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The Ultimate Kitchen Cleaning Checklist

These days more than ever, it’s critical to your restaurant’s success that you and your staff learn how to clean a restaurant properly to prevent the spread of disease. They've always been important, but cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting have a huge role to play in the foodservice industry in the prevention of cross-contamination and the spread of viruses.

What Is the Difference Between Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting?


Cleaning is the first step in the cleansing process. It involves removing dirt, spills, food particles, dust, and any other contaminants by washing, brushing, or wiping the area. This process is surface level and does not eliminate germs, but can help reduce their numbers. After a thorough cleaning, any items that come into contact with foods and are often touched should be sanitized.


Sanitizing reduces microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi on surfaces after they have been cleaned. To meet CDC requirements, sanitizing chemicals must kill 99.999% of the test bacteria in under 30 seconds. Sanitizing is meant to be used as a preventative measure to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria, but it does not kill all of the viruses on a surface. Every surface that comes into contact with food should be sanitized several times a day.

Because of how easily bacteria can be transferred to food and cause illness, it’s important to use sanitizing methods to clean tabletops, cutting boards, and utensils to prevent cross-contamination that can cause food poisoning and allergic reactions.

What to Sanitize

The general rule of thumb is to sanitize any item that comes into contact with food.


Cutting Boards

Food Prep tables

Pots and Pans



Cooking Equipment

When to Sanitize

Your health inspector will be looking for proper cleaning and sanitizing practices in your restaurant. Follow the steps below to know when you should be sanitizing in your kitchen:

After food prep

Whenever you’re switching between food types and ingredients

If your task is interrupted, forcing you to walk away from the station

Every 4 hours

How to Sanitize

  1. Clean surface of any dirt or debris.

  2. Rinse surface with soap and water. Don’t use high pressure sprayers that can spread bacteria.

  3. Sanitize surface with food-safe sanitizer.

  4. Allow surface to dry for 30 seconds.


While sanitizing is meant to kill the majority of germs, it cannot make antiviral claims. Disinfecting is more potent than sanitizing and can kill nearly 100% of bacteria, viruses, and fungi while targeting specific disease-carrying microorganisms like coronavirus.

Disinfecting is more intense than sanitizing and should be used in areas like bathrooms. Cleaning agents must kill 99.999% of infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi within a 5-10 minute period, according to CDC guidelines.

What to Disinfect

Light Switches

Door Handles

Elevator Buttons


Bathroom Surfaces

Faucet Handles

Computer Keyboards and Mice


When to Disinfect

Once a day at minimum, at a higher frequency during a virus outbreak

Whenever bodily fluids are on a surface

How to Sanitize

  1. Clean the surface of any visible debris.

  2. Rinse the surface with soap and clean water.

  3. Disinfect the surface with your disinfectant by following the directions on the product. Leave the disinfectant on the surface for 3-5 minutes or as long as the product calls for.

  4. Rinse.

Different areas of your restaurant require different cleaning practices. When comparing the different cleansing practices, the number of bacteria will decrease as you progress from cleaning to disinfecting. The best way to ensure that your cleaning program is successful is to provide your staff members with the proper supplies, training, guidelines, and information.

Front-of-House Cleaning Checklist

Your restaurant’s dining room and reception area, the front of house, are the first places your customers see. They should be as welcoming and clean as possible during normal business hours.

While You're Open:

  1. Wipe down high-traffic surfaces including door handles, railings, chairs, and tabletops with an approved cleaning solution and clean cloth after each customer. For the most-touched surfaces like door handles and railings, wipe them down after every contact. For chairs and tabletops, disinfect them between customer use.

  2. Spot-clean windows and glass surfaces so they are smudge- and streak-free.

  3. Disinfect bathrooms every 20 or 30 minutes (more often if necessary) to ensure that these heavily used rooms are as clean as possible.

  4. Clean condiments that are part of the regular place setting including sugar packets, salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, and other sauce containers.

Before Closing:

  1. Spray and wipe down all hard surfaces including chairs, tables, door handles, and host/hostess station

  2. Spray and wipe all menus

  3. Sanitize bathroom surfaces

  4. Sweep and mop all floors with cleanser and hot water

  5. Vacuum rugs

Once A Week:

  1. Make extra time before you open or after you close to perform a deep cleaning of every surface in your restaurant.

  2. Rather than making your employees come in early or stay late, you might consider hiring a third-party cleaning company to give your establishment a thorough once-over.

  3. Alternatively, you could hire several new team members to be responsible for the extra work necessary to keep your restaurant clean and safe.

Back-of-House Cleaning Checklist

Your restaurant’s back of house includes the kitchen and employee-only area that regular customers never see.

