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How To Keep A Stainless Steel Conveyor Clean And Sanitary

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Conveyors, Conveyor Thoughts

Certain industries, such as the food or pharmaceutical industry, require strict sanitary conditions. Their final products must be free of contaminants, and their manufacturing process must meet regulatory standards.

One of the ways these industries achieve compliance is by using stainless steel conveyors.

Even though stainless steel is a durable material that doesn’t corrode and is easy to clean and sanitize, it is not automatically sanitary. There are special considerations that need to be taken into account to ensure that a stainless steel conveyor meets the necessary sanitary standards for food production.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to keep a stainless steel conveyor clean and sanitary, starting with explaining the difference between the two.

What is the difference between clean and sanitary?

The terms “clean” and “sanitary” are often used interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings.

“Clean” means free of visible dirt or other contaminants.

“Sanitary,” on the other hand, means free of all contaminants, including bacteria and other microorganisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

In other words, clean is the first step to achieving sanitary conditions. When something is clean, it isn’t necessarily sanitary. But if something is sanitary, it must first be clean.

Are stainless steel conveyors sanitary?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011 with the goal of preventing foodborne illnesses.

According to the CDC, it is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year.

The FSMA put new regulations in place that food manufacturers must follow in order to reduce the risk of contamination.

Even before the FSMA was officially enacted, many food industry manufacturers hurried to upgrade their facilities and equipment to meet the new standards, including switching to stainless steel conveyors.

For some reason, the widespread belief at that time was that stainless steel conveyors were automatically sanitary.

However, this is not the case. Just because a conveyor system is made of stainless steel does not mean it is sanitary.

Why use stainless steel then?

If a stainless steel conveyor system isn’t sanitary by default, why would food manufacturers use them?

The answer is that, while stainless steel food conveyors are not sanitary on their own, they are incredibly easy to clean and sanitize. More so than any other type of material.

This is thanks to their smooth surfaces that don’t have nooks and crannies where contaminants can hide. The non-porous nature of stainless steel prevents microorganisms from seeping in.

In addition, stainless steel is a very durable material. It has corrosion resistance and can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for use in food processing facilities where deep cleaning and sanitizing are often required.

What is a sanitary conveyor?

If it’s not the material, then what is it that makes a conveyor sanitary?

The answer is in the way conveyors are designed. It is the way the conveyor is built that determines whether it is sanitary or not.

Here are some core characteristics that all sanitary conveyor designs have in common:

  • Easy access to all parts of the conveyor for cleaning and inspection – If there are areas of the conveyor that are difficult to reach, it becomes much harder to clean them properly. A sanitary design will have all parts of the conveyor easily accessible.
  • No traps within the design where contaminants can accumulate – This is why sanitary conveyors typically have a very simple and straightforward design. All surfaces and conveyor components should be smooth with no nooks or crannies where contaminants can hide.
  • No areas where water or other cleaning solutions can pool and stagnate – Any pools that form on the conveyor are potential breeding grounds for bacteria. A sanitary design will have no areas where water can pool.
  • Welds instead of fasteners – Fasteners are another potential trap for contaminants. A sanitary design will use welds instead of fasteners to join different parts of the conveyor together.

As you can see, there is more to a clean conveyor than just the material it is made out of. The conveyor construction is also important.

Keep in mind that even the best-designed conveyor options will eventually need to be replaced if it is not properly maintained. Proper maintenance doesn’t only include regular cleaning but also inspecting the conveyor for signs of wear and tear.

Any damaged or worn parts should be replaced immediately to prevent contaminants from accumulating.

How to clean and sanitize a stainless steel conveyor

Let’s say you have a stainless steel conveyor in your food processing facility. It is well-designed, and there is no damage or wear.

You still need to clean and sanitize it regularly to ensure it stays sanitary. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do that:

  • Remove loose debris – By loose debris, we mean anything that is not attached to the conveyor. This includes things like food scraps, packaging material, etc. Before any actual cleaning can occur, all of this debris must be removed.
  • Pre-rinse – At the very start, you will need to pre-rinse the conveyor with water. This is to remove any large particles of dirt or debris that might be clinging to the surface.
  • Apply cleaning solution – Once the conveyor has been pre-rinsed, you can apply a cleaning solution. There are many different types of cleaning solutions that can be used. Just make sure you choose one that is designed for use on stainless steel.
  • Inspect – Before you can move on to sanitizing, you need to inspect the conveyor to make sure it is actually clean. Look for any areas that might have been missed during cleaning. If you find any, go back and clean them again.
  • Sanitize – Once the conveyor is clean, you can move on to sanitizing using a sanitizing solution. Again, there are many different types of sanitizing solutions available. Choose one that is designed for use on stainless steel.
  • The sanitizing solution you use may be a no-rinse, or it may require rinsing. If it requires rinsing, make sure you do so thoroughly.

An important note here is that some conveyors require complete disassembly for cleaning (and the mandatory unplugging of electrical components). This is usually the case with conveyors that have a lot of nooks and crannies or are very complex in design.

If your conveyor falls into this category, you will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly disassemble and reassemble it.

Can cleaning and sanitizing be automated?

Are there easier ways to clean and sanitize a conveyor than doing it manually? Can you clean a food handling conveyor without taking it apart? The answer is yes to both of those questions.

Cablevey tube conveyor solutions have special clean-in-place (CIP) mechanisms that allow them to be cleaned and sanitized without disassembly.

Our CIP systems are designed to clean the main section of the conveyor – the tube – in a fast and efficient manner. Plus, they can be operated automatically, which means your workers can be doing other tasks while the conveyor is being cleaned.

There are both wet and dry CIP options available. Wet CIP cleaning processes use water or another liquid to clean the conveyor.

Dry CIP systems use air knives, brushes, urethane wiper discs, or special sponge discs combined with sanitizing cleaners. Both types of systems are effective at cleaning and sanitizing the conveyor.

The type of system you choose will depend on your specific needs and preferences. The most important consideration is how the material you’re conveying reacts to water.

If you’re conveying dry products or materials that are sensitive to water, then a dry CIP system is the better option. If you’re conveying wet products or materials that can withstand being exposed to water, then a wet CIP system in conveyor lines would be the better choice.


The key takeaway from this article should be the fact that no product handling system is sanitary by default, including stainless steel conveyors.

To keep a conveyor sanitary, it needs to be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. There are many different ways food processors can do this, but the most important thing is to choose a method that is effective and works for your specific needs.

However, stainless steel has an advantage over other types of conveyor materials in that it is easier to clean and sanitize. This is because it is non-porous and resistant to bacteria.

If you’d like to know more about our stainless steel conveyors, sanitary conveyor systems, or our CIP systems, please contact us. We would be happy to answer any of your questions.

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