Warewashing: What Is It?

Fundamentally speaking, warewashing can be described as the act of sanitizing wares used to prepare or serve food. It may take on many forms, but for the most part, they all involve the exact same process, as well as accomplish the very same goals.


What Is the Correct Spelling: Ware Washing or Warewashing?

This phrase has been written in a number of different ways in the foodservice sector. In fact, both forms have been used interchangeably. If we were to follow strict conventions of the English language, though, then “warewashing” would be used to acknowledge a category or industry, while “ware washing” would be used as a verb. For instance, “warewashing programs” may be something you see as one of the categorized programs we offer. You might then notice a chart that displays “ware washing directions” for anyone looking to wash wares (and need directions to do so).


Automatic Warewashing

Even if warewashing sounds like a technical term that is foreign to you, chances are pretty good that you already have experience with it. Machine (or automatic) warewashing describes the active using equipment to help with the sanitation process. For the most part, this is accomplished by way of a commercial dishmachine. One of the biggest considerations for a foodservice operator involves the type of dishmachine they should get. There is no shortage of options to choose from. For example, there are flight machines, conveyors, upright models, and under-counter models. We have put together a buying guide for dishmachines to simplify the process of picking one.


Manual Warewashing

Just about every facility has a commercial dishmachine (if not some other type of automatic warewashing equipment). Many local and state health codes mandate manual processes, and are justified in doing so. If you have a dishmachine that breaks down, you’ll still need to find a method of producing sanitary dishes for the sake of keeping operations flowing. As such, manual warewashing can handle wares too big for a dishmachine (and/or wares that warrant special care in order to prevent damages). The average manual warewashing process involves three compartments. A 3–bay sink can also be used, though the process takes a lot longer in comparison to automatic warewashing.


The Warewashing Process

While both processes produce the same result, they are quite different. Understanding how to go about structuring your sanitation process efficiently – no matter which of the two options you use – can help you save plenty of money and time. Fundamentally, warewashing is all about producing reusable, clean wares. This is accomplished by cleaning first, then sanitizing.


The Cleaning Process

All food service establishments clean their wares with detergent, just like you do at home. In commercial settings, you typically have a lot more options in comparison to residential users – liquids or solids. The type of product you use can range from a value option to a premium one, each of which have price and effectiveness variances. Detergents that are used for manual and automatic warewashing are quite different. After all, you wouldn’t use dishmachine or automatic detergent for a 3-compartment sink – mostly for safety reasons. Dishmachine detergent happens to be a lot more corrosive and concentrated in comparison to manual detergent. That is because it needs to accomplish the exact same cleanliness level within a short period of time (in comparison to a manual wash duration).


Many manual detergents, by comparison, are a lot safer. Soaking steps are usually needed before wares are washed for the sake of loosening anything stuck or burned on them. Endeavor to wear gloves if you use an industrial manual detergent. While they are a lot safer in comparison to dishmachine detergents, your skin could become irritated and/or dried out from them, post-contact. No matter what kind of washing solution you use, if it touches your skin, serious harm can come about. This is even applicable to safe detergents used in home settings (if your skin is exposed to the solution repeatedly).


Something else that separates the automatic warewashing process from the manual one involves the rinsing step. For dishmachines, you would normally use a rinse agent (ideally one that is dedicated) to neutralize any lingering detergent. This will also minimize the water’s surface tension to dry out the wares more effectively. As far as manual warewashing settings go, rinsing entails nothing more than warm water. This can be attributed to the variations in the steps involved.


The Sanitizing Process

Although cleaning takes away particulate matter away from surfaces of wares, that doesn’t necessarily mean that such wares are completely sanitary. To achieve absolute sanitation, you need to use a food contact solution registered by the EPA. Sanitizing destroys most of the lingering viruses, fungi, and bacteria, allowing you to put food on plates for customers safely. You must use a sanitizer registered with the EPA, because products like these go through a number of different evaluations to make sure that they are working as they were intended to.


Generally speaking, when it comes to warewashing, you have a couple of options – sanitizing solutions that are quat-based and bleach-based. The type of sanitizer that you use will be contingent on the kinds of wares you’re using. You shouldn’t expose silver to a chlorine-based sanitizer or run them through dishmachines. Doing so will corrode the wares. Sanitizers that are bleach-based can impact the properties and taste of wine and beer (if/when consumed in drinking glasses). You would be better suited to utilize a sanitizer that is quat-based. Solutions that are chlorine-based aren’t recommended for 3-compartment sinks, either. For more information about the distinctions between quat and bleach-based sanitizers, click here.


Sanitizers for 3-compartment sinks warrant much more contact time to completely sanitize wares (generally 60 seconds). Although just about every 3-compartment sink requires chemical sanitizers, not every commercial dishmachine uses one. In fact, many machines use highly sustained heat in order to destroy residual pathogens. You’ll be forced to use water temperatures greater than 180°F. Achieving this temperature usually involves the help of a specialized booster heater. This kind of device heats up water before it goes into the dishmachine. As such, using a boiler to accommodate the dishmachine isn’t necessary.


