Here at Klipspringer, we have spent over twenty years collaborating with sites across the UK and Ireland. During this time, one of the most common questions we have been faced with relates to the storage of essential tools and utensils. Frequently, we are asked: is it good practice to keep cleaning equipment and brushware in disinfectant?

The answer to this question could be the difference between your site passing or failing an upcoming audit. It could also stand in the way of you driving standards of food hygiene and safety – putting the people who consume your product at risk of illness or even death.

With this in mind, we have created an article that answers this question. It covers the importance of storing your equipment correctly and the potential ramifications of using disinfectant. It also explores alternate storage solutions that will allow you to circumvent these issues. And finally, it details relevant guidance from official bodies such as the BRCGS.

Why is the storage of your brushes and cleaning equipment so important?

Dirty or degraded equipment will spread bacteria across your site. Your operatives will be under the impression that an effective clean has taken place when, in fact, there is still organic material that needs to be dealt with. Even with a highly skilled Hygiene Team and detailed Cleaning Instruction Cards in place, a process carried out with equipment that has been stored incorrectly will be entirely redundant.

Compromised equipment will also make life harder for your site staff. Say they are using a tank brush to remove a particularly stubborn substance. If some of its bristles have broken off or weakened, your operatives will be forced to work with a subpar brush – slowed down and frustrated by the now unsuitable equipment. What’s more, there is the risk of a loose bristle falling into the tank and resulting in the contamination of your product. Instead of the clean making your site safer, it will increase the risk of something going wrong. As you will know the consequence of contamination – whether it be microbiological, allergenic, or foreign body, can mean serious illness, if not death, for the people consuming your product.

Another area to consider is audit compliance. One of the key things that auditors and conscientious customers will look for is the proper storage of your equipment. You could be facing a non-conformity if any equipment is seen to be touching the factory floor, leaning against utensils that have been assigned to a different task, or stored in a way that cultivates the growth of bacteria. Broken or degraded equipment could also result in a non-conformity or even a failed audit.

Finally, the proper storage of your brushware and cleaning equipment could help your site to save money – something that is especially important if you are working within a particularly tight budget. As previously mentioned, the improper storage of equipment is likely to result in it degrading or breaking. You may also find that your operatives are more careless with the equipment if there is the general sense that its maintenance is unimportant. This will result in you having to cover the cost of replacing these damaged items. In contrast, equipment that is stored correctly will have a far longer lifespan and it will be much easier for you to predict and prepare for the cost of replacing it.

Is it Good Practice to Keep Cleaning Equipment or Brushes in Disinfectant?

No, it is not recommended that you keep your cleaning equipment or brushes in disinfectant. Here are the key reasons that you should avoid this approach to storage:

  • Alkaline chemicals will have a direct impact on the lifespan of your equipment. Take the PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) bristles of a standard cleaning brush, these bristles will deteriorate much more quickly if they are placed in a disinfectant solution instead of being rinsed and stored properly. The brush itself will need to be replaced a lot sooner than expected.
  • A static disinfectant solution will attract debris. Instead of keeping your equipment clean, it could actually exist as a breeding ground for bacteria, with your utensils sitting in a dirty substance that is filled with dirt and debris from across your factory.
  • The use of disinfectant will only complicate matters and create more areas where you could be risking a non-conformance. It will raise questions surrounding the conditions under which the disinfectant is stored, its concentration, and the frequency with which it is replaced. What's more, the success of this approach will be left open to human error, with some operatives viewing the presence of debris as a clear sign that the solution needs to be changed and some operatives assuming the disinfectant covers all bases.
  • Operatives may be encouraged to skip or rush the cleaning of their equipment. Instead of properly cleaning their utensils, they may wrongly assume the disinfectant is sufficient.

What is the official guidance surrounding this issue?

Contamination is a common cause of audit non-conformance. Even so, a lot of sites are still failing to put the necessary measures in place. Issue 9 of the BRCGS Global Food Safety Standard warns against this.

Clause 4.11.6 states that cleaning equipment must be:

  • Cleaned in a hygienic manner to prevent contamination.

One of the key points listed in Clause 4.6.2 is:

  • The design and placement of equipment shall ensure that it can be effectively cleaned and maintained.

