Idea in a Nutshell

With the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important for Saudi restaurateurs to know the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. Disinfecting kills Coronavirus. Cleaning and sanitizing do not. As Coronavirus continues to hold sway over the Saudi F&B sector, effective hygiene at your business is the key to emerging from curfew safely and successfully as a brand. 

So what’s the best way to keep your venue and staff free from COVID-19 or any germs at all? 

A good way to explain hygiene Best Practice to your staff is to look at the difference between cleaning, sanitising and disinfecting.

Cleaning, Sanitizing & Disinfecting

Hygiene management centres on picking the right operations, or sequence of operations, for the right area of your business:

A thorough risk assessment of all areas of your business (including any operations away from your venue) will set you up to use the right hygiene operation in the right place.

For example, all three operations of cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting might be applied to high risk surfaces like food preparation surfaces. For low risk surfaces like windows and ceilings, just cleaning may be appropriate.

Hygiene approachHelps deal with Coronavirus?Kills Coronavirus?

Key Questions

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding Cleaning, Sanitizing & Disinfecting


How do I manage hygiene risk
in my restaurant business?

Best Practice hygiene management is based on managing risk.

A hygiene risk assessment is a good way of balancing the need for perfect hygiene (through, cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting) with the need to actually use your premises. You cannot clean everything perfectly all the time or you will never make any food! So you have to make some decisions.

With a risk assessment, you need to map out which areas of your venue and extended property (ie. delivery vans, mobile POS equipment etc) require which level of hygiene management.

One way you might approach your risk assessment is to divide your operation into three areas of infection risk: high risk, medium risk and low risk.

Beware of cross-contamination risk: be sure to disinfect and rinse your cleaning mops, buckets and gloves when you have cleaned, sanitized or disinfected with them!


Does a sanitizer clean and disinfect?

Yes, sanitizer cleans to a limited extent. But no, a sanitizer does not disinfect. 

A sanitizer cleans to the extent that, like cleaning products, it removes stains, smears and other dirt. But that process is called washing, and washing is not the purpose of sanitization. The purpose of sanitization is to kill harmful bacteria.

Sanitization does not disinfect. Sanitization is NOT anti-viral or anti-fungal; whereas disinfecting is. Sanitization kills 99.9% of bacteria, but has no capacity to tackle either funguses or viruses like Covid-19. 

Disinfecting with the correct disinfectants kills COVID-19, but sanitization does not.

Sanitization is the second phase of comprehensive hygiene management: we begin with cleaning to remove visible dirt, move on to sanitization to remove visible dirt and tackle 99.9% of bacteria – and end with disinfecting to kill bacteria, fungi and the all-important viruses.

How should I use hand sanitizer?

Do not confuse sanitization with disinfection. It is a good idea to stock up on sanitizing wipes and cleaners because it does help with bacterial aspects of hygiene as well as reassures customers; but it will not protect your business against COVID-19 because sanitizers only deal with bacteria, not viruses.

Note though, that many anti-bacterial sanitizers do have some anti-viral qualities – so it is always worth using them. This is particularly the case given that, on a molecular level, coronavirus is enveloped in a fatty layer that cleaning supplies generally attack to some extent

What are the 2 types of sanitizing?

Heat and chemicals – these are the two types of sanitizing ie. killing harmful bacteria.

Often in the F&B sector, sanitizing products often include bleach products, which make them technically a disinfectant too. For example, chlorine-based sanitizing solutions are often used in glass and dishware sanitization, whereas QUAT-based sanitizers (QA = Quaternary Ammonium) are used elsewhere in restaurant premises.

Remember that sanitizers do not kill Coronavirus, but disinfectants do.

Where should I use sanitizer in my restaurant?

You are probably accustomed to using sanitizer already in certain parts of your restaurant. Be clear that sanitizers are designed to kill bacteria not viruses; and COVID-19 is a virus. 

Everywhere that you plan to sanitize, you should of course clean thoroughly beforehand and now, with the threat of Coronavirus, disinfect where possible:

What are the 6 stages of cleaning with disinfectant?

Hygiene management is often broadly described as beginning with cleaning, moving on to sanitization and finishing with disinfecting.

The 6 stages of disinfecting are:

  1. Preparation and first rinse: Sweep and wipe off food and other rubbish; rinse off with hot water.
  2. First clean: Scrub with hot water and detergent (not disinfectant yet) to loosen off waste.
  3. Disinfecting: Read the instructions on the your disinfectant packaging. Apply disinfectant. LEAVE DISINFECTANT ON THE SURFACE FOR AT LEAST TEN MINUTES.
  4. Third rinse: Rinse off disinfectant with hot water. 
  5. Dry off: Remove all moisture (ideally with a hair dryer, but if not with disposable cloths/paper).

