A Slippery Situation: Cleaning Restaurant Kitchen Floors

One of the most significant areas of loss in the restaurant environment is slips and falls. The commercial kitchen environment presents special challenges and requires special care to provide a safe working surface. The methods used to clean the kitchen floor are very important, but many times sufficient consideration is not given to the chemicals used in the cleaning process. Properly controlling the grease on kitchen floors is critical for maintaining a safe kitchen, but also keeps it from being tracked into public areas where customers could be impacted.

Most one-solution-fits-all type floor products are too mild to cut through layers of grease. Commercial or restaurant kitchen floors are typically made of red or gray quarry tile and these porous tiles tend to trap grease and soap in the tiny holes, which results in a slippery floor surface. This environment requires a quality commercial-grade floor cleaner that is specifically designed for cleaning kitchen floors. Many companies, such as EcoLab, provide the proper chemicals that come with chemical distribution systems that are easy for staff to use properly.

There are a few common mistakes when it comes to taking good care of your kitchen floor tile, such as using cheap generic solutions or bleach. One should avoid using laundry detergent or dishwasher soap; both contain animal fat as an emulsifying liquid so they are extremely slippery as is. Over time they build up a residue that combines with the grease to create a slippery coating on your restaurant floor.

So, a good quality floor cleaner/degreaser is the first step toward safe kitchen flooring. Before you strip the soap and grease coating, apply a hard surface cleaner/degreaser with a hard bristle deck brush to return the tile to its normal, like new, state.

Follow these steps to clean a tile kitchen floor using a quality commercial kitchen cleaner/degreaser:

  1. Sweep the floor so it is free of debris.
  2. Dilute the cleaning solution exactly as directed on the label. Read carefully because some solutions are made for use with warm water and some are made for use with cold water.
  3. Apply the diluted cleaning solution liberally to the floor. It can be mixed in a bucket and poured over the floor, or using one of the chemical distribution systems that is either permanently mounted to the wall or attached to a hose. On floors with either inadequate or no floor drains, use a mop and bucket.
  4. The floor should be mopped with the diluted cleaning solution and then briskly brushed using a stiff bristle deck brush. The deck brush is a critical step for getting to that grease hidden in the pores of the tile.
  5. The degreaser cleaner should be allowed to sit on the floor for at least five to ten minutes while being agitated with a stiff bristle deck brush. At that point it will have emulsified the greases and dirt. Make sure there are proper warning signs or barriers to alert staff that the floor is wet; if possible, keep the area free of foot traffic completely.
  6. The kitchen floor tile should be rinsed using a hose with hot water. If floor drains are not available, the floor should me mopped with a bucket of clean hot water, changing the water often.
  7. Squeegee the emulsified grease and dirt down the floor drain. A wet/dry vacuum can be used to remove excess water. Repeat 5-7 times if necessary.
  8. Identify mops and brushes for use in the kitchen only. Always have separate mops for the back of house and front of house so that kitchen grease is never brought into public areas. An easy way to help keep them separate is to paint or put different colored tape on the handles and train the staff that one color is only for the dining area and one color is only for use in the kitchen.

If you’ve applied the degreaser cleaner and your kitchen floor tiles are not squeaky clean, then perhaps it’s time to apply a slip-resistant floor treatment made specifically for quarry tile or ceramic tile. This not only removes the soapy buildup, it makes your restaurant kitchen floor even more slip-resistant by applying a light chemical etching to the quarry tile.

Proper Restaurant Kitchen Floor Maintenance

Follow these helpful tips for proper restaurant kitchen floor maintenance:

  • Once you’ve applied the degreaser and non-slip treatment to your kitchen flooring, use the degreaser on a daily basis to keep it free of grease and buildup.
  • Make sure to use the degreaser at the recommended dilution ratio. More is not better.
  • Let the degreaser sit on the floor for at least five to ten minutes or longer to emulsify the grease, then follow with a thorough hot-water rinse.
  • Use a different mop and bucket for the back of house and front of house.
  • Change the mop bucket and solution often to avoid “slop mopping,” which just spreads the dirt and grease around the kitchen flooring.
  • Clean up grease or other spills promptly.
  • Sweep up food items throughout the day. It doesn’t take much to cause a shoe to slip.

Proper floor maintenance is essential for controlling slip and fall risks in your kitchen operation. Buying quality floor chemicals made specifically for this application, following the directions closely for each chemical, and following proper floor care procedures can help provide a safer work environment for everyone. Quality chemicals may cost slightly more than generic alternatives, but they will produce better grease removal results and being accident-free will have a positive impact on your operation’s bottom line in the long-run.

-Shelby Blundell


Shelby has a master's degree from St. Louis University's School of Public Health. He has worked as a Risk Improvement Representative for Society Insurance since 2010. Shelby has been a safety and risk management resource for contractors, supermarkets, convenience stores, the hospitality industry, health care and higher education. He is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and the Insurance Loss Control Association (ILCA).

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