Published on September 19, 2023

Sanitizer Miniseries: Boot Sanitizing

Written by Adam Serfas

Sanitizer Miniseries: Boot Sanitizing

When assessing ways to minimize cross-contamination from employees in food-safe and hygiene-sensitive facilities, we often think of hand sanitizing. The reality, however, is that footwear can just as easily act as a vehicle for transferring contaminants into and across facilities. 

In other words, starting your sanitizing program off on the right foot is impossible without considering what’s walking into your facility. That’s why, for the final post in our sanitizer miniseries, we’re focusing on footwear and zeroing in on all things boot sanitizing with tips that are relevant for food processing plants, nutraceutical facilities, pharmaceutical plants, clinical research labs, and other hygiene-sensitive spaces. 

If this is your first touchpoint to our sanitizing miniseries, we invite you to read up on surface sanitizing here and hand sanitizing here

Start On The Right Foot With The Right System

One of the most important things to consider with boot sanitizing is where and how it will happen. As with all things food safety, proper protocols are more likely to be followed when they are easy enough to become second nature. 

Foot-operated sanitizing units have come a long way, and all of the systems we carry couldn’t be easier to use and are effective in wet or dry processing facilities. Some options come with a boot scrubber attached. Some can sanitize both feet at the same time. Now, there are even systems that don't require any power source or compressed air, making installation especially easy. Across the board, these units have a small footprint, meaning facilities can place multiple in one area and throughout a plant wherever pathogen reduction from footwear is needed. 

Kill Claims And Killing Time 

All sanitizers have a kill time, where it’s important to wait for the listed amount of time before putting the sanitized area in contact with anything else. The same goes for boot sanitizing, so it’s important to factor that in when planning your facility’s sanitizing steps. 

For example, the kill claim for the Smart Step to sanitize the bottom of a boot is 10 seconds. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but imagine you’re an employee entering a building to start a shift. You’re seeing their coworkers, and maybe getting pulled into some casual conversation. Maybe you’re running late and want to hurry over to your position. There are any number of distractions that might make someone want to rush that 10 seconds, whether intentional or not. That matters a great deal when it comes to footwear because, unlike with your hands, where you could hold off on actually touching anything while beginning to move, you simply cannot ensure adequate sanitizing if you take a step before the kill time passes. 

For that reason, you want to design your sanitizing station in a way that’s going to meet people where they are—which isn’t naturally standing still, counting to 10. Instead, you want to make use of that time to accomplish something else that’s very important: hand hygiene! 

The Gold Standard Sanitizing Sequence  

The recommended amount of time to wash your hands is 20 seconds, so if you have employees wash and sanitize their hands in the same place they just sanitized their boots, you’ll guarantee that the 10-second boot kill time is complete before they step out onto the floor. Here’s how that would look in action: 

  • Upon entering or re-entering a facility or critical control zone, an employee scrubs and sanitizes their boots. 
  • They then immediately step onto a pegged mat to prevent slips or falls. 
  • From there, they wash and sanitize their hands. 

This flow of steps is simple, efficient, and provides an auditor with proof of your boot kill time compliance—something that’s often difficult to point to without this kind of procedure.  

Seal The Deal With Signage  

In addition to holding training sessions, having signage near hand and boot sanitizing stations is critical to reiterate the importance of proper sanitizing procedures. We recommend considering custom signage that can fit your brand guidelines and even speak to site-specific considerations, such as the kill time of your sanitizer. We’ve helped many facilities create custom signage for this very purpose over the years and have a blog post with some signage best practices here