ABC’s of Manual Cleaning Part II: What does Manual Cleaning Involve?

Part II

In part one of this series, we discussed how manual cleaning involves the use of tools such as brushes, scrapers, and squeegees, along with other sanitation aids. This can effectively remove contamination from surfaces and equipment – and, in numerous instances, there may be no other practical option for cleaning some components or parts, even for the state-of-the-art automated systems. However, is manual cleaning just about, say, an employee using a hand brush to clean the internal surface of a soiled tank? Well no, it’s more than just that!

Understanding the concepts

Cleaning involves the removal or significant reduction of debris such as visible soil and contaminants from a surface. Industry best practices and regulatory requirements have always been to clean before you sanitize the surface.

Cleaning should not be taken as a one-size-fits-all activity, since several factors may influence the formulation of the right kind of parameters required to remove soils from a surface. The cleaning activity may be achieved in many ways, and a single cleaning method may involve overlaps of various cleaning activities:

As shown, manual cleaning may or may not involve the disassembly of the parts of equipment. Moreover, it is important to define the ‘level of clean’, which is a risk-based decision generally dependent on the type of contaminant (mainly microorganisms, allergens, and foreign material) to be removed from a surface. Some of the factors influencing the level of clean are as follows:

  • Whether the contaminant/hazard present is required to be eliminated or minimized to an acceptable level through the cleaning process.
  • Whether the cleaning activity itself should minimize the spread of the contaminant.
  • Whether the cleaning activity will have a negative impact on the surface being cleaned.
  • Whether the prevailing regulations, standards, and best practices will be met through the cleaning activity.

Choose the right cleaning activity

The choice of cleaning activity is crucial since we do not want to sacrifice effectiveness for the sake of efficiency. As shown below, certain cleaning activities may increase the risk of contamination spread, hence they are deemed high-risk.

As illustrated, hosing, especially at high pressure, is a high-risk activity compared to vacuuming. The former will generate liquid aerosols and droplets that will spread over a considerable distance, carrying with them contamination from the surface being cleaned. However, other common manual cleaning techniques, like scraping, scrubbing, or sweeping, are generally classed as medium risk, requiring some caution in their performance. For instance, scrubbing dirty parts using a brush is better done submerged under the water to minimize the spread of droplets generated by the scrubbing action.

Select the right tool for the right job

The selection of manual tools is vital, since this can greatly influence its cleaning efficacy and durability, and its subsequent cleaning maintenance and storage. Some useful tips on tool selection are provided below:

  • Choose the right bristle type for brushes and brooms. Stiff bristled brushes may scratch and deteriorate sensitive surfaces, while very soft bristles may be ineffective in removing rigid soils from surfaces but are good for sweeping up fine powders.
  • It is best to use total-color tools that are easily identifiable, trackable, and manageable in their respective hygienic zones at a site. Color-coding may also be used to separate to food-contact and non-food contact tools. This goes a long way in reducing cross-contamination in food plants.
  • Where higher temperatures are encountered in operations, use tools capable of withstanding high temperatures.
  • Evaluate whether special application tools will be required, say, for conducting deep cleaning, detailed cleaning, or high- or low-level cleaning.
  • Hygienically designed tools normally have smooth surfaces, rounded edges, and no crevices where contaminants can accumulate and be difficult to remove. Remco’s one-piece construction scoops and shovels, and Vikan’s UST brushes and Ultra-Hygiene squeegees are great options for hygienic tools to use for food manufacturing facilities processing high-risk products.


Selected References