While You're Open:

  1. Give all prep surfaces a quick rinse before starting food prep.

  2. Sanitize and disinfect all surfaces while preparing different types of food.

  3. Wash all bowls, spoons, and utensils after use and before using again.

  4. Empty trash and recycling bins before they get too full.

  5. Wipe down the bar surface with a sanitizing solution and a clean cloth more frequently than usual (every 10 to 15 minutes or less if possible, especially during busy times).

  6. Run glassware through the dishwasher and consider wearing surgical gloves while handling it.

  7. Remove disposable items, such as napkins, straws, and stir sticks, from customer areas.

Before Closing:

  1. Wipe down equipment, such as soda guns and speed wells.

  2. Empty and sanitize ice wells.

  3. Wipe down all bottles behind the bar.

  4. Clean mirrors.

  5. Empty and disinfect garnish trays.

  6. Remove and clean floor mats.

  7. Sweep and mop floors underneath.

  8. Polish all stainless steel surfaces.

  9. Wash all tools, bowls, containers, silverware, and cutting boards.

  10. Empty trash.

Once A Week:

  1. Disinfect surfaces inside coolers, cabinets, and refrigerators.

  2. Clean and flush keg lines.

  3. Clean behind movable equipment in the bar and in the kitchen.

  4. Clean fan guards, vents, and hoods.

  5. Verify that all drains (floor, sink, bar, bathroom) are clean and flowing.

Because cleaning is more vital than ever, it might be wise, financially possible, to hire a new cleaning staff or a third-party company to deal with the bulk of the heavy cleaning.

Your current team will need to step up their cleanliness during regular work hours, but because you may be operating on a skeleton crew because of the labor shortage, it’s probably better not to ask the wait staff to work longer than they have to to clean.

With so many things to keep clean, it may be tough to remember to complete all of the cleaning tasks. To make it a little easier, we’ve put together a downloadable guide help you and your employees keep track of the cleaning tasks that need to be completed.

Restaurant Cleaning Checklist (click to open)

Daily Front-of-House Cleaning Checklist:

  1. Wipe down walls

  2. Sanitize tables

  3. Inspect and wipe down the condiments and salt and pepper shakers

  4. Wipe down all the counters

  5. Clean seats and benches

  6. Wash cloth napkins, tablecloths, and aprons

  7. Vacuum carpets

  8. Take out the trash and recycling

  9. Clean interior and exterior of all trash and recycling bins

  10. Sweep and mop floors

  11. Clean and sanitize your bathrooms by:

Disinfecting the toilets

Wiping down the sinks

Emptying out feminine hygiene product bags

Taking out the trash

Sweeping and mopping the floors

Daily Back-of-House Cleaning Checklist:

  1. Wipe down walls

  2. Wash utensils, small-wares, flatware, and glassware

  3. Clean grill, griddle, range, flattop, and

  4. fryer. Make sure to get underneath the equipment, too

  5. Change the foil lining on top of the ranges, grills, and flattops

  6. Wipe down coffee makers, microwaves, toasters, and meat slicers

  7. Disinfect prep area surfaces

  8. Clean dispenser heads in soda fountains. Clean tips of soda guns

  9. Clean the sinks

  10. Wash rags, towels, aprons, and uniforms

  11. Refill soap dispensers and replace empty paper towel rolls

  12. Sweep and mop floors, walk-in refrigerators and storage areas

  13. Take out trash and recycling

  14. Disinfect waste disposal area and clean the trash cans

Weekly Front-of-House Cleaning Checklist:

  1. Dust and wipe down light fixtures

  2. Wash glass windows and doors

Weekly Back-of-House Cleaning Checklist:

  1. Clean ovens, including the walls, door, and racks

  2. De-lime the sinks and faucets

  3. Boil out the deep fryer

Monthly Restaurant Cleaning Checklist:

  1. Dust any decorations or wall art

  2. Check the ceiling for cobwebs

  3. Wash behind the hot line to prevent clogs

  4. Disinfect the door handles

  5. Wash the walls

  6. Wash and sanitize the walk-in refrigerators and freezers

  7. Clean any anti-fatigue mats

  8. Use drain cleaner on the floors

  9. Clean refrigerator coils to remove dust

  10. Run cleaning and sanitizing chemicals through coffee and espresso machines

  11. Clean and sanitize freezer

  12. Replace pest traps

  13. Empty grease traps

Every Three Months, Restaurant Cleaning Checklist:

  1. Clean and sanitize ice machine

  2. Wash vent hoods

For more information about being ready for inspection, see How to Prepare for a Restaurant Inspection.


By Eileen Strauss



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