Food preparation, handling, and processing areas become contaminated if improperly cleaned and sanitised. It can lead to acute poisoning, debilitating infections, and long-term diseases. 

Inadequate cleaning procedures can result in illness or even death of people eating contaminated food, and prosecution of food business operators deemed responsible. This article offers step-by-step guidelines on how to clean and sanitise food manufacturing facilities to help businesses mitigate contamination risks.

Before taking the first step: the importance of food factory cleaning

One of the main risks posed by poor hygiene within the food factory is the increased likelihood of food becoming unfit for human consumption. The other consequences include contamination and cross-contamination of products, the spread of diseases, and loss of reputation.

Premises must be kept in a clean and sanitary condition to:

  • provide a safe environment for the manufacture of food,
  • produce food free of physical, allergenic, chemical, and microbiological hazards,
  • remove disease-causing organisms,
  • prevent food poisoning,
  • reduce the risk of accidents, such as tripping on spillages,
  • prevent infestation of pests such as rats, flies, and cockroaches,
  • reduce the risk of cross-contamination, 
  • create a pleasant working environment,
  • reduce the risk of dirt, hairs, or remnants from packaging materials getting into the food, 
  • comply with local and international legislation,
  • meet the requirements of global food safety standards (GFSI),
  • maintain positive audit outcomes,
  • allow maximum plant productivity,  
  • maintain product shelf-life. 

Standard food factory cleaning procedure

All items that come into contact with food must be effectively cleaned and sanitised. A typical food factory cleaning procedure includes the following:

Preparation  Before cleaning, you need to prepare the surfaces and get rid of obvious contamination. All food pieces greater than a fingernail should be eliminated before applying detergent. It could be done by hand, scrapping, or other physical methods. The collected material should be placed in waste receptacles. Also, food and packaging materials should be removed from the area. 
Pre-rinsingIt includes rinsing of equipment, walls, and floors. During this step, deposits that cannot easily be removed by picking, scraping, or other manual methods of gross cleaning, are taken care of. After pre-rinsing, excess water should be removed to prevent dilution of the detergent in the next step.
Detergent application  The purpose of the detergent is to remove the layers of proteins, greases, and other food deposits that remain on surfaces. Make sure detergents are properly mixed – look at dilution rates and contact times provided by the cleaning product manufacturer. Appropriate time should be allowed for the detergent to work.
Post-rinsing  The purpose of post rinsing is to remove the remaining food deposits. The surface should be free of all visible deposits, layers of soiling, and residues of detergent after post-rinsing. Splashes should be minimized to prevent the recontamination of surfaces. If any pools of water are evident, they should be removed following the post-rinse.
Take a closer lookInspect and clean areas where residues or detergent could still be present. Take extra care with hard-to-reach places. 
Sanitizing (bacteria-killing stage)  Sanitizing should only be done on a visually clean, well-rinsed surface. Apply an effective sanitizing chemical suitable for food handling environments. Surfaces in direct contact with food should be sanitized every four hours or at least daily.
Terminal rinsingFollowing sanitising, food contact surfaces are required to be rinsed with water. The sanitiser should be completely removed – use a potable water rinse. Water quality is important to prevent recontamination of the disinfected surface.
DryingThe most effective way to dry surfaces is by air drying because a wipe down could result in recontamination. For areas that cannot facilitate air drying, a leave-on sanitiser or disinfectant is recommended.
Check   Ensure that all surfaces have been covered. 

Cleaning vs. sanitising: what’s the difference?

Both cleaning and sanitising help to promote hygiene for the prevention of foodborne illness. However, it’s a common misconception that if a surface is visibly clean, it’s sterile as well. Several bacteria, including Salmonella and Escherichia coli, are resistant to soaps and detergents. 

What is the difference between cleaning and sanitizing? Technically, cleaning and sanitizing are not the same process, but two separate steps.

  • Cleaning is defined as the removal of soil particles from surfaces by mechanical, manual, or chemical methods. It’s a necessary first step because one cannot sanitise a dirty surface. Cleaning removes dirt but is not intended to kill all pathogens.
  • Sanitising is treating a previously cleaned surface with a chemical or physical agent to destroy organisms that cause disease or spoilage. Sanitation includes procedures that prevent hazards such as environmental pathogens, biological dangers, and food allergen threats. 

When it comes to food safety, cleaning represents only half the job of mitigating contamination risks. Once a food processing facility has been properly cleaned, an equally thorough sanitizing effort should follow. It is sanitizing that reduces the number of bacteria and other microorganisms to levels considered safe for human health.

Cleaning is completed with detergent, water, and agitation. Then the visible dirt and detergent are rinsed away using clean water. And sanitizing involves the use of heat, water, chemicals, or a combination of these methods.

What can go wrong with food factory cleaning and disinfection?

Things can go wrong during cleaning and sanitising. As a result, food can become unsafe to eat or employees could be harmed. 

When developing cleaning schedules, it’s crucial to prevent the following:

  • Physical contamination of food from cleaning equipment 
  • Microbiological contamination of food 
  • Lack of thought about the order of cleaning 
  • Failing to use different cleaning equipment
  • Chemical contamination of food from cleaning products
  • Incorrect dilution of chemicals, inadequate contact time, or not using a suitable product for the job
  • Inadequate cleaning of equipment 

Cleaning and sanitising must be done by a trained professional who fully understands the reasons behind each task. It is also important to remember that to avoid contamination. cleaning should normally be carried out when food production is halted. Scheduling is important.

Food factory cleaning equipment

Food production facilities are critical businesses that require high levels of hygiene. Specialized cleaning equipment helps businesses meet even the most stringent requirements.

Food factory cleaning equipment includes:

  • Washdown guns
  • Chemical mixing stations
  • Mobile wash stations
  • Foaming systems 
  • Fogging systems 
  • Dry steam cleaning equipment
  • Conveyor belt cleaning equipment
  • Packing machinery and system equipment
  • Tube cleaning systems for chillers, boilers, and heat exchangers
  • Hose and pipe cleaning systems
  • Production surface cleaning and surface sanitation systems 
  • Hazardous/flammable powder vacuums

All cleaning equipment should be clearly defined for each hygiene zone, such as food contact, non-food contact, and drain cleaning.

Professional food factory cleaning services by CIE

We offer a free consultation to make your premises as safe as possible and ensure your business is compliant with all COVID-secure guidelines. Our experts develop bespoke factory cleaning programs for each facility so that individual hygiene challenges can be addressed. 

With branches across the UK and around Europe, you can be sure that wherever you are – we are near you. To find out more about our services, get in touch with our team today.

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