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Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting during COVID-19

Cheryl Diballa

July 1, 2020

Written By

Distributor Manager, US ChemBev


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To reopen restaurants amidst COVID-19, it may seem that every process for cleaning and sanitation has to change. While this pandemic certainly affects behaviors and tactics in the restaurant, realistically you’re not starting from scratch. It’s likely you were already doing a lot of the right things - cleaning, sanitizing, making sure you have a food safe restaurant. As you prepare for reopening, the team at US Chemical wants to ensure you have the right information to thoughtfully serve your customers.

While COVID-19 presents a new set of challenges to our industry, the federal, state and local food codes remain the central guiding principles. Make sure to consult their websites for the most up-to-date recommendations.

Although guidelines change state-to-state, here are some behaviors around sanitation and disinfecting that are pretty standard across all restaurants.

1. Clean

Cleaning must happen first. For most surfaces, soap and water do a great job of removing soils and the bulk of viral load. Make sure to clean floors, bathrooms, service stations, entryways, outdoor dining areas and other areas that require cleaning. Clean as often as the surface is soiled. For hands, the standard soap-and-water for 20 seconds (as recommended by the CDC) significantly helps reduce transmission.

2. Sanitize Food Contact Surfaces

Sanitizing removes 99.99% germs left behind after the surface is cleaned. Sanitize prep tables, pots, pans, cooking utensils, plates, forks, knives, spoons, dining tables - any surface that is used during the preparation of food. Any surfaces that are touched by the customer while eating are also considered food contact surfaces (e.g. dining tables, condiment dispensers, menus). Do this after each use with an EPA registered Sanitizer.

3. Disinfect Non Food Contact Surfaces

Disinfecting kills 99.999% of specific organisms, but can’t be used on surfaces that touch food. High-touch areas such as doors and door knobs, bathroom fixtures (toilets, urinals, handles, faucets), appliance handles, floors, handrails, non-food countertops - these are considered non food contact surfaces. Disinfect these surfaces every 2-4 hours with an EPA registered Disinfectant.

Doing these standard procedures often and well is one of the most effective strategies against COVID-19 and any other organism that might affect your restaurant. Logging your efforts (e.g. employee temperature checks, sanitizing schedules, bathroom cleaning, etc.) is also a way to track and publicly showcase your commitment to safety.

You can continue to win the trust of customers. Additionally, the necessary cleaning supplies are attainable, affordable, and available.The full line of EPA-approved products that Gordon Food Service currently carries can be found here.

If you need assistance choosing the right product for your establishment, reach out to your GFS Sales Rep, Chem/Bev Specialist, or US Chemical Specialist. Whether you are looking for cost savings or ease of use, your support team can help you choose the right product for you.

Consult Trust20 for a detailed list of products, logs, and procedures that will help you confidently create the right program for your facility.

So don’t despair, you just have to keep doing what you’ve been doing. Maybe the stakes are higher but that just means you need to be a little more diligent in your efforts.

Maybe this means more rigorous training with staff, monitoring to make sure the directions are being followed and signage to communicate your efforts to your customer.  Winning the trust of your customers at this critical time requires all hands on deck. Trust20 is a resource that can help.

While this virus and pandemic are new to restaurants, thankfully most of the behaviors and resources for cleaning procedures are already very familiar.


If it hasn’t been said enough, hand washing and hand sanitizing are an integral part of staying healthy. Hand wash stations are mandated in a facility and required equipment to obtain a food service license. If you served food to customers this year, your restaurant probably has this box checked.

Fighting Off Foodborne Illnesses

All evidence currently indicates that this virus isn’t foodborne. Remember when we used to worry about Hepatitis A, Norovirus, Salmonella and E. Coli? We still do! Keeping people safe while eating out has always been top priority.

Complying with Regulations

Food establishments are highly regulated through Federal, State, County and even City Health Departments. The baseline expectation and requirements are still to comply with these governing authorities.


As far as cleaning and sanitation go, there is no magic bullet to “cure it all.” It’s a multi-faced cleaning approach that will keep your restaurant clean and healthy. Effective cleaning is 90% of the overall sanitation effort in that cleaning removes most of the organisms present.

One conversation we often have with restaurants is on the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. Understanding the difference is now more important than ever.

Sanitizers kill 99.99% of specific organisms. Disinfectants kill 99.999% of specific organisms. That 1/1000th of a percent makes all the difference across your restaurant.

As far as cleaning and sanitation go, there is no magic bullet to “cure it all.” It’s a multi-faced cleaning approach that will keep your restaurant clean and healthy. Effective cleaning is 90% of the overall sanitation effort in that cleaning removes most of the organisms present.

Sanitizing Food Contact Surfaces

The job of the sanitizer is to kill the remaining organisms. A sanitizer is an antimicrobial agent that kills 99.9% of specific test bacteria. Sanitizers are mandatory in the three compartment sink, dish machine (chemical or heat), and on food contact surfaces. In the front of house, surfaces that customers touch in the process of eating also must be sanitized (e.g. dining tables, menus, condiments left on table). EPA registered Sanitizers from Gordon Food Service can be found here.

Disinfect Non Food Surfaces

Disinfectants are EPA-registered and tested to kill 99.999% of organisms listed on their label. These chemicals disinfect non-food surfaces (e.g. food prep or consumption) such as door knobs, faucets, toilets and urinals, floors, etc. All disinfectants with a EPA COVID-19 “kill claim” from Gordon Food Service be found here.

You are not in this alone. Gordon Food Service, US Chemical and Trust20 are ready to provide the tools and resources necessary to help you traverse this new landscape successfully. Reach out to your Gordon Food Service representative or US Chemical Representative for any questions you may have and help to check your sanitation and disinfection products and procedures.

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