Finally, Clause 4.6.5 details the expectation that:

  • Equipment which is not used or taken out of service shall be cleaned and stored in a manner which does not pose a risk to the product.
  • Equipment stored in internal production and storage areas shall be kept clean.
  • Food contact equipment which has been stored, but is not in daily use shall be cleaned, and where necessary disinfected, prior to use.

As you can see, the storage and maintenance of equipment is of paramount importance. Although there is emphasis placed on the cleaning of utensils, there is no suggestion that they should be stored in a disinfectant solution. In fact, Clause 4.6.5 clearly states that any storage should not pose a risk to the product.

This topic was discussed in further detail in a recent webinar from BRCGS. Klipspringer was proud to partner in this event, with Foram Mehta, Global Standards Technical Manager at BRCGS, joined by our Key Account Director, Alex Carlyon. During the Q&A portion, the subject of storing cleaning equipment and brushes in disinfectant was raised. You can find out how Foram and Alex tackled this question in the video below:

“It’s not good practise because it’s going to cause a lot of issues. There’s going to be debris in it and it’s going to raise questions. How often do you change it? What’s the concentration? I don’t think it’s a very good idea.”Foram Mehta, Global Standards Technical Manager at BRCGS

“Alkaline chemicals will have a direct impact on the length of life of the PBT bristle, particularly in a brush. It will deteriorate more quickly than it would if it was rinsed. It could have a knock on effect in terms of the effectiveness of the brush, but more importantly, it could lead to foreign body issues as the bristles become weaker.”Alex Carlyon, Key Account Director at Klipspringer

So, what is the best way to store my brushes and cleaning equipment?

Wall rails and hooks

As previously mentioned, your equipment shouldn’t be left touching the factory floor. It should also be easy to clean and maintain. These stipulations have led a number of sites to use wall rails and hooks for the storage of their tools and utensils.

When compared to a disinfectant solution, this option is less likely to degrade equipment, as there are no alkaline chemicals involved. Having the utensils out on display should also make it easier for the operatives at your site to find the equipment they need and keep on top of its maintenance.

The main disadvantage of this approach is the fact that wall rails and hooks don’t indicate exactly where the equipment should be hung, so it is possible that your operatives will place equipment that is intended for different zones or purposes directly next to each other. It is also more likely that equipment will go missing, as there won’t be a set system where missing tools are easy to spot.

Shadow Boards

Another option to explore is: Shadow Boards. This storage solution allows you to keep your essentials above the factory floor in clearly designated spaces. Available in a wide range of colours and suited to personalisation, Shadow Boards can also reduce the risk of cross-contamination, with equipment for specific zones or purposes stored separately.

There is also the option of adding a simple directive such as ‘clean equipment before returning’ to the top of the board, offering further encouragement to your operatives as they use and maintain your site’s utensils.

Shadow Boards offer a number of benefits:

  • Designed for food production environments
  • Manufactured using fully-certified materials
  • No hidden crevices or small parts to reduce the risk of foreign body contamination
  • Zero moisture absorption, even with regular washdowns
  • Supplied alongside fully-certified food grade equipment 
  • Layout approved by the Klipspringer Design Team - ensuring the positioning of your equipment is safe and hygienic
  • Featuring QR codes that allow you to re-order your utensils at the click of a button
  • Striking designs and corporate branding for no extra cost
  • Five different mounting methods to suit the specific needs of your site
  • Customised Shadow Boards delivered in 5 to 7 working days

So there you have it, an answer to one of the industry’s most asked questions. It is not a good idea to store your cleaning equipment and brushes in a disinfectant solution.

As you consider the alternatives, it is worth keeping the BRCGS guidelines at the forefront of your mind, doing everything in your power to prevent cross contamination, the transference of debris, and the degradation of your equipment.

If you would like to learn more about Shadow Boards or have any other queries about equipment storage at your site, you can contact us on 01473 461800 or sales@klipspringer.com.  Alternatively, you can fill out the contact form below and one of our friendly team members will be in touch. 

If you would like further guidance relating to the storage of your cleaning equipment and brushes, the Klipspringer team would be happy to help. Share your details below to arrange a free consultation.