Natural Foods Merchandiser

Make bulk bins sparkle

Cleaning bulk bins is imperative, but sometimes this tedious chore can get pushed aside if you don't have a specific degunkifying regimen. We asked Eddie Johnson, bulk buyer at the Good Food Store in Missoula, Mont., how he keeps his store's massive bulk section—about 600 bins—looking spick and span.

Start with a schedule. Every day, Johnson's staff cleans two bins, meaning each bin is cleaned a minimum of once a year. The messiest bins—those that contain sticky dried fruit—get cleaned once every four to six weeks.

Empty it out, clean it up. Staff members empty the product from a dirty bin into a spare, clean bin. The store rotates about 1,800 gravity-feed, scoop and roll-out bins, which not only assures product is always on the floor but also allows the dirty bin to sit in the back until someone has time to clean it. That person disassembles the bin and puts all the pieces in a sink filled with hot water and a natural cleaner-degreaser product. The bin soaks two to four hours and then is washed out with a sponge or cloth. "Make sure it's nonscratch because bins scratch easily," Johnson says. Then the bin is rinsed and run through the store's sanitizer. If you don't have a sanitizer, Johnson says a dishwasher's rinse cycle will also work. The final step is to hand-dry the bin to get rid of water spots.

Mind the exterior. Bins on the store floor are dusted daily, and spill trays are cleaned out each night with a shop vacuum. Once an hour, staff members sweep the floor and clean spilled product from the shelves. Every three months, a quarter of the bins are taken off the fixtures, and the shelves are swabbed down with bleach water and swept out underneath.

Remember your coolers. For the refrigerated bulk section, bin cleaning follows the same regimen. Once a month, all the bins are removed, and the cooler is deep cleaned with a natural cleaner-degreaser. Each night, staff members wipe down the outside of the cooler shelves.

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