Whether it’s your job or just a part of daily life, cleaning is something that all of us spend time on. Effective cleaning procedures are a necessary part of ensuring that our environments are safe, helping to prevent cross-contamination, reduce infection and ensure that we can go about our lives without worrying about the cleanliness of our surroundings.
If you work in a hospitality environment then it is likely that your job will involve some kind of cleaning, whether this is of the equipment you use, the space you work in or just tables used by customers. Understanding the correct cleaning procedure and the steps involved in this is a very important part of ensuring that your employer complies with health and safety guidance and keeps their establishment safe for everyone in it.
There’s a range of guidance out there for a variety of different cleaning tasks, from the correct way to disinfect floors and surfaces to guidance on cleaning certain types of machinery. You should always follow specific manufacturers' advice when it comes to cleaning, but the six-step cleaning procedure is a useful set of guidelines to know when it comes to having an effective framework for approaching any cleaning task.
In this article, we explain the six stages of the cleaning procedure, giving you a clear set of instructions to follow, as well as discussing why cleaning procedures such as this one are so important.
Whilst individual guides may give slightly different instructions, there are generally thought to be six stages of cleaning that provide a full and thorough process for disinfecting a space, surface or piece of equipment. Here’s a breakdown of what each of these stages involves.
The pre-cleaning stage begins with a visual inspection of what you’re going to clean. Look at it and take note of any physical contaminants that will need to be removed, such as crumbs, dust or other items from the surrounding area.
You need to remove this debris before any of the other cleaning and disinfecting steps can take place. If it’s loose, then it can be disposed of at this stage.
Start by picking up larger items and either disposing of them or moving them to where they should be correctly stored. Then brush or sweep other contaminants to the floor or into a dustpan to ensure the area is as clear as possible before the next step.
The main clean stage of the procedure targets any contaminants that you were unable to remove during the pre-clean stage. It involves trying to loosen any stubborn dirt, grease or debris using water and/or specific detergents.
Depending on the nature of the substance, you may need to apply a detergent and then leave it for a while whilst it loosens or removes the contaminant. Some disinfectants are also more effective if they’re not immediately wiped away, so be sure to read and follow the instructions of whatever cleaning substance you’re using.
Some cleaning detergents are very strong, so it’s important to wear appropriate protective gear like gloves or an apron at this stage. Also be careful of using substances on certain materials, as some equipment or surfaces may be damaged if a very strong cleaning product is accidentally used.
After the main cleaning stage, the next step is to rinse the area you have cleaned. This removes the loosened debris and the substances used to get rid of any stubborn contaminants and ensures that it’s ready to be disinfected later on.
You can just use water to rinse, with hot water strongly recommended as it is more effective at loosening any lingering stains or substances. Depending on where you are cleaning, you can use a cloth or a mop to do this, again remembering to wear gloves and/or an apron if you run the risk of irritating your skin or damaging clothing with the products that have been used.
The fourth stage of the six-point technique is one of the most important; disinfection. Now you have cleared the area you’re working on of visible debris, you need to remove any invisible contaminants such as harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. It can also help to remove any lingering odours.
Chemical disinfectants are the best thing to use at this stage, although some cleaning scenarios will require a special kind of physical disinfectant. The majority of cleaning processes however will just require a product such as an antibacterial spray or solution, which can be applied to the area either with a cloth or a mop.
Follow the instructions on the cleaning products you’re using to ensure that you effectively disinfect the area you’re cleaning.
If you regularly do a lot of cleaning then repeated exposure to chemical disinfectants can lead to skin issues like contact dermatitis. You should wear gloves when using these substances to protect your skin and also consider wearing an apron whilst disinfecting so that the substances don’t get on your clothes as well.
The penultimate stage of the cleaning procedure involves a final rinse, which removes any disinfectant product that was used previously. This may seem counterintuitive, but once the disinfectant has been applied the area will be clean, so rinsing it a little while later doesn't undo the effect of this.
Hot water is the best thing to use for a final rinse, using either a cloth or a mop to clean the area.
It’s important to rinse some disinfection substances off of surfaces as these chemical products could contaminate hands, clothing, equipment or even food products. If ingested, chemical disinfectants can potentially cause quite a lot of harm to the person affected, which is why the final rinsing stage is necessary.
However, not all disinfection products need to be rinsed after use. You should check the instructions for each product before use, and only complete this stage if necessary.
The final step of the cleaning process is to dry the area that has been cleaned. Air drying is the method that is most recommended, as this reduces the likelihood that another product (like a cloth) will be used for drying and accidentally contaminate the surface again. Depending on the temperature of the area, this can take from a couple of minutes to half an hour.
Air drying may not be possible however in environments where clean surfaces or areas need to be used immediately, like in a kitchen or medical setting. In these cases, a clean and totally dry cloth should be used to dry any damp surfaces.
The biggest reason why cleaning procedures like the one explained above are important is that they ensure that germs and harmful bacteria or organisms don't contaminate environments and infect the people that use them. Kitchens and bathrooms in particular tend to be places where cross-contamination is common, but all kinds of surfaces and spaces can carry this risk of contamination if they’re not cleaned correctly.
Following cleaning procedures also means that high standards of cleanliness are maintained in line with official health and safety legislation. In the hospitality industry for example, this ensures that businesses which follow these guidelines aren’t at risk of being sued for failing to meet appropriate hygiene standards or causing their customers to become ill.
Having a clear procedure is also important for those doing the cleaning, as it outlines a simple way to ensure that spaces and surfaces are left clean and safe to use. This makes cleaning processes quicker and means that staff tasked with cleaning aren’t left confused as to what they need to do.
Finally, this well-known, correct cleaning sequence ensures that high standards are kept across industries that follow the procedure, as everyone working in them will be completing the above six steps whenever they clean. This sets an expectation for all businesses to ensure that their premises are cleaned to a high level, which in turn keeps staff and customers safe by creating consistently clean environments.
The two main methods of disinfection are chemical disinfection and physical disinfection. The first refers to the use of chemical products to clean a space or a surface, whilst the second refers to the use of physical processes like UV light, heat or sonification to clean, which aren’t used as commonly.
When it comes to cleaning equipment, there are four stages that you are recommended to work through. This begins by removing any physical contaminants from the equipment, then cleaning it with an appropriate solution, then rinsing this solution from the equipment, and then sanitising the equipment to finish.
Mops and cloths should be disinfected after every use, especially if you’re using them to clean something particularly messy. You can do this by soaking cloths in diluted bleach or putting them through a washing machine, and mop heads can also be disinfected by soaking them in diluted bleach or a specific cleaning solution.
As well as being disinfected after use, you should replace cleaning cloths every 2-3 weeks and mop heads every month.
It can sometimes be tempting to make a quick job of cleaning, especially if an area looks visibly clear. However, it’s important to remember that proper cleaning and disinfection tackle plenty of potential hazards that we cannot see, which is why following procedures like the one we have outlined in the article is the best way to ensure that a space is safe to use.
If you’re looking for more advice on cleaning best practices or would like more information on the six-point technique for cleaning, we cover these topics and more in our ‘Cleaning and Servicing in Hospitality’ online course.