How Clean Are Restaurant Rags?

You’ve all seen it: you’re eating at a (lower-end) restaurant (that doesn’t use tablecloths) and the customers at the next table get up and leave. A busboy/girl comes over to clear the plates, collect the tip, and wipe down the table.

I cringe when I see the rag they use. It looks like it’s been used all night, on every table, without once being rinsed out.

So, for all of you with restaurant experience, is the purpose of the rag in question just to get all the obvious food chunks and stains off the table, or is it to do all that, and hygienically clean the tabletop for the next customers?

If the latter, how clean are these rags?

Depends on the food joint you’re at. The KFC where I sometimes do maintance work, anytime a rag is needed, a fresh one is gotten, used, and tossed. It’s been a long time since I worked at McD’s, but I think we did the same thing there too.

OMG! You might be exposing yourself to bacteria! And with your compromised immune system, whatever are you to do!?!?!

Only one solution. Live in bubble.

In any restaurant I’ve ever worked in, which in my day was a few, that rag is dipped in bleach water between wipings. I wouldn’t worry about it.

Yes, this. Most eateries have huge quanities of interchangeable, bleachable white terrycloths. They go into a bucket of bleach water between uses.

(The percentage of bleach, and the number of uses a rag gets before being tossed in the laundry … those are up to the management, mostly.)

okay, so you cringe. But , other than the psychological worries,have you ever had any actual, physical worries?..(in other words, have you ever actually gotten sick?)

There are a couple billion bacteria crawling all over your skin right now…
Ooops! of them just fell off your right thumb into your soup! Now there are only 1,999,999,999 bacteria left…

When I worked in restaurants as a teenager, I was surprised and upset the first day or two. Then I realized that, hey, this place isn’t really any dirtier than my own house.
I don’t wash the dishrag at home after every use, either.
But , as I recall from many years ago,most restaurants are careful enough about hygiene to at least add chlorine to the rag water (do you use chlorine at home?) and then change the rag every second or third trip back to the kitchen with the cart full of dishes.

(By the way, the most obsessed-about-hygiene place I ever worked was… a sewage treatment plant. The plant operator explained it to me: “Here, you have to wash your hands before you take a shit.”)

Well those rags are usually in a bucket of solution that is a sanitizer. Whether or not the place cares or not is a different story. I would not worry about it you are eating off a plate not the table. The back of your chair when you pulled it out probably has more germs on it then anything else. Not to mention all the little microscopic critters on your skin and bed

At starbucks we had a bucket of rags and were supposed to change them every 30 minutes I think, perhaps less but 30 was the upper bound, we were also supposed to dip PH strips in to see if was at where it should be, we never did. We just dumped it when it got cloudy and refilled it with the solution that was hooked up to our back sink that would mix it right (in theory).

Unless the person is rubbing anthrax or something else all over the place I would not worry about it. Whatever you are putting in your mouth is far worse

Actually, the rag is supposed to be kept in the solution, not just dipped into it each time its used. Once it is taken out of the chlorine or ammonia solution, it begins to lose its potency.

The ratio of chlorine or ammonia to water is regulated by the local health department. I am most familar with quaternary based sanitizers, and our health department requires 200 ppm. The water must be changed every 4 hours because the chemicals evaporate. Rags are required to be changed when they are visibly soiled.

You were not testing the PH with those strips, you were testing the chlorine concentration. Also, your manager should be regularly testing the solution out of the dispenser, and adjusting it as needed. This is required by your health department. Not doing so, or not having test strips available at an inspection, is a critical violation and will result in a repeat inspection.

Cite? I work in a restaurant, and we do not do this, and never once did a state health inspector check this. If it is different from state to state, ok, but you made it sound like all health departments check this.

They check it in my state, and they write it up if the sanitizing solution is too weak or too strong.

Towels, towels, TOWELS. Not rags, towels. (former restaurant manger)

Also, one towel for seats, another towel for table tops. Although,I have no idea if this is a standard practice anywhere else.

From the 2009 FDA Food Code, which local health departments must base their requirments off of:

All bolding mine. It doesn’t specifically state that the inspector must return to verify that the offending violation(s) have been corrected, but in my experience, a violation such as this will indeed cause a repeat inspection to verify compliance.

Good point- makes me wonder why I even have a dishwasher in the house. A quick rinse of my dinner dishes under the tap should do the trick! Though I’m not sure if my dinner guests on Saturday will appreciate that. Should I tell them?

They are some of the most filthy and disgusting rags in existence. And sometimes the same towel used to wipe down tables is used to dry dishes or wipe the edges of plates on their way to customers! I’ve caught my co-workers at it.

I’ve worked in one establishment out of several that kept their towels in a bucket with sanitizer or bleach-water. The water was changed very rarely and the towel wasn’t dipped between multiple uses.

If the restaurant is clean in general, why wouldn’t they take care of the rags, too? When I used to work in a bagel shop, I kept the towels in a bleach solution, and we regularly changed them. But you could tell, when you came in - the whole place was clean, so this was just one more thing.

I simply avoid tipping my food off the plate and eating it directly from the tabletop, and thus avoid worrying about it. :rolleyes:

And what about the prep tables and cutting boards in the kitchen? and the produce/prep sink? The meat slicer, the electric mixer, the food processor, the cooler door handles, the knives, the serving spoons, the silverware trays, the pass through windows, etc, etc. All direct or indirect food contact surfaces that get cleaned with the same sanitation towels.

And before anyone says anything about “soap and water,” understand that soap doesn’t sanitize shit. Its “wash, rinse, SANITIZE,” (as in, that bleach soaked towel for anything that can’t fit in the dishwasher).

Read this and gag: Restaurant dishcloths ‘full of bacteria’ (BBC). “The researchers found 56% of cloths tested were unacceptable, carrying faecal bacteria or in some cases dangerous bugs such as Listeria.”

It’s more the family with the kids that spew food and germs all over that sat in the both at Ponderosa before me that worry me more than the kitchen help. At least I have some expectation that the management is at least attempting to keep the place clean; prior customers are just filth off of the street as far as I’m concerned.

All depends. Worked in that biz for decades. If they sit in a bucket of bleach then probably in good shape. It really comes down to the user and how much attention he or she pays to cleanliness.
You don’t want to here my ugly restaurant stories. Between stomping on food and adding human excretions you may never go out to eat again. Believe me it happens, and I have seen it first hand at the best of restaurants.
Shoot, I may have to cancel my dinner reservations for tonight…