Granted, there are plenty of benefits and drawbacks that come with using low-temperature chemical sanitizers – or even high-temperature ones – in a dishmachine. Both options should be contrasted against each other to establish which one can accommodate you best. Whichever option you and up going with, the endgame here should be to ensure that your patrons are protected to the best of your ability.


Warewashing Costs

The expenses that come with operating an establishment in the foodservice industry can be quite high. In fact, the warewashing costs alone can be as high as 20% of your overall operating costs. Some extra consideration and attention will be needed on your end. As displayed in the following chart (which breaks down the details of warewashing energy usage, set up, and labor costs). It is hardly surprising to see that these costs take a big part of your budget. Also, consider the fact that hourly workers will need to be paid wages that are always increasing. There are other economic and environmental factors to also keep in mind. This begs the question – how can a warewash program be structured to optimize efficiency?


Cost-Saving Approaches: Labor

Labor efficiency involves the waitstaff, busing staff, and your dishwasher. You will need a counter that is properly decoyed. If you have busing employees that bring in a ton of dishes, will they simply place random wares in places they can find room on? Decoyed systems disperse different wares in designated zones all over the counter, which tells waitstaff and bussers where certain wares should be placed. As such, wares that are similarly shaped and sized can be grouped together and stacked up accordingly. This simplifies the process of a manual dishwasher grabbing stacks of bowls or plates all at once, expediting the racking and scrapping they need to do. A decoyed system enforces racking practices that help save on labor. When feasible, wash each ware individually. Be mindful of shielding and/or positioning large wares before smaller ones. Also, strive to prevent such wares from being occluded/touched. Doing so will optimize cleaning for both types of wares, nullifying leftover soils. Consequentially, re-washing won’t be necessary. Another thing to keep in mind are the pre-soaking solutions you use. These solutions can remove soil from flatware, essentially pre-cleaning them before they are inserted into a dishwasher. Without a pre-soaking solution, the silverware won’t achieve the cleanliness they should have. You might have to manually wash silverware afterward to take away any film build-up or dinginess.


When it comes to handwashing, determine just how much is being done in a 3-compartment sink. Many people use such sinks to wash sizable baking trays, pans, and pots exclusively. However, if you’re washing a lot of dishes by hand, then consider using a dedicated pot washer or scullery machine of some sort. Such dishmachines typically come with large door openings for the sake of accommodating big pots and trays while still letting you wash pans and pots much faster than you usually do. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a dishmachine or washing manually – you need to ensure that the wares are being pre-scrapped and pre-soaked. This will remove soil access, minimizing the burden that is placed on the dishmachine (and your hands). Subsequently, detergent efficiency will be increased, and clogged filters will be prevented, among other benefits.


Energy and Water

Energy and water are typically considered to be fixed costs – ones that operators do not have very much control over. Although you cannot change the fluctuating prices of natural resources like these, the options at your disposal can have a big effect in the future. When you are trying to decide what kind of dishmachine to use, water and energy consumption should be a deciding factor. Finding a commercial dishmachine that can accommodate your requirements and remain highly efficient will be challenging, though the system implemented by Energy Star can simplify such a decision for you. The independent certification group known as Energy Star makes sure machines either exceed or meet stringent guidelines for energy consumption. A lot of these types of machines efficiently conserve water – some use just 0.79 water gallons per cycle (which is less than the average toilet)!

Trying to decide between low-temperature and high-temperature machines can also make a big impact. High-temperature machines warrant more energy for water heating, though exceptions are made if you have sufficient hot water to accommodate the entire setting. On the other hand, low-temperature machines not only use a lot more water – they add more chemicals to it as well. Both factors can make your decision tough. However, thanks to renewable energy advancements, high-temperature machines are generally preferred, as they are the lesser of two evils, as far as environmental impact is concerned. High-temperature machines are more efficient when it comes to emulsifying tough and greasy soils. They optimize washing efficiency based on the kinds of foods that your restaurant is serving.


Chemical Expenses

Chemical expenses only take up a small percentage of a warewashing budget, but you’ll still need to do your due diligence. A lot of misleading practices are present in this industry, some of which can make you falsely believe that you aren’t spending as much as you actually are. A lot of this can be attributed to dilution rates. Although some products might be cheaper, if you’re using a lot more product when washing (or more product per water gallon), then those products will be much costlier to use, resulting in inflated costs. Consider every aspect of a chemical program carefully before transitioning to another provider or source.


Other Things to Keep in Mind

Something else that might result in greater warewashing and chemical efficiency involves the hardness of your water. Hardness ratings will vary from one region to another. They tend to be influenced by several factors, including the source of water, how old pipes are, and other aspects. In addition to water hardness, other troubles like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) will significantly impact chemical efficiency. For example, detergents may find their effectiveness minimized before the process of warewashing even begins based on the quality of water. Water treatment systems are an optimal approach to addressing this particular issue. As far as targeted applications are concerned, point-of-view systems are an option. Entire facility systems can also be used to offer filtered and/or softened water for just about every type of equipment.