutions greater than 200 ppm on stainless equipment or it will corrode and rust.
General Guidelines for the Effective Use of Chlorine, Iodine, and Quats