The Scrub Down: Recent innovations offer solutions to pot washing

Possibly the least envied of all foodservice jobs is that of the pot washer. Not only is this hard work, but it is messy, dirty and usually too hot. Employers are also having trouble filling the position of janitor, which requires scrubbing and washing down everything, including floors and walls. One way to overcome this challenge is to find ways to make a washer’s or clean-up person’s job a bit easier and maybe save a little labor in the process.

For many years, equipment manufacturers have been asked this same question and have responded with several innovations. Here are some of the more recent ones:

Power Scrubber
In simple terms, the power scrubber is a pot brush with an electric motor. Recognizing the effort it takes to scrub pots with baked-on food or grease, at least one manufacturer has designed these brushes to rotate on flexible power shafts and scour pots, pans and utensils with minimal effort. The power unit for the scrubber typically mounts on the wall at the pot sink and is connected to a six-foot flexible shaft used to scrub the soiled dishware. One manufacturer makes a variety of brushes and scrubbers that can be easily changed on the shaft. In addition to the traditional brushes, there are wire brushes for scouring tougher soil and even an impregnated plastic composite head for scrubbing baked-on carbon deposits from pots and baking pans.

Recirculating Soaker
Fairly new to the restaurant industry, the recirculating soaker does most of the work itself with little manual scrubbing required. While the actual design is a bit more complex, these units basically consist of a big water pump built into a pot sink. The cleaning formula behind the recirculator is simply water agitation or water moving around soiled pots and pans to loosen and wash away food particles and dirt. While this motion will quickly wash away light to medium soil, heavy soil and baked-on carbon deposits could require some scrubbing. Some units also have built-in heaters that work in conjunction with the circulating jets.

By keeping the water warm, these heaters act as an aid in loosening soil.
Several types of recirculators are currently on the market. Effective and reasonably priced, the smaller units are composed of fractional horsepower attachments to a pot sink, which loops water through a pump at one end of the sink. All that is needed to retrofit most recirculators in the pot sink is an electrical outlet and a mechanic who will make the appropriate cutout in your sink. One manufacturer has introduced a unit that is able to recirculate, agitate and heat water using the existing drain hole as the water inlet. This new unit can be installed easily and does not require any holes to be punched in the sink itself.

On the other hand, if you run a larger operation and use a lot of labor to wash pots, it might be worth the extra money to go big. Most of the larger recirculating soakers are bought as an entire specialized pot sink in an integral unit and cannot be retrofitted into an existing sink. These might have a 11¼2 or 2 horsepower motor with water intakes and outlet jets perfectly positioned in a properly sized sink bowl. Essentially custom built for different types of operations and the space configuration available, the larger recirculators are available in three compartment sink sizes with various options. In addition to requiring 208 volt service for the water pump and high wattage heater, these larger units have wash sinks with up to 75 gallons of water capacity for handling many pots and pans. Some of the other options available with recirculators include built-in waste disposers, drain boards of various lengths, shelves over or under and additional scraper sinks. Along with the standard heater for the wash tank that keeps the water at about 120 degrees, operators can choose sanitizer sink heaters that boost water to 180 degrees.
As operators use these recirculating soakers as a replacement for ordinary pot washing, they will find that using this type of equipment has even more advantages: reduced labor, cleaner pots and pans, and improved morale among pot washers.

Pressure Washer
Pressure washers not only help to keep kitchens clean, but they offer some reduction in water and chemical usage over traditional methods. Most operators use as much hot water as possible to clean floors and then add excessive detergent, thinking it will ease the cleaning work. While too much water on the floor generally means more time and work to mop it up or squeegee it to a drain, possibly resulting in leaking problems, excess detergent just costs money. Manufacturers of pressure washers say 125 degree water at 600 to 800 pounds per square inch of pressure is ideal for cleaning walls and floors. Typical water usage is about three gallons per minute, which is about one-third of the water that flows through the hose.

Although units typically have a built-in pump, hose reel, and an inlet for detergent to be directly injected into the water stream, several types, sized and equipped for different applications, are available on the market. The most popular style is a single wall- mount unit requiring only a water source and a standard 120-volt electrical outlet.

When it comes to hose lengths, the standard is 30 to 35 feet, but operators can normally choose lengths up to 100-feet. With a 100-foot radius for spray cleaning, a centrally located unit may be all that is needed for the small to medium size operation.

Other types of basic units offer more features and are designed for larger operations. One manufacturer offers a compact system that mounts under a counter. Another system worth mentioning is portable and can be used inside or outside the operation. It only needs an electric outlet to connect to its extension cord and an ordinary hose for its water supply.

If operators need more sophisticated cleaning options, they can choose the master unit that can be located in a service room in the restaurant. Piping can then be provided by the operation leading to nozzles at each point of use. A nozzle can even be located outside on the loading dock or adjacent to the parking lot for outdoor wash down. The pressure washer also has portable hose reels that can be rolled to the point of use for quick clean-up, then moved to the next nozzle site.

Taking some of the drudgery and hard work out of pot washing and floor clean-up is important to many operators. The recirculating soaker, power scrubber and pressure washer just might be the tools you’re looking for.