Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.9 Food Safety

4.9.0 Cleaning Food Areas and Equipment

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 3/30/2023.

Areas and equipment for storing, preparing, and serving food should be kept clean. All areas for food preparation, food service, and dining should be cleaned and sanitized before and after use. Food preparation equipment should be cleaned and sanitized after each use and stored in a clean and sanitary manner and protected from contamination. Use a microfiber cloth or disposable paper towels. Do not use sponges for cleaning and sanitizing. If regular cotton cloths are used, they should be used once, then stored in a covered container and thoroughly washed daily.

Detailed definitions of Clean, Sanitize, Disinfect, and Germ[s] (microbes such as bacteria, viruses, fungi) that can cause disease are in the CFOC Online Glossary.


Early childhood settings have had outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. Many of these infectious diseases can be prevented by having clearly written policies and steps about how to clean surfaces and prepare food correctly.1,2 Keeping hands clean reduces the soiling of kitchen equipment and supplies. Training staff to properly clean, and to clean on a regular schedule, can reduce illnesses.

Cotton cloths have fewer fibers than microfiber cloths and clean less well. Studies show that microfiber cloths reduce the transfer of germs from surface to surface better than cotton cloths.3 Sponges are not recommended for use in early care and education programs because they miss dirt, leave detergent and water on surfaces being cleaned, can become contaminated with bacteria, and are difficult to clean.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Routine Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting Microfiber Cloths and Mops Used for Cleaning
Appendix J: Selection and Use of a Cleaning, Sanitizing or Disinfecting Product
Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
  1. Li Y, Jaykus L-A, Cates S, Wohlgenant K, Chen X, Fraser AM. Hygienic conditions in child-care facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina: an integrated microbial and observational study. Am J Infect Control. 2014;42:781-786. July 2014. Accessed November 20, 2022

  2. Gallo M, Ferrara L, Calogero A, Montesano D, Naviglio D. Relationships between food and diseases: what to know to ensure food safety. Food Research International. 2020;137:109414. Published November 2020. Accessed November 20, 2022

  3. Trajtman AN, Manickam K, Alfa MJ. Microfiber cloths reduce the transfer of Clostridium difficile spores to environmental surfaces compared with cotton cloths. Am J Infect Control. 2015;43(7):686-689. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2015.03.002. Published April 20, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2022


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 3/30/2023.