Cleaning and Sanitizing

Cleaning and sanitizing are important steps in all production systems. If done improperly, they can contaminate food.

This Good Agricultural Practice applies to:

All farms.

What needs to be done

Properly clean and sanitize facilities, equipment, vehicles, washrooms and food contact surfaces where necessary to protect food from contamination.

How to do it

Identify what needs to be cleaned and sanitized

  • Areas (e.g. food handling and storage) and/or equipment (e.g. sorting tables, containers, vehicles, dispensers, fans) that come into contact with or are associated with the use of pesticides, animal health products or food require some level of cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Cleaning can vary according to the desired outcome (e.g. simple surface sweeping; rinsing with clean water; power washing with hot water and soap followed by disinfecting, followed by a final clean water rinse or using a flushing sequence in feed mixers to remove residues from previous mixes).

Develop written practice

  • Generally written practices are developed when:
      • Concentrated chemicals are mixed and used
      • Detailed instructions must be given to remove residues from equipment or surfaces
      • Pre-determined frequencies for cleaning and sanitizing must be followed
      • There are unique cleaning situations (e.g. flushing mixers of livestock medicated feeds)
  • A practice should:
      • Identify who is responsible for cleaning which area or piece of equipment.
      • Specify the frequency of cleaning (e.g., daily, weekly or after use only).
      • Describe the appropriate tools required to do the job (e.g., gloves,buckets, brushes).
      • Specify which product is used for a particular task, and what the contact time should be. If applicable, specify the water temperature requirements and rinsing steps.
    • Describe how to clean and sanitize. Include instructions on how to disassemble and reassemble equipment if necessary.

Did you know?

You will find an example of a written practice in the Training and Support Tools section (refer to Sample E).

Choose the right cleaning and sanitizing products

Cleaning and Sanitizing Materials Summary

Surface Material

Stainless Steel

Use mild, non-abrasive cleaners. The corrosive properties of stainless steel vary with grade; it will corrode when exposed to strong alkalis, acids or chlorine.


Galvanized metal Galvanized steel will corrode when exposed to alkaline or acidic detergents.
Nickel alloys Any alkali may be used.
Plastics There are many different types of plastic. In general, plastic is more corrosive-resistant than stainless steel but will deteriorate when exposed to organic solvents. When in doubt, obtain advice from the manufacturer.
Rubber Strong alkalis may be used. Rubber surfaces may be damagedwhen exposed to acidic detergents containing organic solvants.
Tin, copper Some alkalis can cause corrosion. Slightly alkaline detergents containing silicates are recommended to minimize the corrosive effect. Exposure to chlorine will cause some corrosion.
Aluminum Some alkalis and acids attack aluminum. If alkalis are used, they should be of low alkalinity and incorporate silicates. Do not use chlorine.
Wood Wood is very porous and difficult to clean. Clean with detergents and rinse thoroughly. Avoid strong acids and alkalis.
Iron drains Use moderately alkaline cleaners, as acidic ones are corrosive.
Painted surfaces Strong alkaline detrgents will deteriorate painted surfaces.
Concrete Rough, porous surfaces should be given a smooth, impervious coating approved by CFIA to make them cleanable. Use alkaline cleaners, as acid cleaners will corrode concrete floors.

Adapted from: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (

Use cleaning and sanitizing products properly

  • Mix cleaning and/or sanitizing products according to directions on the product label.
  • Follow label instructions for use. These may include thorough rinsing with potable water to remove residues.
  • Properly label containers for handling, mixing and storing cleaning and? sanitizing products. Clean or rinse containers properly when finished.

In general

  • Change cleaning and sanitizing solutions (e.g. in boot wash stations) when necessary. Organic matter in the solution can reduce their effectiveness.
  • When determining chemical concentrations, take into consideration conditions such as pH, hardness or the presence of buffers in your water source. These conditions can affect the amount of chemical required to? effectively clean and/or sanitize.
  • Evaluate cleaning and sanitizing practices on an ongoing basis for? effectiveness and adjust if necessary.


Biofilms are formed by bacteria that have adhered to a surface that is usually exposed to water and/or organic materials. They are typically found in pipes and places where there is a flow of any type of liquid. Bacteria can break off from the biofilm and contaminate food.

Cleaning agents and sanitizers will help prevent biofilms from forming in the production environment, but they may be ineffective against existing or mature biofilms. Once established, biofilms are very difficult to remove due to the hardened outside layer that protects the bacteria underneath from harsh chemicals.

If you suspect a biofilm may be starting to form or has already formed on equipment that comes into contact with food, call your chemical or equipment supplier for instructions on how to best clean the affected area with the right chemical and procedures.

