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Amit M. Kheradia
Amit M. Kheradia
Environmental Health and Sanitation Manager

ABC’s of Manual Cleaning - Part III: How does Manual Cleaning Work?

In this third part of our six-part Blog on cleaning, we address the key question: how is the manual cleaning process typically implemented? A robust manual cleaning program is generally an integration of the best of science and management – these can be used to develop effective Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs), which should be well-understood by the employees implementing them.

Assess the TACTER Parameters

The TACT circle was originally developed by Dr. Herbert Sinner in 1960. This model lists the parameters needed to remove soil from a surface. We have added two parameters, “Employees” and “Resources,” to make it a holistic model for effective cleaning. 


Where a thick layer of contamination has built up on a surface, the TACTER requirements are intensified meaning, for example, that a worker would need to manually clean more intensively to effectively remove the contaminants.

Evaluate Cleaning Program Considerations

Additionally, we have developed the SAVER2 model to assist you in understanding the points necessary to build a comprehensive cleaning and sanitation program:


The model takes into consideration the following important questions:

  • What type of Surface is being decontaminated?
  • What is the nature of the Soil being removed or reduced to an acceptable level?
  • What is the Aim of the decontamination action?
  • What step-by-step decontamination Activity is being implemented?
  • Is the decontamination process Validated?
  • Is the decontamination process adequately Verified?
  • How Effective is the decontamination activity?
  • How Efficient is the decontamination activity?
  • Are the processes supported by valid scientific, technical, or credible References?
  • Are Remedial actions being put in place to correct or prevent anything significant that could go wrong?

Cleaning decisions must be risk-based

Depending on the nature of the soil, surface, and other cleaning considerations, the site may decide to conduct dry-cleaning, wet-cleaning, or controlled wet-cleaning:



Controlled wet-cleaning

Dry-cleaning, where little or no water is used, is normally practiced in environments where low water activity foods (e.g., flour, milk powder, biscuits, etc.) are manufactured. This is because the introduction of water could provide the means for microbial growth. In the absence of water particular care is required when dry cleaning to prevent the spread of allergen particles via the air. This could lead to product cross-contamination.

In wet-cleaning, water is used to remove soluble soils from the surface. This is the most common cleaning method in operations processing high water-activity foods (e.g., meat, beverages, etc.). The biggest drawbacks associated with wet cleaning in such environments are those related to the growth of microbes, and their spread (via water droplets, aerosols, standing water, condensation), and the high volumes of water used and wastewater generated.

However, in several food plants, controlled wet cleaning of smaller and dismantled pieces of equipment at a remote sanitation station is conducted, to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

Document and implement the cleaning steps clearly

Employees implementing and maintaining the cleaning program must be well-educated and trained on the cleaning tasks. For a wet-cleaning operation, these are the recommended cleaning steps:

  • Secure equipment, disassemble, and dry-clean to remove gross debris.
  • Pre-rinse equipment surfaces with potable water, from top to bottom.
  • Apply detergent and foam, and scrub from bottom to top.
  • Post-clean rinse with potable water and conduct self-inspection (by the operator).
  • Conduct a formal post-clean sanitation inspection (usually done by QC).
  • Disinfect (with a suitable disinfectant), rinse (as appropriate dependant on the type of disinfectant and food being processed), dry and re-assemble the equipment. 
  • Dry equipment and obtain supervisor verification that the equipment is ok to use, as part of the pre-op inspection.
  • Note that the sequence of the disinfect, rinse, dry and re-assemble steps may alter, dependant on the equipment being cleaned. The appropriate sequence should be based on risk assessment.

Using the right cleaning tools and chemicals (at the correct temperatures and concentrations) is critical to ensuring effective equipment decontamination.

Next Steps

In our next blog, we’ll discuss how to set the frequency and locations for manual cleaning. Stay tuned!


Selected References: