By Robert Kravitz and Allan Gray
Keeping commercial kitchen floors clean is probably one of the most challenging jobs in the professional cleaning industry. The reason for this is that restaurant kitchen floors are typically disaster areas at the end of every night.
In most cleaning situations, such as cleaning offices, the more frequently an area is cleaned, the easier and faster it can be cleaned the next time and the more effective the cleaning is overall. However, this is not the case when it comes to restaurant kitchen floors because of their heavy and messy use; each day these floors require a thorough cleaning.
What can make restaurant kitchen floorcare all the more challenging is that some restaurant owners or managers are unaware of all the steps necessary to clean the floors effectively. Further, whereas years ago many restaurants hired professional cleaning services to maintain their floors, today these same restaurants now turn to their kitchen crew—the same folks who may be washing dishes or cutting vegetables during their shifts—to handle the floor cleaning.
Whatever the situation and no matter who cleans the restaurant kitchen floor, there are steps that staff can take to make the process easier, safer, healthier, and more effective, all with the goal of keeping the kitchen floor as clean, safe, and sanitary as possible, and at the same time reducing odors and slipperiness.
Among these steps are the following:
When to clean: If at all possible, the kitchen floor should be cleaned after each shift – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In many properties, the kitchen (including the floor) is cleaned the next morning before opening. The problem with this practice is that soiling will build up and the longer any grease and oil are allowed to “set” on the floor, the more likely they are to harden and become more difficult to remove. However, by cleaning the kitchen floor right after closing, it tends to be easier to remove any grease, oil, and polymerized fats from the floor.
Have a cleaning plan: What is probably one of the keys to effective restaurant floor cleaning—and one that is often overlooked—is to have some sort of kitchen floor cleaning plan in place. The plan should specify, for example, the order of floor cleaning tasks, types of tools to be used, cleaning solutions needed, who is to do what, etc. In most cases, the plan should require that the floors should be cleaned first, before cleaning food-handling equipment and other surfaces in the kitchen. This helps prevent airborne soils from the floor finding their way onto these tools and other surfaces. And one more thing, the cleaning plan should be in writing to help ensure that all floorcare tasks get completed.
What to wear: One of the biggest mistakes some restaurant owners or managers make today is not requiring their in-house cleaning staff to dress for the job of restaurant floor cleaning. This starts with their shoes. Many in-house cleaning people wear the same shoes to work that they wear every day. The first concern with this is that you do not know where these shoes have been. One of our goals when it comes to proper kitchen sanitation is to keep outside soils outside and not walked inside onto the kitchen floor. The in-house cleaning crew should wear shoes specifically for cleaning and working in the restaurant, and these should be slip-resistant shoes.
Two other items that owners or managers should insist their cleaning crews wear are protective eye gear and gloves. Some of the chemicals used in cleaning are very powerful. Even a small drop in the eyes or on the skin can cause injury.
Safety first: Before beginning any kitchen floor cleaning, a very wise step to take is to place warning cones at all entries of the kitchen, especially if it is closed at the time of cleaning. Why? Simply because someone not on the cleaning crew may walk in unexpectedly, and because floors can become very slippery when cleaning begins; this can be a slip-and-fall accident just waiting to happen. Having warning cones at the entries to the kitchen can help prevent this from occurring.
Check the floor drains: Before cleaning the floors, cleaning workers should double check that the floor drains are unobstructed and working properly. All too often it is only after floor cleaning begins that workers find out that the drains are blocked. To prevent this, restaurant owners or managers can select what are called “bio-enzymatic drain maintainers.” These systems drip into the drains automatically to help keep drains clean and working properly. They can also help reduce insects being able to sustain themselves in the drains.
Cleaning the floor mats: Most restaurants today install slip-resistant, anti-fatigue mats throughout the kitchen area. These mats are often made of a heavy rubber and interconnected, making them somewhat difficult to pick up, remove, and clean. But they must be cleaned daily. Sweeping or brushing them with a stiff-bristled broom will remove dry, loose soil and debris, but it is the grease and oil that build up on the mats that are the big concern. If the grease and oil are not removed, over time they will degrade the rubber. Mats should be cleaned using a commercial-grade or bio-enzymatic degreaser. The degreaser, as the name implies, breaks down grease and oil.
A deck brush should be used to wash down the mats with the degreaser solution and then the solution should be allowed to “dwell” on the mats for a few minutes to help break down the grease and oil. After this, the mats should be hosed down to rinse them, removing the grease, oil, soil, and contaminants. During this process, if the degreasing solution becomes soiled, the solution should be emptied and the bucket refilled with new solution. The degreaser will lose its potency if it becomes too soiled.
Earlier we mentioned bio-enzymatic degreasers. Restaurant owners/managers should be aware of this technology because it is designed to break down organic compounds, such as grease and oil. As to their effectiveness, in one case, a Canadian hospital tested a bio-enzymatic degreaser on its floors, and the cleaning staff mentioned that they could “visibly see the grease coming off the floors.”
Cleaning the floors: Some of the key points to remember when cleaning the floors are similar to those for cleaning floor mats. Always use a commercial-grade degreaser; as the degreaser solution becomes soiled, empty the bucket and refill it with fresh solution; allow the solution to dwell on the floor for a few minutes; and then thoroughly rinse the floor. A squeegee should be used to move moisture into floor drains for quicker drying. Our goal here is to ensure that there is no chemical residue left on the floor and that the floor dries as quickly as possible.
Mops and buckets: Mops and buckets used to clean commercial kitchen floors and mats can become very soiled. After each use, the bucket should be thoroughly cleaned, rinsed and allowed to air dry. Mop heads should be changed daily. The cleaner the mop heads and bucket are, the greater the efficacy of the degreaser and cleaning solutions used and the more effectively soil and grease will be removed from the floor.
Deep cleaning: The floorcare tasks discussed here are typically performed daily. However, commercial kitchen floors also need to be deep cleaned two to four times per year; this is especially true if the floor is quarry or a similar type of tile. The reason for deep cleaning is that, even with regular cleaning, soils can build up in the pores of the tile or in grout areas of the floor. One of the most effective ways to address this is to first apply the degreaser to the floor, then scrub the floor with a rotary machine or preferably a cylindrical brush floor machine. A cylindrical brush floor machine uses brushes, not pads. The counter-rotating brushes tend to be more effective at reaching and removing soils deep within the pores and grout of the floor.
Training: When it comes to effectively cleaning and maintaining restaurant kitchens, it is imperative that your cleaning crew be properly trained on all of the items discussed here and that training is a regular part of their duties. In addition to training, it is equally important that they be educated on why keeping floor areas clean and healthy is so vitally important.
The overall health and cleanliness of a restaurant starts with the floors. While clean and healthy floors may not guarantee the success of a restaurant, without them it’s very likely the restaurant will not succeed.
About the author:
Robert Kravitz is founder of Altura Solutions, a public relations, communications and marketing firm working with the professional cleaning and related B2B industries. Allan Gray is business development manager at one of Canada’s leading providers of professional cleaning solutions and the company’s foodservice industry expert.