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Cleaning and hygiene

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Practising proper cleaning and hygiene can help to lower the risk of illness by minimising the spread of food poisoning bugs.

Wash and dry hands

Proper hand washing is one of the most important and easiest ways to prevent illness.

To wash hands correctly:

  • use soapy water
  • rub hands together for at least 20 seconds, cleaning all surfaces of the hand
  • rinse hands well
  • dry with a clean towel.

Wash and dry hands thoroughly before starting to prepare or eat any food, even a snack.

Make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly after:

  • using the toilet
  • changing nappies
  • smoking
  • touching animals
  • blowing your nose
  • coughing or sneezing into hands
  • cleaning surfaces or handling waste, and
  • handling raw foods such as raw meat, poultry, eggs and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Clean kitchen, utensils and eating areas

  • keep benches and tables clean and dry. Wipe down and dry every time food is prepared or served from them
  • keep kitchen equipment and tools clean and dry. Clean after each use
  • only use clean plates, cups, utensils, chopping boards etc. Wash after each use
  • keep tea towels clean and dry and wash them regularly. After using a tea towel to dry dishes, hang it up to dry. If using tea towels to wipe up spills, wash after each use
  • clean sponges, scourers & dish brushes after each use. Rinse them in hot water and wring out. Alternatively, put them on a hot wash in the dishwasher. Leave to dry before using again
  • discard sponges, scourers & dish brushes when they show signs of permanent soiling
  • for spills on the floor or messes from pets, it’s best to use a single-use paper towel
  • don’t let animals into the kitchen or on benchtops and eating areas, if possible. Keep animals’ feeding bowls out of the kitchen.

Avoid cross contamination

  • don’t let raw meat and poultry come into contact with other foods. Store raw meat on a plate or in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge to prevent meat juices dripping onto other foods
  • use a separate cutting board and knife for raw meat or poultry. If this isn’t possible, wash cutting boards and knives thoroughly in hot soapy water and dry thoroughly before using to prepare other foods
  • thoroughly wash and dry all food equipment, such as bench tops and tools, that come into contact with fresh produce
  • if using grey water for the garden, don’t use it on the vegetable patch or herb garden.

Don't make food for others if you're ill

Some food poisoning bugs carried by people who are unwell with something like diarrhoea can be passed on through food they prepare.

Wait at least 2 days after symptoms of illnesses such as vomiting and gastro have stopped before preparing food for others.

If you have to prepare food for others and you are unwell or have been unwell in the previous 2 days, ask someone else to cook or organise takeaway food. If this isn’t possible it’s very important to:

  • wash hands thoroughly in soapy water and dry before preparing any food
  • follow the key food safety tips.

Heat all food to steaming hot, at least 60°C, before serving.


It's critical to continue to practise good hygiene during emergencies.

This can be challenging for a number of reasons:

  • access to safe water for cleaning can be difficult
  • floodwater can be contaminated with sewage, waste and other substances that can cause illness. Food, surfaces and cooking utensils can be contaminated by unsafe floodwater and splashes
  • fires can cause toxic fumes to contaminate food and kitchen equipment, even inside cupboards and fridges.

For tips on emergency events see food safety in emergencies.

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