Terms used in this Good Agricultural Practice

Cleaning: The removal of dirt, dust, manure and chemical residues from surfaces.

Sanitizing: A process whereby a clean surface is coated with an approved chemical solution/water mix to kill or reduce pathogens.

Records to keep

  • Cleaning and sanitizing practices
  • Cleaning and Sanitizing Record.

Keep your own record that includes:

  • Date
  • What was cleaned and/or sanitized
  • Products used and their preparation
  • Initials of worker

Did you know?

Water troughs for livestock can become contaminated with biological agents such as E. coli from droppings of birds, wildlife and other livestock. They should be drained and cleaned at regular intervals.

Did you know?

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has developed a series of resources on safe food handling tips for farmers' markets. For cleaning surfaces, they recommend 5 mL (1 tsp) of household bleach (5%) in 1 litre of water.

If you need an audit

Be prepared for the auditor to:

  • Review written cleaning and sanitizing practices and records or verification that only approved products are used
  • Observe your facilities for general cleanliness

Laws and regulations that apply

There are few laws that impact on food safety requiring cleaning and sanitation in agricultural production. Generally, these requirements are laid out in laws regarding the processing of meat, fish and other food products, which are outside the scope of this document. Laws that require sanitizing (e.g. for used containers) related to disease management for plants or bees that are unrelated to food safety are also outside the scope of this document.

The Milk Act, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 761, s. 8 requires that animals shall be clean and the udder shall be cleaned immediately before the time of each milking. Hairs on udders, flanks and tails shall be kept short. Milking equipment or utensils must be thoroughly cleaned after each milking; sanitized before each milking; and stored on clean racks (s. 13 (1))."Sanitize" is defined as treating a surface that comes into contact with milk with heat or approved chemicals capable of destroying any micro-organisms that may be adhering to the surface.

The Milk Act, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 761 specifies cleaning and sanitation for the horizontal agitator (s. 29); compressed air (s. 30(1) (2)); the bulk tank (s. 31); pipelines, dumping stations, farm bulk tanks or inflations that are cleaned and sanitized in place (s. 32 (1)); detergents, wetting agents and sanitizing agents (s. 32 (4)); automatic pipeline cleaners (s. 32(7)); and vacuum lines (s. 34). Procedures must be posted, including the analysis of the water regularly used in the washing of the bulk tank; quantities of washing compound and water; maximum and minimum water temperatures; length of time; quantities of sanitizer and water used in the sanitizing cycle; and the manufacturer's names for compounds used (s. 32 (2)). If an acidified wash or rinse is used, there must be a posting on the wall in the milkhouse (s.32 (3)). Producers may be requested to disassemble equipment for visual inspection in the presence of a field person (s. 33).

The Farm Products Grades and Sales Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F. 8, s. 2 (1) 12 provides that the Minister may make regulations about the cleanliness and sanitation of premises in which a farm product is stored, processed, graded, packed, sold or offered for sale. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 384 - Honey, s. 20 requires that the equipment, appliances and facilities in an establishment be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition. There are cleanliness standards with respect to a variety of fruit and vegetables in R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 378 - Fruit and Vegetables.

Canada Agricultural Products Act, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations (C.R.C., c. 285) Part I.1 s. 3.1 (4) (d) states the produce is handled with equipment that is cleaned regularly.

Calculating Parts Per Million (PPM) Solutions from a Concentrated Liquid

Example: How much concentrated chlorine solution needs to be added if you require a 125 ppm chlorine solution in one thousand litres of water (264 US gallons)? The bottle's label indicates it is 12% sodium hypochlorite solution.

The calculation:

A (ppm solution needed) X B (amount of water in litres / D (% chemical in original bottle x 10,000) = C (amount of chemical in litres)

A = 125 ppm

B = 1,000 litres

D = 12% x 10,000

The calculation would be…

125 x 1,000 = amount of chemical needed in litres

12 x 10,000

The answer: 1.04 L of 12% chlorine solution added to 1,000 L of water will create a 125 ppm solution.

Common Conversions

1 mg = 1 mL of water

1 kg = 1,000 mg

1 L = 1,000 mL

1 cup = 250 mL

1 tbsp = 15 mL

1 tsp = 5 mL

1 pound = 0.45 kg

1 US gallon = 3.79 litres

Mixing Solutions:

Parts per million (ppm)

1 ppm = 1 mg/litre of water

1 ppm = 1 mg/kg

1 ppm can be compared to:

  • 1 drop of ink in a 150 litre (40 gallon) drum of water
  • 1 second per 280 hours
  • 1 penny in $10,000

Resources for you

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For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 27 May 2009
Last Reviewed: 26 July 2016