When I was 15 years old I worked in a restaurant kitchen washing dishes and keeping the kitchen clean. It helped me save up enough money for a BMX and allowed me to go out with my friends, buy the latest game releases and go to out to the cinema. Before I started my “high flying” job, I thought about the money, minimal hours and, to make it a little easier, I had a friend who worked there as a chef. What I never thought about was how difficult it is to work in a kitchen, under the pressure, and how dirty these places can become if you don’t know where the dirt hides.
In commercial kitchens and restaurants laws and regulations are put in place to make sure that owners, and responsible members of staff alike, adhere to these rules or face fines and other punishments. It’s important to have a clean kitchen for more than just dodging fines. Maintaining a clean and tidy kitchen keeps your staff and customers healthy, which in turn keeps your business ticking over as it should and can also help prolong the life of kitchen equipment and appliances.
So, for all you budding pot washers out there or if you just want to know where to look when you’re next scrubbing your kitchen, here are my 5 hidden kitchen areas where dirt and grease collect unseen by the naked eye.
You may think the slimy stuff that goes down the drain is long gone within a few hours, and possibly on its way to the water treatment plant, but beyond the plug in the sink is a place where it’s dark and unreachable by most people. Germs and grime find dark, wet and undisturbed territory which can make your drains a harbinger of unwanted bacteria and nasty smells.
If you are pouring oils, fats and other unwanted liquids down the drain you need to stop this now. It can block the drains and also pollute the environment making it potentially illegal. You can hire professional drain cleaning companies, use environmentally friendly solutions and reduce the amount of unwanted things you pour down them.
2) Ductwork and Kitchen Extraction Units
Kitchen extraction units are designed to remove the greasy and dirty air, caused by cooking large quantities of food, all day every day. The air is sucked through the Ductwork and expelled outside of the building where it can escape. With air-conditioning units installed in the restaurants themselves, these draw through the air containing dust, dirt and everything else floating around. Nice!
Their awkward placement, suspended high above, means cleaning them can be almost impossible and risk of damage by unqualified cleaners can quickly put someone off cleaning them. They’re usually hidden too, and the insides are unseen unless you “magically” get up and into them.
But this is where air containing grime builds up along with other dirt overtime and this can start to flow back into the air supply, and in some cases, causing sickness to staff and visitors.
A professional ductwork cleaning company can get at these areas for you if you can’t and what’s more, new laws and regulations mean that if your ductwork is not cleaned and maintained on a regular basis, owners or members of staff responsible for this can be prosecuted and fined.
3) Underneath and Behind Units
We all know it’s under there it’s just that none of us ever seem to want to move the units and get behind there with some cleaning products. It’s dark with a steady flow of food for any cockroaches, bacteria and potentially rodents.
Facing the problem and getting the cleaning done will result in a much cleaner kitchen and maintaining the cleanliness in future will be so much easier if you can keep on top of it.
4) Grease Traps
If you’re cooking lots of fatty foods then your commercial kitchen may require a grease trap. This is designed to remove all the harmful fats and grease that may get into the eco-cycle if not interrupted at this process. Although it stops the fats and grime from entering our water supply, it still builds up within the traps where potentially toxic and harmful waste can form. These areas require cleaning and maintenance and if they’re not looked after properly, their efficiency will reduce significantly and offer poor results.
5) You and Your Staff
Yes I said it… We can be pretty dirty people sometimes. It’s as if we think other people are dirty and because we know ourselves we feel like we’re the cleanest person on earth. The truth is, you’re not! Not only do we touch many things throughout the course of a day, we probably don’t wash our hands as much as we should and some of us, knowingly, or not, carry disease, infections and viruses.
Simply washing your hands after going to the toilet, taking out the rubbish or touching raw meats, such as chicken, will certainly help in keeping invisible germs at bay. Try washing hands in between things like these too and help reduce the spread of unwanted nasties. You may have shook hands with someone who hasn’t washed their hands or held something that dirty hands have been in contact before you.
Personal hygiene of you and your staff members is an important part of keeping your kitchen as clean as possible. A good clean attitude will also help when your staff are cleaning the kitchen. What may look dirty to one person may seem clean to another. Make sure your staff aren’t the latter.
A clean kitchen has so many benefits that it isn’t worth ignoring. Cleaning a dirty kitchen that has been neglected can look like a daunting task, but once you’ve got a clean kitchen, maintaining its cleanliness is easier than you’d think.
This article was written by Alan Gregory. When he isn’t writing about food, food safety and hygiene he scales the width and breadth of Britain on his Mountain Bike. You can follow him and his outlandish ways on Twitter.