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Restaurants - Tips for Green Cleaning

Want to switch to green cleaners at your restaurant, but worried about health codes?

We spoke with the Multnomah County Health Department about ways your restaurant can switch to greener cleaning and still meet code. Green cleaning products and procedures are intended to protect the health of food service staff and customers. Follow these tips for greener cleaning and contact us if you have any questions.

Note: For sanitizing food contact surfaces, the only code-approved cleaners are bleach, quaternary ammonia or iodine. Always follow health code and ask your health inspector if you have any questions.

Aside from sanitizing chemicals, restaurants are able to choose which products they use to clean food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces and still follow code.

The code simply states:

  • (A) Equipment food-contact surfaces and utensils shall be clean to sight and touch. 
  • (B) The food-contact surfaces of cooking equipment and pans shall be kept free of encrusted grease deposits and other soil accumulations. 
  • (C) Nonfood-contact surfaces of equipment shall be kept free of an accumulation of dust, dirt, food residue, and other debris.

How this level of cleanliness is achieved is up to each facility. Use safer alternatives to protect the health of your coworkers and customers.  

When you buy

1. Stick with just a few cleaners that accomplish the tasks you need. You’ll save space, reduce confusion about which product to use, and simplify refilling and restocking.

2. Buy cleaners with third party certification:

3. Buy safer alternatives [1,2,3]:

Use these safer alternatives

Instead of…

Glass cleaners Vinegar-based  Cleaners with ammonia
Solvents Citrus-based  Petroleum-based solvents
Oven cleaner Baking soda, borax, soap and elbow grease Commercial oven cleaners that are caustic 
Floor Cleaner Vegetable oil based and water based Petroleum based
Disinfectants/Sanitizers – for food preparation surfaces *Check with your health inspector before switching sanitizing methods Hydrogen peroxide, Iodine solution or hot water immersion Chlorine bleach or quaternary ammonia based sanitizing solution

4. Buy in bulk

  • Purchase cleaning products in bulk concentrate and properly dilute on site.

5. Avoid

  • Products labeled “danger,” “poison,” or “caution” [2].
  • Anti-bacterial soaps where NOT required by law [2].

When you clean

1. Most things can be cleaned with a general cleaner and a little elbow grease.

2. Minimize chemicals in the air.

  • Use direct spray, not misters [2].
  • Spray cleaner directly on cloth.
  • Use microfiber cloths and mops to reduce airborne particles.  

3. Reduce the amount of dirt coming into the building by focusing on entry ways: install and regularly clean floor mats, sweep or mop regularly near entry doors.

4. Try getting rid of pests using Integrated Pest Management instead of toxic insecticides.

  • Prevent and minimize pest access to food, water, and hiding places by filling any floor and wall gaps and having good sanitation.
  • Look for pest control products that have high water ratios and active ingredients that are citrus based, such as d-Limonene.
  • If a stronger chemical is required, a ‘least-toxic’ alternative is boric acid.
  • If possible, work with a Green Shield certified Integrated Pest Management company.

When you dispose

1. Properly dispose of unused and unneeded cleaners and chemicals.

  • Call Metro at 503-234-3000 to find your nearest disposal site.

Think outside the kitchen

Restrooms, and other areas outside the kitchen, can use greener cleaners while still following health codes. 


  1. Cleaning Green - Tips from
  2. Green Cleaning for Restaurants and Foodservice Operations
  3. Food Service Warehouse - Reconciling Green Cleaning with the Food Code
  4. Green Cleaning for restaurants - Mother Nature network