Keeping equipment and processing spaces clean is the best preventative maintenance action in order to keep operations in peak condition and maximize the service life of your equipment. In this guide, we discuss the most important things to keep in mind when designing a cleaning validation protocol for your cannabis processing, food, or pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment.
There are three key steps to properly cleaning cannabis and other processing equipment:
Cleaning will remove most germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces while sanitizing reduces the remaining germs on surfaces after cleaning to levels that public health codes or regulations consider to be safe.
In the case of cannabis processing equipment, for example, the cleaning process will remove buildups of organics and cannabis resin. Cleaning is performed with water, a degreaser/cleaner like GMP Solutions Step 1 Cleaner, and scrubbing. After cleaning and rinsing, the equipment can be sanitized with sanitizing sprays or wipes.
Creating a Cleaning Validation Protocol
Clean First, Sanitize Second
Cleaning is an important first step to remove any dirt, organics, greases, oils, or resin buildups from your equipment. Cleaning removes most harmful viruses or bacteria from surfaces. Surfaces should be cleaned before they’re sanitized because impurities like resin or dirt may make it harder for chemicals to reach and kill germs.
Clean Equipment After Each Use
It’s recommended that equipment is cleaned after each use. The longer resin and debris remain on the equipment, the more difficult it is to remove. Cleaning regularly ensures that contaminants are not introduced from one batch to the next – and makes the job much easier!
Use Warm or Hot Water
We recommend using warm or hot water to clean and rinse with. Most cleaners are formulated to work effectively up to 140°F (60°C).
Use an Effective Degreaser
Without the right cleaning products, residual organics and cannabis resin can be very difficult to remove. Degreasers break down resins and lift them off surfaces. Combining an effective degreaser with hot water will make cleaning your equipment quick and simple.
When choosing a degreaser, make sure to check that it is compatible with the equipment you are cleaning. Most degreasers tend to have a very high pH level (pH 13 – 14) which can interact negatively with certain materials and treatments. GMP Solutions Step 1 Cleaner has been specially formulated to break down organics, soils, and cannabis resins, and is safe to use on equipment parts and surfaces.
What NOT to Clean With – Iso
As noted above, it’s important to choose a cleaner that is compatible with the equipment you are cleaning. Many facilities will use isopropyl alcohol (iso) as a cleaner, but iso is less effective as a cleaner and could be damaging to the equipment if used incorrectly. Alcohols dry out plastics, rubbers, and adhesives, causing them to become brittle and crack. The fumes are also not good for cleaning crews, particularly if they are operating in enclosed spaces.
We strongly recommend using a good degreaser to clean rather than using iso. If a sanitizer is needed after cleaning, we recommend a formula that is compatible with virtually all equipment and facility applications, effectively performs its sanitizing function, and is completely safe for staff to handle and work around.
Properly Equip Your Wash Bay or Cleaning Area
Ideally, your facility has a dedicated wash bay or area for equipment cleaning. If this is not an option at your facility, it’s critical that your processing space is fitted with ample drainage so the cleaning process can still be carried out for the equipment.
When setting up a wash bay, consider the following:
- Amount of equipment to be washed and frequency of washing each component
- Space required for disassembled equipment when broken down for cleaning
- Washing and drying areas
- Access to hot water
- Sinks and other built-in fixtures
- Air handling
- Floor finish
- Distance between the equipment’s area of operation and the wash bay
Recommended tools and equipment for your wash bay:
- Degreaser that’s effective and safe on equipment, like Step 1 Cleaner
- Tables and racks (with casters)
- Hot water pressure-washer
- Low-pressure pump sprayer
- Compressed air
- Drying racks
- Specialized tools and parts washers (as applicable)
- Hand tools
- Rags, cloths, and/or towels
- Disposable wipes pre-soaked with cleaning solution or sanitizer
- Scrub brushes
- Plastic razors
Developing a Cleaning SOP
If you plan to formalize your organization’s cleaning approach into a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the following can be used as a guide:
- Provide step-by-step details on how cleaning and sanitizing procedures are to be performed, including any special instructions such as:
- Disassembly and reassembly instructions
- Pre-rinse instructions
- Cleaning and sanitizing chemicals to be used and their rotation
- Chemical mixing and handling instructions
- Appropriate chemical concentrations as per product labels
- Water temperature or cleaning solutions
- Surface contact time
- Scrubbing, rinsing, and drying instructions
- Final flush and rinse requirements
- Identify procedures to be followed to make sure the activities are conducted in a manner that ensures the products and product contact surfaces are not contaminated. This will ensure a standard practice for the cleaning validation protocol.
- Identify any general housekeeping, such as sweeping and tidying up that will help maintain the equipment, processing space, and general facility in a clean and sanitary condition.