Cleaning and sanitizing equipment and utensils in a commercial kitchen are important food hygiene operations and not random tasks that can be done without any type of organized system. To become effective, they have to be done the correct way all the time. This rule has to be equally applied to all kitchen tools whether big or small.
An ergonomic and effective solution to this is the use of a 3 compartment sink. This tool was made to make the process of cleaning and sanitizing more organized and the risk of cross-contamination is reduced. When it comes to using a three-compartment sink, the key thing is to know the importance of the proper sequence of activities involved and which activity is not allowed in a 3 compartment sink.
The Food and Drug Administration has provided a set of health guidelines and basic requirements when it comes to using a three-compartment sink under the Food Code of 2017. Accuracy and consistency are invaluable elements when it comes to sanitizing and cleaning. Food handlers cannot neglect any step, or the whole process cycle will be rendered ineffective.
The principle of a three-compartment sink, do's and don'ts, and how can proper cleaning save your customers - learn all about these topics and more from this article.
What are the 3 compartments of a sink?
As recommended by food safety agencies, the 3 compartments of a sink consist of one compartment for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing. The whole setup of a 3 compartment sink was designed to prevent cross-contamination among the utensils and equipment being cleaned. All food establishments must have a dedicated sink used for dishwashing.
Even food trucks must have a dishwashing sink. A 3 compartment sink for the food truck may sometimes be improvised when compared with commercial-scale types. Sometimes, food trucks use a small 3 compartment sink depending on the size of the truck and the needed accommodation of dishes. Alternatively, you may also use a portable 3 compartment sink for convenience.
All three compartments of the specified type of sink shall not be used for handwashing or cleaning food, washing towel cloths, or thawing. The sink must be dedicated to the process of cleaning and sanitizing equipment and utensils. If the three-compartment sink was used for any of the mentioned practices, all compartments must be adequately cleaned and sanitized before resuming their intended purpose.
What are the 3 compartments of a commercial sink used for?
A 3 compartment sink is FDA-recommended, high-efficiency equipment for food establishments without a commercial dishwasher. In addition, not all equipment and utensils are compatible with a commercial dishwasher in terms of their component material and size. A recommended commercial 3 compartment sink must be large enough to accommodate oversized pots and portable machines. Most food safety agencies and health department recommend deep-drawn sinks, rounded corners, stainless steel legs with cross bracing for support, and with enough space in between the previous and following compartments.
Each compartment of the recommended sink must be labeled according to its intended use. Remember that cleaning and sanitizing processes can only become effective if performed in the correct order. The correct order of a three-compartment sink is as follows
Skipping any of these steps may render the whole cleaning process ineffective and ultimately increase the risk of causing foodborne illnesses. For example, skipping the washing process can leave some food debris on the plates which can sometimes be too hard to remove during rinsing. The sanitation process will not be able to effectively remove this excess food debris and therefore leave the dishes prone to contamination.
In addition to the proper labeling and arrangement of the deep sink compartments, the whole unit must be made out of stainless steel sink which can withstand corrosion from cleaning and sanitizing agents for public health control. The sink must also be easy to disassemble and cleaned in terms of design and texture.
What is the function of a 3 compartment sink?
A 3 compartment kitchen sink is a piece of manual equipment used for cleaning and sanitizing dishes, utensils, and equipment used in the kitchen. The premise of using the 3 compartment sink systems serves as the basis for more advanced dishwasher cycles. The only difference is, that in a 3 compartment sink, the food handler performs all the cleaning tasks manually. It is a great alternative option for restaurant equipment.
Ideally, a 3 compartment dish sink must be able to eliminate the risk of spreading foodborne illnesses from leftover food. Pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can grow on leftover food which has already been exposed to the environment and potentially cause the spread of foodborne illness if left uncleaned.
Each section of a three-compartment sink has its own rules and requirements that must be followed to ensure effectiveness.
Preparatory and post-operational steps must also be noted before and after using the 3 compartment sink, respectively. Before washing, dishes must be scraped of large food debris to facilitate the next process. After sanitizing, dishes must be properly air-dried before being used for service. The 3 compartment sink faucet must be regularly maintained for proper use.
