Isn’t it ironic that the last thing most people think of cleaning is the cleaning equipment itself? Often these tools are used in direct contact with food preparation services, so from a food safety point of view, and also for getting the best life out of your equipment, knowing how to care for your cleaning tools becomes very important, with the added bonus that when equipment is kept in a hygienic state (for optimum food safety), your equipment will last far longer.
If tools are stored in plastic bins/buckets or onto a shelf with a lot of other items, it’s less likely that the tools will be cleaned and sanitised for reuse…out of sight and out of mind. This creates a higher risk of contamination, which can then be transferred to the next surface you’re cleaning.
Tools that are cleaned but remain damp, will create an environment where bacteria can thrive. If tools are not clearly visible, they are more likely to go missing, whereas it’s easier to keep account of tools if they are visible. If they’re left to rest, in plastic bins/buckets or on shelves, the bristles will develop a ‘pressure set’.
You should consider hanging your tools on a rail or shadow board. Fibreclean Shadow Boards are widely used in the food and beverage industry. Designed to store and organise your tools in a very visual way, making it quick and easy to find them when you need them. Apart from pleasing auditors, you’ll stop wasting time and money as staff search for missing and often damaged tools, which they then have to replace, as well as reduce the potential of a foreign-matter incident.
As shadow boards are customised to your requirements, your quality standards and brand message can be displayed in a highly visible way to staff, auditors and customers. The graphics are direct printed onto extremely durable composite board (that has zero moisture absorption), then coated in an anti-scuff laminate, which has been tested to withstand the cleaning chemicals and wash-down pressures commonly used in the food industry. These boards are easy to clean and have easy to remove hooks and metal components, which are made of heavy-duty stainless steel. Highly recommended for high hygiene areas where there can be no hidden or hard-to-access areas where moisture, bacteria or food residue can accumulate.
When brushes haven’t been stored correctly and consequently have a ‘pressure set’ on the bristles, this will prevent the tool from cleaning effectively, as designed.
If you’re using a good quality brush with polyester PBT bristles, they can normally withstand temperatures of up to 140ºC or more, so you can quite easily straighten the bristles, just by pouring boiling water over them. This will actually make them like new again. One large caution to this however, is do not do this to cheap brushware, which is normally made of a nylon material. It will have the opposite effect and shrivel the bristles up, making the brush ineffective and a hygiene risk. Be careful that you use the right PPE when doing this to avoid burns.
CHEMICAL SANITATION OR CLEANING OF YOUR EQUIPMENT
Cleaning and sanitation of equipment, can be done in various ways, but which way is best?
Here are three of the recommended options:
- If all the equipment is held on a rack or a tool holder that is mounted to the wall, you can foam down or spray the equipment in place. When you’re foaming the rest of the plant down, the last step is to hang your tools up on the rack, rinse them and then foam the actual cleaning equipment itself, then rinse off again.
- You can soak the equipment in a large tub, something like an empty 200L container with the top cut off. First rinse the tools and then leave to sanitise in a solution.
- For any food contact brushes, where the sanitation is critical, the option of rinsing the tools and putting these brushes through the likes of a commercial dishwasher, is a quick and economical one. The dishwasher will clean and sanitise in a very short period of time. You can put a lot of brushes through a small commercial dishwasher and in a 3 – 4 minute cycle, brushes are cleaned and sanitised. At this point however if they are to be used in critical food contact areas, you will need to ensure that brushes are dried and stored in a secure plastic bag ready for next use. There are downsides to this option, such as bristles being bent up or splayed out due to the water pressure and the gear having rinse aid on it, which needs further rinsing before re-using.
Note: For broom heads that may have debris caught in the bristles, DO NOT turn the broom head on its end and whack it on the ground, like a sledge hammer, as this will cause a lot of stress to the connections on the handle and could possible break the broom head. You’re best to pull out anything entwined in the bristles (like string) and any other debris can simply be hosed or rinsed out.
Correctly storing tools the right way on the rack/tool holder and making sure there’s no foreign matter risk, for example plastic slivers, on the plastic tools or worn out equipment, is good practice, that must be done in a timely or consistent manner. Your supplier should be able to give you a ‘Cleaning Equipment Auditing and Care Guide’. This document will include:
The purpose of the audit: To conduct regular audits on your cleaning equipment, to ensure that your gear’s always in a safe condition to use and doesn’t pose a risk to product safety. This has the added benefit of avoiding wastage and saving money, by not having to replace as much cleaning equipment on an annual basis.
The scope of the audit: Lists all the different styles of equipment, how best to care for each one and how to know whether your equipment’s up to standard or not.
An example of an audit sheet: To implement as part of your audit plan.
A ‘how to’ care guide for different components before and after use: Including how to clean the equipment and how to launder the relevant gear.
Brush and broom compliance standards: A comprehensive list of all the compliance standards that the suppliers’ equipment will comply with, including overseas regulations. This comprehensive document can be presented to any auditor, to show them how you are caring for and maintaining the cleanliness and integrity of your brushware, to a standard that meets or exceeds New Zealand and international requirements.