You probably know that your refrigerator should be kept clean for hygiene purposes. But do you know that cleaning along with regular maintenance can vastly extend the life of your unit?
Regular refrigeration unit checks can save you between 5-10% in energy costs if your unit(s) runs optimally. Failing refrigerators overrun their systems – using more energy. It’s far cheaper using our preventative measures because you reduce the risk of costly problems (like emergency repairs or a new refrigerator).
This guide will explain how to prolong the life of your refrigeration equipment so you can make the most out of your investment.
6 Refrigerator Care Tips
Although important, caring for your commercial refrigerator involves more than just an occasional wipe-down with a cloth. Form a regular routine for keeping your refrigerator in shape by taking steps, such as:
1. Regular food rotation: turn off and empty your unit before starting – a thorough job is a job well done. Every workhorse needs a little downtime – your refrigeration equipment is no exception. Schedules maintain order in your restaurant and prevent important steps from being neglected.
2. Frequent deep cleaning: clean the interior and exterior of your commercial catering equipment thoroughly, including all shelving, seals and surfaces. Locate and clean any drainage holes. Food run-off and debris will quickly spoil, creating bacterial contamination if left untreated.
3. Lower bacteria transmission: imagine how often your unit is touched by different hands during the working day. Bacteria from raw ingredients (e.g. meat and fish) can quickly spread on kitchen surfaces. Clean your refrigerator with soap and water rather than harsh chemicals, which can damage the finish. A vinegar solution will lift grease and fingerprints from reflective surfaces – leaving a streak-free finish. Commercial cleaning detergents may be suitable – check beforehand to avoid unpleasant chemical reactions and a potentially discoloured refrigerator.
4. Keep your unit dry: leaving your refrigeration equipment to air dry after cleaning isn’t an option. Standing water is never good, and can cause discolouration. Rotting, rust, contamination and over-freezing are other potential risks. Wipe your commercial catering equipment dry after cleaning to avoid a breakdown – for both you and your unit.
5. Don’t forget behind the (g)ears: the back of the refrigerator, inside the door handles, the shelving and door seal channels are all magnets for accumulated dirt. It’s a short road from food spoilage to sick customers; make sure to clean every nook and cranny.
8 Tips For Maintaining Refrigeration Equipment
Commit to yearly servicing and regular cleaning by your staff. Qualified refrigeration service companies will keep your refrigerator running smoothly by completing checks. You can also extend the life of your unit by:
1. Clean evaporator and condenser coils regularly: when refrigeration coils are dirty they can’t release heat efficiently, leaving the system likely to overheat when the condenser attempts to pull in more air (while guzzling energy) to compensate. Evaporator coils absorb heat through the refrigerator system to keep commercial refrigerators cool and efficient. Clean the evaporator coil every 1-3 months with a stiff brush and check the condenser coil regularly.
2. Check air filters: the filters allow fresh air to enter and neutralise odors. Grease and dust will quickly clog refrigeration air filters. Loosen dirt with regular vacuuming and thorough degreasing.
3. Clean fan blades and inspect the fan motors: clean fan blades mean clean refrigerator air. Both the condenser and evaporator fans circulate air and regulate the refrigerator temperature – faults cause warmer air and food spoilage.
4. Check gaskets and seals: the door seals on commercial refrigerators are critical for maintaining refrigerator temperatures. Dirty or damaged seals stop doors closing properly. Wear and tear needs manufacturer-approved replacement. Even if undamaged, they should be cleaned and maintained.
5. Lubricate door hinges and handles: avoid annoying squeaking doors – ensure all unit doors, hinges and handles can easily open and close with a suitable lubricant to keep things moving smoothly.
6. Check for loose electrical connections: loose wiring is a dangerous workplace hazard and needs sorting as soon as possible. Consult the manual and contact an approved electrician for repair guidance.
7. Clear drain lines and pans: miscellaneous sludge and ooze are inevitable with refrigerators. It’s not only unsightly (and smelly) but can cause system “freeze-ups” and blockages, leading to leaks and slip hazards for your staff. Check and clean your lines and pans monthly.
8. Check temperatures, defrost settings, and calibrate thermometers: daily temperature and thermometer check-ins can catch faults with your unit and are important for food safety protocol.
3 Main Types of Commercial Kitchen: Cleaning Tips
1. Fast food
- Fast food kitchens typically cook greasier food and involve heavy use of assembly lines, upright refrigerators and deep-fat fryers. For health and safety (to accidents), it’s recommended that owners focus on de-greasing – both on equipment and floors.
- The ventilation systems and cooker hoods should be cleaned monthly (every 3 months if a deep-fat fryer isn’t used).
- As refrigerator systems also rely on ventilation, remember that fast-food refrigerators will need cleaning more often due to airborne grease.
- Preparation tables in assembly lines also require specific maintenance as their doors may get out of level over time, straining the gaskets. Maintain the hinges on bowing doors to avoid this.
- As a worktop, cutting board surfaces on prep tables will quickly become dirty throughout the day. Keep bacteria at bay – frequently clean the cutting board and dry it completely.
- Prep tables aren’t suitable for overnight food storage – before the end of the day make sure food is transferred to appropriate cold storage.
- As mentioned in our Ultimate Guide to Commercial Refrigeration, top-mounted compressors will draw in hot oily air in fast food restaurants – so should be kept as far from the hot prep area as possible. Your refrigerator (upright refrigerators especially) – will need extra TLC to stay hygienic and functional.
- Walk-in refrigerators and under-counter refrigerators are often used in restaurants.
- Keep your walk-in refrigerator door shut when not in use. No propping it open with boxes (no matter how full your hands are!).
- Don’t use the unit top for storage – you might damage the ceiling panels.
- Display refrigerators are common in cafeterias. As they include a lot of glass, your refrigerator care should take this into consideration. Nothing showcases fingerprints, grease and other food spills better than a glass case. An appropriate vinegar-based cleaner will keep your refrigerator looking brand new.
Looking cool! What’s next?
After following this guide, your refrigeration equipment will be immaculate! Why not check out our blog for more tips on running a successful commercial catering business?