Cleaning and sanitising food premises and food equipment

Cleaning and sanitising
Cleaning and sanitising

Utensils, equipment and food contact surfaces must be kept in a clean and sanitary condition.

Food businesses must ensure eating and drinking utensils and food contact surfaces of equipment:

  • are clean
  • have had heat and/or chemicals, or other processes applied to them so that the number of microorganisms on the surface or utensil is reduced to a level that does not:
    • compromise the safety of the food with which it may come into contact
    • permit the transmission of infectious disease.

Clean and sanitary premises that comply with the relevant requirements of the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code can demonstrate to the appropriate enforcement agency that a food business is serious about producing high quality, safe and suitable food.

Meeting relevant legislation requirements for cleaning and maintenance is not only important for compliance reasons; it is also beneficial for the success of a food business.

Consumers are now increasingly aware of the requirements of food businesses and the processes needed to produce safe and suitable food.

Not only will consumers question poor food handling and hygiene practices, they are also more likely to return to clean, well maintained premises.

Refer to the Food Safety Standards (external site) of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, specifically:

  • Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements (clause 19 and 20)
  • Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises and Equipment.

The accompanying Safe Food Australia – A Guide to the Food Safety Standards (external site) should also be read. Appendix 4 of the guide provides detailed and descriptive guidance on methods of cleaning and sanitising for food businesses.


Standard 3.1.1 of the Code defines clean as meaning clean to touch and free of extraneous visible matter and objectionable odour.

Standard 3.2.2 of the Code outlines cleanliness as meaning there is no accumulation of:

  • garbage (except in garbage containers)
  • recycled matter (except in containers)
  • food waste
  • dirt
  • grease
  • other visible matter.

Cleaning and sanitising (disinfecting) are usually 2 separate processes.

Effective cleaning must occur before sanitising, as sanitisers may not work as well if the food contact surface or utensil has not had all visible contamination removed.

Cleaning is often achieved with detergent, water and agitation, with the visible dirt and detergent then rinsed and removed with clean water.

Detergents are chemicals that remove dirt and grease, however detergents do not kill bacteria and other microorganisms.

Microorganisms may be removed during the cleaning process, however cleaning is not intended to destroy microorganisms, sanitising is required for this purpose.


The term sanitary in the Code refers to the state of a food contact surface or utensil where it does not contain microorganisms at a level that would permit the transmission of infectious disease or compromise food safety.

Sanitisers are substances capable of destroying microorganisms including those bacteria that cause food poisoning and other diseases.

When used properly, they can reduce surface contamination by bacteria to a safe level. It is important to read and follow the directions on sanitisers carefully.

Sanitising is usually achieved using heat and water, or chemicals, or a combination of both methods. An effective alternative to chemical sanitisers is hot water used at (75°C or hotter) to soak items for 2 minutes or more.  

Points to remember about sanitising

For effective and safe use of a sanitiser, follow the manufacturer's instructions provided on the label. 

  • Some sanitisers are toxic to people and the residue must be rinsed off, whilst other sanitisers are food-safe and do not require rinsing. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for the sanitiser to ensure safe use. 
  • Sanitisers all work best at the correct dilution. If they are too weak, they do not work effectively, if they are too strong you are wasting your money.
  • Sanitisers need time to work. The contact time varies and may be seconds or minutes depending on the job.
  • Sanitising solution can be made up as needed and put into labelled spray bottles for use on bench tops, fridges, door handles and other surfaces.
  • Check the dilution, contact time, safety precautions, shelf life and storage of all chemicals before use.
Effective cleaning and sanitisting

All items that come into contact with food must be effectively cleaned and sanitised. This is a 4 step process that removes food waste, dirt, grease and destroys food-borne disease pathogens.

The Code does not specify which procedures must be used to ensure the premises and equipment are kept in a clean and sanitary condition. Food businesses may use a combination of procedures and methods to meet Code’s requirements.  

Step 1 – Preparation

  • Remove loose dirt and food particles.
  • Rinse with warm, potable water.

Step 2 – Cleaning

  • Wash with hot water (60 °C) and detergent.
  • Rinse with clean potable water.

Step 3 – Sanitising (bacteria killing stage)

  • Treat with very hot, clean, potable water (75 °C) for at least 2 minutes.
  • Apply sanitiser as directed on the label.

Step 4 – Air drying

  • Leave benches, counters and equipment to air dry. The most hygienic way to dry equipment is in a draining rack.
Cost effective cleaning

Cleaning takes time and costs money.

With planning, well designed and organised food businesses can reduce the time required for thorough cleaning.

  • All items must be stored off the floor. Allowing clearance from the floor gives plenty of room for cleaning beneath shelving and equipment.
  • Undertake regular maintenance, for example filling holes and replacing damaged tiles.
  • Keep only what you need at the food business premises.
  • Implement and display a cleaning schedule so all staff know their cleaning responsibilities.
  • Keep wood out of the kitchen. Wood absorbs moisture, provides a breeding ground for food-borne disease pathogens and cannot be easily cleaned and sanitised.
  • Wipe down utensils and surfaces with paper towels. Dish cloths (tea towels) can spread bacteria.
  • If hosing down equipment and surfaces, use a high-volume, low pressure hose. High pressure hoses can splash and spray dirt onto surfaces and create aerosols that may contain and spread pathogens.
Last reviewed: 11-11-2020
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate