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Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 • Posted November 3, 2010

I recently had a really productive Food Safety class, and it consisted largely of people around Mason who own Bed and Breakfast establishments. These people aren’t really governed by the State Department of Health the way that restaurants are, and so it was nice to see them taking initiative to learn more to keep their customers safe. What was supposed to be a 2 hour class turned into 3 plus as they had so many great questions and discussion topics.

One of the things they asked about was keeping their kitchens clean. I promised that I would share this information with everyone in my news article as I thought it was important for us all to know!

Cleaning is really just the removal of surface dirt. You can do this with any mild detergent, or even just water if you are going to disinfect afterwards. The best things to disinfect with are products with an EPA registered disinfectant (look for the EPA number on the product label) or a diluted bleach solution. For non-porous surfaces the ratio is 1/4 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water, or 1 tsp. bleach to 1 quart of water. Bleach is economical, convenient, and readily available. Just be careful you don’t bleach your clothes as you are cleaning! Leave this solution on for a minimum of 2 minutes and let it air dry, then you are ready to go- no rinsing.

For dishes and toys, clean them off first with a mild detergent (removing all signs of dirt and food), then rinse them off with water. Submerge them in a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water for at least 2 minutes, then air dry. You can also just run them through the dishwasher if that is possible, it gets to hot enough temperatures that your things will be disinfected that way too.

But here are some important notes about bleach:

Bleach loses its strength and is weakened by heat and sunlight- so make a fresh solution daily.

Spray bottles should be clearly labeled and stored out of reach of children!

Never mix bleach with any cleaner, especially one containing ammonia, as it will produce very dangerous fumes.

Another thing- make sure you wash your dishcloths and kitchen towels frequently in hot water to avoid just spreading around those germs you are trying to fight. Paper towels are a good choice if you are like me and only do laundry once a week!

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