Commercial sanitizers and test strips are a requirement of health departments across the country. Why? Because test strips tell you if the chemical sanitizing solution is the required concentration.
Remember our article on Sanitizing vs Disinfecting? A sanitizer is a product that kills 99.9% of germs identified on its label. Sanitizers are used to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate microorganisms from the inanimate environment levels considered safe as determined by public health codes or regulations.
Every state’s health department has a similar definition, although it may not be worded exactly the same. Some may include that sanitization is the application of cumulative heat or chemicals on cleaned food-contact surfaces, killing 99.9% of germs.
Simply put, if you apply either sufficient heat or sufficient chemical sanitizer, the microbes that can make us sick are reduced by 99.99%. These regulations are in place to protect you and your customers, so it’s important to comply.
Types of Chemical Sanitizers
The three most common chemical sanitizers are chlorine-based, quaternary ammonia compounds (QAC), and iodine-based. The required concentration of each chemical varies by state.
Chlorine is often between 50-200ppm, QAC is often between 100-400ppm, and Iodine is often between 12.5-25ppm. It’s best to check with your local health officials to find out their requirements.
How Do You Use Test Strips and How Often?
Restaurants can use our chlorine test papers, which measure from 0-200ppm. They are semi-quantitative test strips, meaning they use a single color indicator system (purple) and the color chart is calibrated to approximate concentration values.
These are generally accepted test strips by health departments, and they have been used for years in the food industry.
To use, just dip the test strip into the sanitizing solution, remove immediately and compare to the color chart. Do not dip the test strip directly into the bleach container, as this will bleach it out.
Restaurants can also use our QAC test papers, which measure from 100-400ppm. To use, just dip the strip into the sanitizing solution for 90 seconds, remove and compare to the color chart. We now offer a QAC QR5 test strip, which only needs to be dipped into the solution for 1 second.
Our iodine test papers are very similar to the chlorine test papers. They are semi-quantitative, and the color chart is shades of purple. To use, just dip the strip into the solution for 60 seconds, remove, and compare to the color chart.
When you get your reading, if the concentration is too high, dilute the solution, or if the concentration is too low, add sanitizer to achieve the required concentration.
Some health departments may specify how often you should check the concentration, and others may not. If it isn’t specified, be sure to check often enough to ensure the proper concentration at all times. A minimum of twice a day is recommended.
- Test chemical sanitizers in all locations, including the buckets for your wiping cloths, the 3-compartment sink, and the low temperature dish machine.
- Inspectors will often ask for your test strips and have you test the sanitizing solution, or they will test it themselves. Asking you to provide the test strips will show them if you keep them readily available. In addition, watching you do the test will show them if you know how.
- The requirement for test strips may not always be critical in all states, but if you violate it, it will be marked on the inspection form. It’s best to have the test strips, use them, make sure your staff knows how to use them, and keep all your sanitizing solutions at the proper concentration.