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Guide to Conveyor Belt Cleaning & Maintenance

carrots going down a conveyor belt in a food processing facility

Cleanliness is vital to every piece of equipment in food processing, including conveyor belts, which may transport various products, from cabbage to cupcakes to chicken wings. This guide explores the importance of food conveyor cleaning and maintenance.

Keeping conveyor belts free of bacteria and pathogens protects consumers and workers. However, some belts are more challenging to clean than others—proper solvents and techniques are critical to meet sanitation standards.

Let’s look closer at the fundamentals, challenges, and conveying solutions of the food processing industry.

Food Safety Fundamentals

The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) lays out the rules and standards for food safety. FSMA regulations protect against foodborne illnesses, such as:

  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Campylobacter
  • Listeria
  • E. Coli
  • Toxoplasma

Foodborne illnesses are serious—they can cause sickness, hospitalization, or even death. Inspectors are authorized to take corrective actions if they find a facility violates FSMA requirements. A product recall is one of the most extreme and costly consequences for a food company; the average recall is $10 million in direct costs.

To fulfill FSMA regulations, you must create and adhere to a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Plan (HACCP). This plan describes the practices and procedures to maintain safety and cleanliness.

Different parts of a food production facility have different levels of contamination risk. Those directly in contact with food, such as conveyor belts, have the highest risk and, therefore, the most stringent HACCP requirements.

Cleanliness Challenges in Food Processing

A test swab is the most reliable way to determine whether a conveyor belt meets sanitation standards—a zero test count is proof that your belt is clean. Testing is simple, but cleaning pathogens and biofilm from a conveyor belt is not.

The first obstacle to conveyor belt cleaning is the material. For example, a smooth polyethylene belt is easier to wipe clean than steel-wire mesh.

The second issue is the type of soil to be cleaned, as some food substances are more difficult to remove than others. For example:

  • Fat
  • Honey
  • Oil
  • Grease
  • Sugar
  • Starch
  • Protein

A conveyor belt cleaning procedure should spell out how to best remove pathogens and biofilm from the belt surface. Pathogens are typically eliminated using a cleaning solvent or solution. Biofilm—which is made of microbial cells—requires a more physical cleaning technique.

Cleaning food off a Conveyor Belt

Effective Conveyor Belt Cleaning Procedures

Successful conveyor cleaning and maintenance requires a strategy tailored to your conveyor’s material and the type of soil to be cleaned. But before getting into specific methods, let’s learn about the four “TACT” cleaning variables.

T – Time

The more time you spend cleaning, the more effective it will be. Biofilm or pathogens may be left on a conveyor belt if you rush a cleaning. On the other hand, spending too long wastes resources and production time.

A – Action

You may require a specific cleaning action or equipment to break down the soil on your conveyor belt. Chemical action involves cleaning solvents, whereas physical (or mechanical) action includes scrubbing, scraping, or wiping.

C – Concentration

A cleaning solvent or solution with a high concentration can break soil down quickly and effectively. However, too high of a concentrate can harm conveyor belt material or leave a chemical residue behind.

T – Temperature

Higher temperatures typically give better cleaning results. The optimal temperature will break down the soil without damaging the conveyor belt.

There are two main cleaning methods used for conveyor belts in the food processing industry, and both are affected by the TACT variables.

Manual Cleaning
Scrubbing by hand can accomplish deep cleaning, especially when using the right tools and equipment. However, the manual method requires training and expertise for the best results, and sanitation crews have limited hours for cleaning activities.
Automated Cleaning
Using automated cleaning equipment frees up staff and produces reliable, consistent results. For soils that require frequent sanitation, automated cleaning can be a cost-effective choice.

The Brite Belt Solution

At Brite Belt, we’ve developed a simple and efficient conveyor belt cleaning unit for the food processing industry. Our scrubber eliminates pathogens and biofilm from a wide variety of conveyor belt surfaces:

  • Plastic
  • Neoprene
  • Stainless steel
  • Interlock
  • Rubber

Using the Brite Belt scrubber to clean a conveyor belt is easy:

  1. Attach scrubber pads on the underside of the unit
  2. Secure the scrubber unit in place on the conveyor belt surface
  3. Fill the unit with your chosen cleaning solution
  4. Operate the conveyor belt

As the belt moves, the aggressive—but non-abrasive—scrubber pads provide the mechanical action needed to remove biofilm. Orifices on the underside of the unit steadily release cleaning solution onto the belt to eliminate pathogens.

The Brite Belt unit is made of durable, non-reactive polyethylene and will accept mild to caustic cleaning solvents. Our specially designed scrubber pads remove biofilm without scratching the conveyor surface.

As part of a HACCP, a Brite Belt scrubber can fulfill cleaning requirements with minimal labor and efficient use of chemicals. Simple to operate, the scrubber helps you achieve a level of cleanliness that prevents pathogen and biofilm contamination in your operation.

The Brite Belt Conveyor Cleaning System in Action:

A Consistently Clean Conveyor Belt

The food processing industry is constantly under pressure to maintain strict sanitation practices. The health of workers and consumers depends on maintaining clean conveyor belts.

Brite Belt supports the industry goal of zero pathogens with our innovative conveyor belt scrubber. Simple and effective, our unit can be used in a standard configuration or custom designed for tight or unusually shaped spaces.

Experience the Brite Belt difference for yourself!