How to Clean Commercial Freezers: Seven Steps for Easy Cleaning
The focus on taste and flavours are only natural in the food business — restaurant owners need their signature dishes to stand out in a competitive market. But the focus on taste shouldn’t come at the expense of food safety. After all, good food is safe food.
A crucial part of food safety in restaurants is keeping essential appliances like commercial freezers clean. When freezers are clean and well organized, they function better and provide optimal storage conditions for key ingredients and food items to prevent spoilage, waste, and worse, customer illness and complaints.
Dirty freezers are a hotbed of infection. When left cluttered, disorganized, and stained, they host harmful bacteria that can contaminate your food. They also end up using more electricity, inevitably shortening its lifespan.
When was the last time you cleaned your commercial freezer? Every freezer requires cleaning with every shift to prevent residue from staining and bacteria from growing. It’s the crucial first step to good food because it ensures food safety and fresh, quality taste with every ingredient you take out of the freezer and drop into the sizzling pan. Clean your commercial freezer in just a few quick steps, and guarantee safe, clean, restaurant-quality taste in every bite:
How to Clean Commercial Freezers
1. Perform an inventory check
Freezers are built for high-volume storage, but every restaurant owner knows some dishes always sell more than others, resulting in slower-moving or even surplus inventory. But just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they can stay in the freezer forever.
The first step in cleaning your commercial freezer is checking the remaining inventory. Despite your best efforts, it’s inevitable for some items to slip past the regular cook cycle before their sell-by date. Remove these expired items and discard them to avoid mould, bacteria growth, and foul odours that can affect other food. Avoid leaving them pushed behind other jars and tubs — and risk cooking them into otherwise restaurant-quality dishes.
If you’re unsure whether they’ve gone bad, it’s a good idea to toss them anyway, especially if they haven’t been used in a while or won’t be in the next few cooks. The risk of giving customers food poisoning just isn’t worth it.
2. Unplug the freezer
To deep clean a commercial freezer, it needs to be completely shut off. Make sure to unplug the unit to prevent any risk of electrical shock, as well as increased energy consumption with the constant opening and closing of doors while it is being cleaned.
3. Empty the shelves
Now that the expired items have been discarded, it’s time to take out the other products and store them in appropriate containers. Frozen goods need to be stored in coolers with enough ice to stay frozen and avoid spoiling. Avoid leaving anything inside and simply pushing boxes to the side, as this will result in an uneven clean of the shelves and compartments.
4. Wipe down the interiors
Cleaning a commercial freezer wouldn’t be complete without thoroughly wiping down the interiors. For a safe and thoroughly clean freezer, start with the basics. Use a bucket of warm, soapy water and a sponge to scrub down the panelling and shelves and remove tough stains. You can also use highly absorbent microfibre cloths to ensure a thorough cleaning.
But whether it’s been a while since your last clean or simply because of the kitchen chaos, it’s inevitable to deal with particularly stubborn stains and stuck-on grime in tight corners. To remove them, you can use a toothbrush with stiff but flexible bristles. Don’t forget the door gaskets — wipe them down and check them for cracks and stiffening to ensure a tight, protective seal. Once done, rinse the entire freezer interior with clean water.
5. Disinfect with a food-safe sanitizer
Commercial freezers are high-traffic, high-contact appliances—the constant opening and closing of doors and rifling through the inventory results in bacteria exposure. Soap and water alone won’t cut it: these frequently touched surfaces require thorough disinfection.
Use a food-safe sanitizer to disinfect shelves, compartments, and interior and exterior panelling and handles. A food-safe sanitizer eliminates the risk of contamination and exposure of food to chemicals, while ensuring thorough disinfection for long-term food safety.
6. Vacuum clean condenser and coils
Cleaning a commercial freezer goes beyond the shelves and compartments — the surfaces that frequently come in contact with food. A thorough cleaning requires removing built-up dust and debris in the coils, as these clog the air intake. Over time, clogged condensers and coils will consume more energy keeping the freezer cool, resulting in higher utility bills.
To clean the condenser unit and coils, remove the protective grill, and brush the coils and fan to free up built-up dirt and debris. Then, vacuum the area to prevent dust from spreading, before reinstalling the grill. Make sure to schedule a drain-line cleaning with a service technician as part of the annual freezer maintenance.
7. Clean under and above the freezer
Cleaning a commercial freezer also requires keeping its surrounding area clear of dirt and dust. Make sure to mop the floors regularly — including behind the unit — and wipe down the top and walls to prevent build-up.
Keeping Your Commercial Freezer Clean
Routine cleaning of commercial freezers is necessary for disinfection and removal of built-up dirt and grime, but a long-term clean starts with sanitary inventory management practices. This starts with how you load the freezer. Is food arranged to prevent cross-contamination and ensure optimal storage conditions?
Keep in mind these tips for organizing and stocking your commercial freezer:
1. Stock the shelves in order
Store ready-to-eat and pre-cooked foods on the top shelf, followed by seafood, then whole cuts of raw pork and beef on the third shelf. On the fourth, store ground meat and fish, and reserve the bottom rack for poultry. This order reduces cross-contamination from dripping juices and bacteria.
2. Keep track of what’s in use
Label any opened products to make sure that these are used in order of opening and prevent spoilage and waste. Opt for colour-coded bins to differentiate between products and cut down on frequent opening and closing of containers.
3. Check the temperature
Commercial freezers are built with self-regulating thermostats that maintain the right interior temperature for frozen foods. Train staff to regularly monitor the temperature readings, and ensure that the freezer is holding the right temperature.
4. Stack smartly
A full freezer is ideal, but too-full or too-closely stacked boxes close to the thermostat-sensing bulb will result in false temperature readings. Make sure you keep the sensors clear to ensure your freezer stays clean and at the right temperature.