Cafeteria Cleaning: Serving Up a Healthy Environment

By Amy Milshtein

Cafeteria Cleaning: Serving Up a Healthy Environment

K-12 cafeterias take a beating every day. Raucous students pile in to eat and socialize before running to recess or their next class. During cold and flu season, sick kids pack pathogens along with their sandwiches and they brought enough for everyone to share. In fact, the National Education Association (NEA) stresses that high traffic and quick turnaround mean heavily-used cafeterias are hot points for the spread of infectious diseases like colds and the flu. 


The atmosphere in college and corporate cafeterias may be quieter, but diners face similar dangers from leftover germs and viruses. Fortunately, proper cafeteria cleaning protocol remove the threat along with sticky food messes.


Table Topics

Lunch periods have shrunk. Some school districts now only allot students as little as 15 minutes to sit, eat and move on. Food service workers are also rushed, with little time to clean between meal rotations. Yet sticky drinks, condiments and crumbs litter the tables along with cold and flu virus.   


Think twice about reaching for a bucket and rag to do the cleaning job. A study published in Researchgate found that cleaning cloths carry bacteria which can be transmitted to the table surface. Other studies show that the last surface cleaned with a cloth can be up to eight times dirtier than the first.


The NEA stresses the importance of controlling this kind of cross-contamination. As small children are especially vulnerable to toxins and teachers and custodians have a higher rate of occupational asthma, the group also strongly suggests using equipment and methods that reduce the amount of chemicals needed for effective cafeteria cleaning.

Oh, and the next group of students are on their way, so the method has to be fast, too.


A squeegee/microfiber system fits the bill perfectly. It curtails cross-contamination and requires minimal cleaning chemicals. The system, which is also appropriate in college and corporate spaces, allows staff to effectively clean and dry flat surfaces in about half the time of traditional methods.


Floor Show

Cafeteria floors take a beating. They endure high foot traffic, heavy rolling equipment and every kind of spill. Large messes should be cleaned and dried as they happen. But even the cleanest looking floor requires attention at the end of the day.


Again the NEA recommends “time-and energy-saving floor care machines” to prevent injuries, control cross-contamination and effectively capture dirt, dust and microbes. A battery-operated autovac is an appropriate choice. It’s a powerful cleaning tool that’s nimble enough to navigate between tables and seating without a power cord to trip on.


Click here for more effective cafeteria cleaning tool ideas. 

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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