Warewashing: What is it?

Warewashing: What is it?

Warewashing is the term used to describe the act of collecting and washing any kitchen ware used in the preparation, serving, or storing food.  Although not an exhaustive list, this mainly refers to the pots and pans, cutlery, flatware, glasses, kitchenware, serving pans, and trays.


The process includes collecting the dirty items at a particular location, prepping them by scraping excess debris off before washing and rinsing them. An important step in the process is sanitization, which occurs after washing. Once sanitized, the items are dried and placed back in service to use again.

The difference between cleaning and sanitizing is vast but often co-mingled or misused by uneducated or misinformed people.

Cleaning removes food and other debris from the surface of an item such as a counter, utensil, or plate. Sanitization reduces and kills the number of diseases causing microorganisms and germs on the cleaned surface to safe and non-dangerous levels. In a commercial establishment, this is critical to the success of the business.

Everyone preparing or consuming food is affected by this process.  At home; in a restaurant; take out; a hotel; hospital; everywhere. Even if you are buying packaged food at the store, someone somewhere prepared it and dirtied some kitchenware to do so.

For our purposes here, each time you go to a restaurant and order something to eat, it is prepared and then served in some container. You eat using some utensil before the dirty dishes are collected and sent to the wash area to be cleaned, sanitized, and dried, before use again.


The same process happens when you go to a bar and order a drink.  The bars are usually self-contained stocking and storing their glassware directly at the bar. Some bars wash and sanitize their glassware at the bar while others send it to a central warewashing area.

Warewashing accounts for approximately 15% of any food service’s operating costs.

The DOE (Department of Energy) lists foodservice businesses as the most energy intensive consumers in the entire commercial sector.

Actual Definitions of Warewashing

Warewashing is a food code term meaning the cleaning and sanitizing of utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment.  These definitions of warewashing are a little dry for most people and do not tell the full story.

From Answers.com the definition of warewashing is:

“The definition of ware washing is the cleaning and sanitizing of pots and pans. It is cleaning and sanitizing dishes, utensils, bowls, and other kitchen items that come in contact with food products.“

And from Gamut Online, the definition of warewashing is:

“Warewashing” means the cleaning and sanitizing of utensils and food-contact surfaces of equipment.


Is it “Warewashing” or “Ware Washing.”

“Warewashing” and “ware washing” are interchangeable, and you will see both in use. It seems the single word form takes precedence in most industry cases describing the discipline, category, and equipment, and the two-word, ware washing, refers to the verb use and description.  Not always, though, and, unfortunately, there is no consistency.

We stick with Warewashing, and it serves both purposes.


5 Key Principles for All Warewashing Systems

There are five time-tested fundamental principles in use in most warewashing systems regardless of brand and type.  They are:

  • Volume
  • Time
  • Temperature
  • Consumables (Detergents and Chemicals)
  • Mechanical Action

These five principles help determine the best solution to choosing the right warewashing system for a given application regardless of brand or vendor.

For example, a high volume application such as a full-service banquet hall would probably need to clean more volume than a small café serving drinks only.  Additionally, it would require more time due to the volume.

However, reducing the ware washing time may reduce the requirements for additional kitchenware.  This tradeoff can be compared against the cost of the additional kitchenware to see which offers the greatest ROI. Reducing wash time may be a better option than purchasing additional kitchenware.  Thereby, increasing overall profits and lowering costs.

Temperature and consumables also play a critical role in Warewashing as they determine the greatest recurring costs of the system. Once all the equipment is in place, heating the water to the correct temperature and providing the proper amount of detergent and chemicals to clean and sanitize is the greatest day-to-day cost.  The equipment is usually energy star compliant, so energy costs are low compared to the consumables.

The consumables must come from a reputable source and must be certified “Food Safe.” The detergents must conform to industry standards for cleaning efficiency.  The sanitization chemicals must also meet rigid standards.  The sanitization process must kill 99.9999% of harmful bacteria and germs after a 30-second period.

 Temperature and consumables also play a critical role in Warewashing as they determine the greatest recurring costs of the system.

Referring to our previous example between the Banquet Hall and the Café, it may make more sense for the Banquet Hall to specify a high-temperature system that uses heat to sanitize and requires fewer chemicals.  Keeping the temperature high with the volume required may be more cost-effective in the end.

Conversely, the Café, with their low volume will require more energy to raise the water to a high temp for their infrequent and more moderate volume. The Cafe may be better suited to using a lower temperature to clean while adding slightly more detergent.  Then induce additional chemicals to sanitize.

Mechanical action is the last principal for a reason.  There are several types of equipment, from many different manufacturers, that will achieve your goals.  Determining the correct one for your application requires looking at all the variables and determining the best solution.  High volume needs will require different solutions than low volume needs.  Additionally, determining the number of laborers in the Warewashing area will be another key in specifying the proper Warewashing machines for your application.

Clearly, each application needs to consider the five principals before making a long-term decision while manipulating, and observing the tradeoffs of each variable to get the lowest cost with the best results.

There are different types of Warewashing:

Manual Warewashing

We are all familiar with Manual Warewashing. It is what we do when we wash dishes by hand.  It is frequently used in the foodservice industry for small batches or low volumes. Manual Warewashing in retail food establishments depends on a number of factors. These include the type of manual process, the equipment used, the volume or throughput, the kind of wares washed.

