A restaurant's reputation and, ultimately, bottom line depend on cleanliness. The dilemma for restaurant operators is that most products used for cleaning and pest control are toxic, presenting a hazard to employees, customers and the environment beyond the restaurant kitchen.

Clean restaurant counterCleaning products typically used in restaurants contain chlorine or ammonia or caustic soda. Use of such a toxic brew contributes to indoor air pollution and causes thousands of workplace accidents each year.

Fortunately, an increasing number of green alternatives for restaurant cleaning are available. And the benefits of green restaurant cleaning extend beyond the health of staff, customers and the environment.

Diners have voiced a preference for green dining. In a survey released earlier this year by SCA, a global hygiene and paper company, 53 percent of adults said they would choose a green restaurant over another that didn’t embrace environmentally responsible practices. And, according to a 2010 study from Ohio State University, 80 percent of diners are willing to pay more to eat at environmentally-friendly restaurants.

But, green cleaning does pose special challenges for restaurants. The federal Food and Drug Administration food code requires that restaurants sanitize any surfaces that might come into contact with food. Most green cleaners don't meet the standards of killing 99.999% of disease-causing microorganisms within 30 seconds. While chlorine solutions are the fastest and cheapest of approved sanitizers, they are also the most toxic. Gentler, greener alternatives for restaurant cleaning include solutions containing iodine, hydrogen peroxide, peroxyacetic acid, fatty acid or citric acid.

When shopping for green alternatives for restaurant cleaning, visit the Web sites of a third party certification organizations such as Green Seal and EcoLogo  that test green products for effectiveness. The Green Restaurant Association also provides a guide to green cleaning products for restaurant use.

Some other tips for green cleaning restaurants:Oven

  • Vinegar-based glass cleaners are safer alternatives to mainstream cleaners using ammonia.
  • Replace petroleum-based solvents with citrus-based solvents.
  • Most commercial oven cleaners are extremely caustic. Replace toxic commercial cleaners baking soda, borax, soap and elbow grease.
  • Purchase cleaning products in bulk concentrate and mix on site. This will reduce your cost and your waste.
  • Replace toxic insecticides with boric acid and osage oranges.
Have other thoughts on green cleaning for restaurants? Leave us a note in the comments below.

Photos: Dana Moos, Realtor/Flickr

See also:

Green cleaning solutions