Be sure to use washing up gloves to protect your hands against bleach burns. Be sure also to avoid cross-contaminating your cleaning mops and buckets between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting; use the same one for each.

Sanitize first? Or disinfect first?

Be sure to clean before you either sanitize or disinfect. You don’t have to sanitize before you disinfect.

How long does bleach take to disinfect?

How long bleach takes to disinfect and therefore kill all viruses depends – on which bleach you are using and which viruses are being targeted. 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, for example, needs between 6 and 8 minutes exposure to work.

The practical rule of thumb is to always leave bleach on the surface for as long as you can before rinsing it off. You must leave it for at least ten minutes to be sure the detergent has killed any viruses, including Coronavirus.

Why should you clean first before sanitizing or disinfecting?

You need to clean – ie. wash and scrub down – before sanitizing or disinfecting because otherwise molecules of COVID-19 can hide under bits of other debris and not be exposed to the chemical processes that would otherwise kill it.

Karen Hoffman, past president of the US Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, says: ‘Disinfectants don’t work if there’s a visibly dirty surface. It’s always recommended to clean and then disinfect surfaces if they’re visibly dirty.’

Cleaning will remove some harmful bacteria and viruses by simply brushing them off the surface. But to kill viruses like Coronavirus you need to expose them fully to disinfectant for at least ten seconds. So all debris, down to the smallest level you can manage, needs to be cleared from surfaces first.

Dirt also reduces the sanitization and disinfecting power of some cleaning agents.

Is vinegar as effective as bleach for disinfecting?

No. Vinegar or other other natural products are not recommended as a disinfectant suitable for the management of Coronavirus risk in your restaurant.

Vinegar is often used as a natural cleaning agent because it is acidic. Vinegar is acetic acid, and acids generally attack viruses. But the guidance is not to pitch vinegar against COVID-19.

Dr. David Evans, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of Alberta, Canada says of vinegar, ‘it’s quite dilute and the PH isn’t likely low enough.’

What is the correct way to clean and sanitize?

Clean first. Sanitize second. Always clean (ie. wash and scrub with hot, soapy water) any surfaces before sanitizing. Effective sanitisation means killing literally 99.999% of bacteria, and this means as much debris on the surface must be cleaned off for the bacteria to be exposed to the sanitizing agents.

It is important to understand that sanitization is different from disinfecting …

Disinfecting vs sanitizing

Disinfecting kills COVID-19. Most common bleach chemical compounds are covered, including chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide, quarternary ammonium and sodium hypochlorite.

Sanitizing does not kill COVID-19. Sanitizing kills bacteria, whereas Coronavirus is a virus, not bacteria.

What needs to be disinfected in commercial restaurants?

Ideally, with the threat of COVID-19, everything in your restaurant should be disinfected every day. 

But that’s quite the order. You may have to prioritise. 

Obviously your kitchen area is a priority for disinfection – but otherwise look out for surfaces throughout your venue, both front and back of house, that are ‘high-touch’ ie. touched a lot, by either staff or customers. 

It is on these ‘high-touch’ surfaces that the Coronavirus stands most chance of being deposited and then hitching a ride into another human body. 

In its Coronavirus guidance, global charity Unicef says that, ‘common high-touch surfaces include: door handles, tables, chairs, handrails, kitchen and bathroom surfaces, taps, toilets, light switches, mobile phones, computers, tablets, keyboards, remote controls.’

What needs to be sanitized in commercial kitchens?

Industry-standard dishwashers in food outlets use sanitizing solution to kill any bacteria lurking on the glassware and dishes. This is to avoid giving food poisoning to the clientele.

Generally, a reputable outlet of the F&B sector would be sanitizing all kitchen surfaces and utensils regularly – as well as providing sanitization of the seating areas, staff areas and all ‘high-touch’ surfaces around the venue.

But now that Coronavirus has shown up on the scene, sanitizing surfaces is not enough. Sanitizing kills bacteria. But COVID-19 is not bacteria – it is a virus. So keep on sanitizing, whilst being aware that to kill Coronavirus you need to get the disinfectant out.

How to clean for Coronavirus

We hope you have found this guide useful.

Beware of confusion over sanitization vs. disinfecting. Often, ‘sanitization’ is used incorrectly to mean ‘disinfecting’. ‘Sanitizing’ means killing bacteria; ‘disinfecting’ means killing viruses. Disinfecting kills Coronavirus, whereas sanitization does not. When using disinfectant, remember to leave it in contact with the surface for at least ten seconds (or you are wasting your time).

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