Additionally, where the wares originate in the kitchen is another aspect to consider.  Where the wares originated such as hot or cold environments also plays a part.

Manual Warewashing is very labor intensive considering a person is performing the same job a machine could be performing.  One needs to weigh the cost of labor against the cost of equipment to determine the best value for the particular application.


Machine Warewashing

Machine Warewashing is less labor intensive as it uses machines and equipment to perform some or all of the tasks requiring a laborer in the Manual Warewashing process.  Machine Warewashing integrated automation frees laborers up to perform other duties. This allows fewer people to be required while lowering payroll and benefits cost.  Additionally, a machine may wash more consistently and does not require overtime or sick days.

The efficiencies gained in Machine Warewashing come at a higher equipment cost and footprint. To accommodate the machine process, additional floor space may be needed for larger equipment.  Volume and frequency are variables to consider before settling on Machine Warewashing.

wareforce cabinet dishwasher

Cabinet Style Warewashing

Cabinet style Warewashing is what most people are familiar with and is a derivative of Machine Warewashing. The cabinet is a boxy, upright dishwasher utilizing a fixed wash cycle.  It is designed to remove debris that can be removed in most instances during one cycle.  It is mainly used for plates, glasses, and flatware or cutlery.

The kitchenware or glassware is loaded into “Racks” and washed one rack at a time using a fixed wash cycle time and utilizing spray nozzles and jets to spray the cleaning solution onto the soiled items without submerging them in a cleaning solution during cleaning.


Continuous Motion Warewashing

A Continuous Motion System is different from a traditional warewashing cabinet style system in that it not cycle based.  There is no set wash cycle.  Items are dropped into a wash basin consisting of jet-based agitators.  The jets create turbulence in the water that is mixed with detergent to scour the kitchenware continuously until the items are removed from the basin.  While washing, the kitchenware is submerged 100% of the time. This frees up staff to perform other tasks while the items are cleaning. Items may be added and removed any time. Continuous motion Warewashing systems have an advantage of reducing labor costs and are highly efficient and cost effective.


Scalable Warewashing

Scalable Warewashing scales dynamically as the size of the tank changes.  The systems are dynamic in that the jets and nozzles increase in number as the wash basin size increases.  This coupled with the increased gallons of water per minute and increased wash action optimize the cleaning action for the particular size wash basin. Regardless of size and volume, you are always getting the optimal cleaning action and throughput.


Non-Scalable Warewashing

Non-Scalable Warewashing uses standard equipment sizes for all applications sizes.  The same number of nozzles and jets clean a 36” x 36” wash tank as a 36” x 60” wash tank.  This reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of the larger system. Wash action may be compromised long term.  This may also increase day-to-day consumables use due to reduced cleaning efficiencies.  Likewise, the smaller wash tank may be too powerful and overkill for the wash tank size.


Additional Warewashing Options and Considerations

Additional considerations include water softeners and water filtration. Water is water, is not always right.  There are hard and soft variations throughout the country.  The harder the water the harder on equipment it is.  Minerals and deposits in the water supply can wreck havoc on a Warewashing system.


Water Filters

Water filters for Warewashing systems can filter water directly at the Warewashing station, all or specific pieces of equipment, the whole kitchen, or the complete facility.  Typically, not every connection needs to be filtered water.  A perfect example would be the toilet.

The benefits of filtering include reduction of mineral deposits in the water.  This reduces spotting and may require fewer consumables to perform the cleaning and sanitization requirements.


Water Softeners

Soft water gets things cleaner. Although lumped together sometimes, water softeners for Warewashing perform a different task than the filtration process.  Water softeners main purpose is to reduce scale buildup.  This, in turn, helps your cleaning and sanitization process, perform better.

Your customer will notice a soft water warewashing output compared to a non-softened output.  The cutlery will be shinier; there will be fewer spots and fewer mineral deposits.

Besides looking better due to soft water, water softeners perform a more critical role. One that is often overlooked: Helping to maintain equipment.  Hard water causes scale buildup.  Scale buildup clogs things up such as nozzles.

A clogged nozzle reduces efficiency and may not spray the required amount of water to adequately clean kitchenware. This causes additional detergents or detergents that have a percentage of the volume dedicated to reducing buildup vs. actual cleaning.  This increases your cost while lowering efficiency and cleaning efficiency.


Booster Heaters

Booster Heaters are another option that needs to be weighed against the application.  A Booster Heater allows a lower temperature dishwasher to clean the kitchenware.  This reduces the capital cost of the dishwasher specified.  This lower temperature equipment reduces day-to-day costs by also reducing the energy costs required. The chemicals needed for sanitization may increase as a result.  This tradeoff needs to be weighed against your particular application to see if it warrants additional consideration.

Warewashing Conclusions

As we conclude our warewashing overview, one can see that warewashing is not just about washing dishes.  The process of warewashing is complex and detailed and requires knowledge and experience to grasp a full understanding of the process.

The professionals at Sani-Servant, LLC have been in the restaurant industry for over 25 years working on both sides of business.  Their understanding  of what is important and their exceptional customer service make them an excellent resource to help you make the correct decision for your business.