The Smartest Cleaning Trick I Learned Working at a Restaurant (I Had No Idea I Was Doing It Wrong!)

published Jan 20, 2024
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Close up view of happy woman clean home or restaurant. She wiping dust using spray and orange fabric cleaning on dirty table. House keeping maid cleaning service job to prevent covid19 virus outbreak.
Credit: Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock

The competition for my all-time favorite job is steep. Of course, my current job at The Kitchn is a top contender, but between spending summers as a camp counselor and working at Jamba Juice throughout college it’s hard to say which takes the cake. My four years at the smoothie chain didn’t involve any not-quite-potty-trained tots (unlike my camp job) which was nice; I also learned so much about food safety and customer service in my Jamba days. And there’s one simple cleaning tip I’ve carried with me all these years.

Before I could start as a professional smoothie slinger, we were required to go through a food safety training that went over all the dos and don’ts of kitchen hygiene, prepping and storing food, and sanitary measures when it comes to all things cleaning and cooking. One tip my manager shared with me totally blew my mind: When you go to clean a surface with a spray bottle, make sure you spray the rag instead of the surface. And I’ll tell you why.

When you spray a surface like the pick-up counter at a smoothie shop, the cleaning solution and all of its fun (read: potentially toxic) chemicals and ingredients get everywhere — you have minimal control of the surface you’re spraying. Instead, when you spray the rag or sponge directly (at close range while pointed away from the surface you’re cleaning, or any of your ingredients), it limits the exposure of the cleaning solution in the area where it matters most. In my job, it was obviously important that none of the food we were serving was contaminated with bleach, vinegar, or other disinfectants, but at home it’s important, too.

Mind-blown — I had been doing it wrong my entire life! And while I haven’t been behind a Jamba counter in years, the tip has stuck with me. In fact, it’s even more relevant to me today, as I live in a tiny apartment with a single slab of counter as my cooking space. Because I cook in such tight quarters, everything I do needs to be precise. If I sprayed my countertop directly, I’d likely get cleaning solution on my food, my cabinets, and potentially other surfaces where it may be unsafe.

Of all the things I learned in my Jamba glory days, from the Strawberry Whirl recipe I could make with my eyes closed, to the correct number of banana slices meant to top the acai bowl, the spray-the-rag tip is the most impactful. And now you know!

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