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How to Clean Prep Tables

on May 26, 2024

Proper cleaning and sanitization of prep tables is an essential food safety practice that protects customer health, complies with regulations, prevents cross-contamination, extends equipment life, maintains food quality, and promotes energy efficiency in commercial kitchens.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the importance of regularly cleaning and sanitizing prep tables, outline the step-by-step process for thorough cleaning, discuss the necessity of sanitization after cleaning, and provide valuable tips for maintaining prep tables to uphold hygiene standards. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a kitchen novice, understanding the best practices for prep table maintenance is essential for running a safe and successful foodservice operation.

Why should you regularly clean prep tables?

Properly cleaning and sanitizing prep tables is a critical practice in commercial kitchens and restaurants for several reasons:

  1. Prep tables frequently come into contact with raw ingredients, such as meat, produce, and ready-to-eat foods. If harmful bacteria or pathogens remain on the surface, they can contaminate food and cause foodborne illnesses when ingested. Thorough cleaning and sanitizing of prep tables help eliminate these hazards and protect consumer health.
  2. Food safety regulations and health departments mandate regular cleaning and sanitizing of all food contact surfaces. Non-compliance can result in health code violations, fines, and potentially severe legal consequences. Adhering to these regulations ensures a safe and legally compliant food preparation environment.
  3. Accumulated food debris, grease, and moisture can damage prep table materials, such as stainless steel, leading to corrosion and premature equipment failure. Regular cleaning prevents these issues, helping to extend the lifespan of the equipment and avoid costly replacements or repairs.
  4. Prep tables are used for various food types, ranging from raw meats to produce to cooked foods. Cleaning and sanitizing between tasks are crucial to prevent cross-contamination, where harmful bacteria from one food type can transfer to another, potentially causing illness.
  5. Residual food on prep surfaces can impact the taste and quality of newly prepared foods. Off-flavors and contamination can occur if previous food residues are not properly removed. Regular cleaning ensures that all food prepared on these surfaces maintains the highest quality standards.


How to clean food prep tables in 8 steps

Commercial kitchen prep table cleaning is an essential practice for ensuring food safety, regulatory compliance, equipment longevity, prevention of cross-contamination, and maintaining food quality in any commercial kitchen or foodservice operation.

Here are the 8 key steps for properly cleaning and sanitizing a prep table:

  1. Remove Food Products: Before deep cleaning prep tables, remove all food bins, ingredients, and products from the prep table and store them properly.
  2. Clean Condenser Coil: Clean the condenser coil monthly or as needed to ensure efficient cooling. Use a stiff brush, shop vacuum, and compressed air to remove dust and debris from the coil fins.
  3. Wipe Down Surfaces: Wipe down the countertop surface, door gaskets, and bin wells with a clean cloth, warm water, and a mild detergent or approved sanitizing solution.
  4. Clean Cutting Boards: Remove and clean cutting boards separately. Wash in a three-compartment sink or dishwasher, or sanitize with an approved solution if boards are non-removable .
  5. Rinse Surfaces: After cleaning, thoroughly rinse all surfaces with clean water to remove any soap or detergent residue.
  6. Sanitize Surfaces: Apply a sanitizing solution approved for food contact surfaces, allowing it to air dry completely. Test strips can verify proper sanitizer concentration .
  7. Maintain Gaskets: Inspect door gaskets regularly and replace any that are worn, cracked, or not sealing properly to maintain temperature.
  8. Dry Surfaces: Use dry cloths and a squeegee to remove excess moisture from stainless steel surfaces after sanitizing your prep table to prevent water spots and corrosion.


How to sanitize a prep table after cleaning

It is necessary to sanitize food contact surfaces after cleaning them. While cleaning removes dirt, debris, and most bacteria from surfaces, sanitizing is essential to kill any remaining harmful bacteria or pathogens that may still be present. Sanitizing significantly reduces the risk of cross-contamination and helps maintain food safety standards in commercial kitchens and foodservice establishments.

Here are the proper steps to sanitize a prep table after cleaning:

  1. First, remove any remaining food scraps, ingredients, or debris from the table surface. This ensures the sanitizer can effectively disinfect the entire surface area .
  2. Use a clean cloth, warm water, and a mild detergent or approved sanitizing solution to wash and remove any grease, oil, or stuck-on food residues from the table .
  3. Thoroughly rinse the table with clean water to remove any soap or detergent residue that could deactivate the sanitizer .
  4. Use an EPA-approved food-safe sanitizing solution and apply it to the entire surface of the prep table, including cutting boards, bin wells, and door gaskets. Follow manufacturer instructions for proper dilution and contact time .
  5. Allow the sanitizing solution to remain on the surface for the recommended contact time, then allow it to fully air dry. Do not wipe it off. This ensures the sanitizer has time to effectively kill pathogens .
  6. Use sanitizer test strips to verify that the proper concentration of the sanitizing solution was applied to the table .


How often should prep tables be cleaned

Prep tables should be cleaned and sanitized frequently to maintain food safety and prevent cross-contamination. Daily cleaning involves wiping down surfaces with a clean cloth, warm water, and mild detergent or sanitizing solution after each use or at the end of the day, removing and cleaning/sanitizing removable cutting boards in a three-compartment sink or dishwasher, and wiping out bin wells and cleaning door/drawer gaskets thoroughly.

Weekly, the table should be deep cleaned by scrubbing with a degreaser or heavy-duty cleaner to remove built-up grease and food debris, and inspecting and replacing any worn or damaged gaskets that are not sealing properly.

Monthly, the condenser coil should be cleaned by brushing, vacuuming, and using compressed air to remove dust and debris from the coil fins, ensuring efficient cooling. Proper cleaning prevents cross-contamination, maintains food quality, complies with health codes, and extends the lifespan of the equipment, especially when there is heavy use or when changing between handling different food types like raw meats and produce.


Maintaining tips for prep tables

  • Cover and properly store all food products before cleaning to prevent contamination.
  • Use only mild, non-abrasive cleaners approved for food contact surfaces. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives that can damage the equipment.
  • For stainless steel surfaces, wipe along the grain with microfiber cloths and non-abrasive stainless steel cleaners.
  • Ensure the condensing unit is properly ventilated and not obstructed for adequate airflow.
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines for approved cleaning products and procedures for your specific model.



Properly cleaning and maintaining prep tables is an essential practice in any commercial kitchen or foodservice operation. Not only does it ensure food safety and prevent cross-contamination, but it also helps extend the lifespan of this vital equipment.

By following the recommended steps for daily cleaning, sanitizing, and monthly maintenance, kitchen staff can keep prep tables in top condition. Using only approved, food-safe cleaning products and sanitizing solutions is crucial to comply with health codes and regulations.

Consistent cleaning prevents the buildup of grease, food debris, and harmful bacteria that can contaminate food products. Thorough sanitization eliminates any remaining pathogens. And maintaining components like door gaskets and condenser coils ensures proper cooling and energy efficiency.

With the right cleaning routine and products, combined with staff training on proper procedures, prep tables can provide many years of reliable service. This protects customer health, maintains food quality, and supports the overall success of the business.

Investing the time and effort into cleaning and maintaining prep tables is a small price to pay for the significant benefits it provides. Food safety, operational efficiency, and regulatory compliance all depend on keeping this essential kitchen equipment clean and well-maintained at all times.

At Vancouver Restaurant Supply, we understand the importance of maintaining your equipment!