The number one cause of damage to wooden table tops in hospitality spaces is the inappropriate use of harsh cleaning products which includes the widely used D10 Sanitiser.
Most wooden table tops are supplied with a lacquer coating. Lacquer is a product made by dissolving nitrocellulose together with plasticizers and pigments in a mixture of solvents. It provides a strong layer of protection that can last for years if cared for properly. The problem is that sanitisers break down the chemical properties of lacquer causing it to soften. Softer lacquer is more likely to peel or discolour and is more easily marked – including ring marks from hot and/or wet glasses and cups. What’s worse is this damage is completely unnecessary.
You don’t need to use a sanitiser on restaurant table tops
That’s right. There is no specific legislation for cleaning tables only legislation for general hygiene practices. Let’s take a close look at the specific regulations.
Annex II, Chapter I, paragraph 1 of EU Regulation 852/2004 states that “Food premises are to be kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition.”
The regulation goes on to require specific actions in rooms where food is prepared, treated or processed. “to be maintained in a sound condition and be easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect.”
The legislation which all UK food businesses are required to comply with can be found online here.
The distinction is that while the whole premises must be kept clean and well maintained, only kitchen and food preparation areas must be disinfected, where necessary. So you don’t need to use a disinfectant on restaurant table tops. In fact, you really shouldn’t.
The Food Standards Agency gives the following two step advice for areas where food is prepared.
- 1. Use a cleaning product to remove visible dirt from surfaces and equipment, and rinse.
- 2. Disinfect the surface using the correct dilution and contact time for the disinfectant, after rinse with fresh clean water if required.
For front of house tables you only need to complete step one.
You can read their advice here.
The problem with D10 & other sanitisers
D10 is marketed as a ‘concentrated detergent disinfectant for cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces in food premises.’ Many restaurants buy this cleaner to sanitise kitchen areas (in line with the regulations above) but continue to use it to wipe down surfaces throughout the restaurant.
D10 is really designed for food preparation tables found in commercial kitchens. These would normally be manufactured from stainless steel and are non-porous designed to be wiped-clean by chemical substances.
D10 & other similar sanitisers are not at all suitable for wooden restaurant tables as their corrosive nature destroys the protective layer the lacquer provides. Sanitisers that contain abrasives, ammonia, bleach, spirit or other aggressive chemicals will all corrode the lacquer and so ruin the table top.
Tell-tale signs of sanitiser damage on wooden table tops
- The lacquer starts to look milky/cloudy instead of bright.
- It has started to ring mark or scratch easily
- The lacquer is completely worn away and you can see raw timber showing through
What’s the best way of cleaning wooden table tops?
Soap (or a regular mild detergent) and warm water! That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you use liquid detergent to wash your dishes, squirt it in a clean bucket full of warm water & you’re good to go. Or buy an empty trigger spray bottle and fill with warm soapy water in place of the bucket.
Why can lacquer wear more quickly on some tables rather than others?
- Table tops with a higher gloss level offer more protection. This is because the slightly different ingredients of a lacquer with a high gloss finish make it set harder that a lacquer with a matt finish.
- A stained wooden table top with lacquer on is sometimes more vulnerable to damage than an unstained top. This is because the stain is absorbed into the wood, so when the lacquer is then applied on top of the stain, it is not absorbed so well, lessening its grip.
- Lacquer on table tops now tends to be Acid Catalyst (AC); this has replaced Polyurethane (PU) as PU is a more toxic substance, more difficult and harmful to work with and unfriendly to the environment. AC is possibly slightly less hard-wearing than PU.
- Damage to lacquer is also more obvious in some venues than others. Table tops are literally in the spotlight in well-lit restaurants, meaning damage will be more obvious than in, say, a dimly-lit pub or club.