Generally, food handlers are discouraged to prepare food in a three-compartment concession sink dedicated to cleaning and sanitizing utensils and equipment. In case your team needs to use the sink for preparing food prior to the cooking process, it must be emptied first and properly cleaned and sanitized before and after use. While being used for preparing food, your team cannot use the other sinks for cleaning and sanitizing. Vegetables and other raw foods such as raw meat can only be washed on a 3 compartment sink setup if there are currently no dishes or equipment being washed. The washed and clean produce must also not be placed on the sink surface or any other food contact surfaces near the washing area. After using for washing vegetables and other food products, the sink must then be cleaned and sanitized before being used for dishes and equipment.
Which activity is not allowed in a 3 compartment sink?
Under no circumstances shall a 3 compartment sink be ever used for cleaning mop or dumping mop water. This sink unit is used for cleaning and sanitizing dishes and equipment that come in direct contact with food being prepared. Ideally, the 3 compartment sink must only be used for cleaning, rinsing, and sanitizing dishes and light to medium equipment.
Even for small tasks such as handwashing and thawing foods, this sink is not advised to be used. A dedicated utility sink for handwashing must be provided by the food management or a 3 compartment sink with a hand washing sink. When used for other tasks such as cleaning and preparing raw materials, the sink must be properly cleaned and sanitized before after use. These operations are done to prevent cross-contamination of chemical cleaners and sanitizers such as chlorine bleach into the food item and food particles in the sink. As previously mentioned, there are other operations that must be done by the food handler in addition to the 3-sink method of dishwashing to ensure that the entire cleaning process is complete and effective. Preoperational and post-operational tasks are done to increase the effectiveness of the three main operations performed in a three-compartment sink.
The proper method of washing dishes is as follows:
5 Steps for washing dishes in a 3 compartment sink
The detailed description of how to use a 3-basin sink is part of a comprehensive Sanitation Standard Operating Procedure (SSOP). In addition to following the correct sequence of the entire cleaning procedure, food handlers must also be aware and concerned with other cleaning factors. The related equipment used, the correct type of sanitizing solution, the temperature of the water, and even the immersion times of the chemical sanitizing solution all contribute to the effectiveness of the cleaning and sanitizing processes. The temperature of the water supply in a 3-bowl sink plays a crucial role in cleaning and sanitizing. In general, the FDA recommends that the water used for cleaning and rinsing should be at least 110°F (43°C) or a few degrees higher. At this temperature, the oil from the residual food is easily removed. In addition, most detergents and sanitizers recommend this temperature for killing foodborne pathogens.
In the case of using hot water as the sanitizer for the final step, the soaking water temperature at a minimum of 171°F (77°C) is required. Most foodborne pathogens will not be able to survive this water temperature which has the same effect as using a food-safe sanitizer. Although the commercial 3 compartment sink is used for cleaning and sanitizing, it can become a point and source of cross-contamination. When the cleaning and sanitizing processes are improperly carried out, food debris and dirty water can contaminate other food utensils and equipment. In addition, drying using a towel can also cause cross-contamination. To prevent cross-contamination of food utensils when using a 3 compartment sink, follow these food safety practices:
Cleaning and sanitizing every basin or sink must be done before and after your everyday operations. Cleaning your 3 compartment sinks require detergents, brushes, and three-compartment sink sanitizer. The process must be accompanied by an abrasive motion to dislodge any build-up on the corners of the sink. After washing with soap or detergent, the sinks must be rinsed and then sanitized. The cleaning process of your sink must be regularly performed on time to ensure safety.
This whole routine must be included in your food safety management system (FSMS). Although, with all of the dishes and equipment that you need to clean and sanitize, your kitchen staff may forget to sanitize the sinks by the end of the day. To help you remember this task and ensure that it is done correctly, use our digital solution at FoodDocs.
The 3 compartment sink method is accomplished according to the correct cleaning order which is as follows:
Do you need a 3 compartment sink if you have a dishwasher?
If your mechanical dishwasher is able to accommodate all big and small dishes, equipment, and utensils, then there is no need for a 3 compartment sink basin. This is assuming that all of your utensils are dishwasher safe. Otherwise, a food service establishment would significantly benefit from this unit.
What should the temperature of the detergent water be in a three-compartment sink?
As per the FDA requirement, the water supply for detergent water must be at least 110°F (43°C) or a few degrees higher. The same standard applies to the water used for washing.
A digital solution for cleaning and other food safety tasks
Cleaning and sanitation are two of the main tasks that need to be done on time and correctly to ensure their effectiveness. As such, food handlers must always be alert and oriented with every principle and step related to the two operations. Although a printed checklist can help your team remember every cleaning task, the time you spend browsing which one to do next could have been spent on the actual cleaning and sanitizing processes.
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