Department of Health

Cleaning and sanitising for food businesses

    It is important to clean and sanitise food utensils and surfaces. Equipment and surfaces may look clean – but unless they are cleaned and sanitised, dirty equipment and surfaces can transfer bacteria or other organisms onto food; causing illness in the customer, and may result in legal action against the business owner.

    Everything must be cleaned and sanitised between use, especially between preparing raw food and ready-to-eat-food. Cleaning and sanitising are different things – cleaning refers to the removing of dirt, grease and food waste. Cleaning removes microorganisms but does not destroy them. Sanitising reduces microorganisms to a safe level. Sanitisers will not work if the surface is not clean. You must clean first.

    For cleaning dishes, utensils, pots and pans by hand: pre-clean by scraping and rinsing, wash in hot water and detergent, rinse, sanitise, then air dry if possible. If things cannot be left to air dry, ensure they are dried with a clean cloth.

    If using a dishwasher, pre-clean by scraping and rinsing, stack so all surfaces are exposed, cutlery placed handles down, then run the dishwasher on its longest, hottest cycle. Wash and dry your hands before unpacking. Re-wash the dishes if they are still dirty or greasy, and make sure the dishes are dry before storing. The dishwasher should also be cleaned and serviced regularly.

    Food surfaces and equipment must be cleaned and sanitised often during use – clean as you go, and always use a clean cloth. Special attention needs to be given to equipment with surfaces that are harder to get to, such as meat slicers, stick blender, blenders and can openers. Scrape and rinse parts and then wash in hot water and detergent, sanitise, then ensure everything is dry before putting away or reusing.

    Remember, sanitising only works if the surface has been cleaned first. There are different ways to sanitise. Using hot water, chemicals, or using a dishwasher on the longest, hottest cycle, or a chemical solution like bleach or a food grade sanitiser. Always use the correct amount, and make sure you follow the instructions on how to prepare the solution as this may vary between products, as well as using the hot or cold water. All mixed solutions should be discarded after 24 hours. Label and store away from food. Vinegar and lemon juice aren’t effective sanitisers, while methylated spirits leave chemical residues, and floor and surface cleaners are not suitable for food utensils and surfaces.

    Cleaning and using the right sanitisers is a critical part of keeping your food safe. For more information on these processes, refer to your food safety program, head to the website or dofoodsafely.

    Reviewed 20 December 2023