Don’t gamble on sanitation. If you’re still washing dishes manually, you can’t guarantee a consistent, thorough clean every time. And if this is a gamble you’re taking, you could be creating a golden opportunity for microorganisms to grow and spread pathogens that could harm your guests.

Using a compartment sink to wash dishes manually opens an array of opportunity for human error that could lead to health and safety risks. Heidi Spaide, Sales Development Manager in the Warewash Division of ITW Food Equipment Group, representing Hobart’s new Centerline™ series of undercounter dishwashers and food prep equipment, explains:

“When a warewasher is absent in the dishroom, workers resort to a three-compartment sink to scrub large pots, pans, and other ware. This washing solution can pose more risk than an automated system because tanks must be manually monitored for proper temperatures. The wash tank temperature typically must be at or above 110°F. If a hot water rinse is used, the water temperature must be kept at or above 171°F. Falling below these requirements can put a dish room at risk for unsafe levels of bacteria on surfaces—so the peace-of-mind, reliability and water savings that a commercial warewasher brings to the clean-up process is a significant advantage.”

Health and Safety Risks of Manually Washing Dishware

Specific health and safety risks of manually washing dishware include:

  • Cleaning chemicals can irritate eyes, and inhalation of chemical fumes can cause minor to serious health problems if the room is not properly ventilated. Skin exposure to cleaning chemicals can result in skin irritation or burns. Operators should use proper PPE (personal protective equipment) whenever handling commercial chemicals used for warewashing. An apron, latex gloves, and safety goggles are typically recommended, but check with your local health code for specific guidelines.
  • Back strain is also another potential physical safety risk due to bending over sinks and can result in costly workers’ comp claims.
  • Proper temperatures to meet FDA Food Code are not always followed by operators during manual washing, and chemical dosing is not consistent. Studies show that tank temperatures fluctuate throughout the washing period, creating the potential for food safety risks. Since three-compartment sinks require more discipline in monitoring, temperatures are often not met.

  • Wet nesting is a condition that can occur when ware items are stacked while wet and not allowed time to dry properly. It is common in environments where space is not adequate for air drying. This creates a moist, warm environment where bacteria can thrive, creating the potential for foodborne illness.
  • Towel drying is a workaround that should be avoided in commercial kitchen environments, as dish towels can harbor potentially harmful bacteria. Workers should be trained in safe food-handling practices such as ServSafe, to ensure proper procedures are performed.

Spaide continues, “If a commercial dishmachine is being operated per the manufacturer’s instructions, it will sanitize at a level of 3600 Heat Unit Equivalents (HUE)—twice the required level to pasteurize milk—which illustrates substantial reassurance in the sanitation process.  This is a requirement from NSF International for warewashing equipment.

Bakehouse Bread’s customer testimonial about how incorporating automated warewashing enhanced their business.

“Most modern warewashers have diagnostics built into them, so errors can be easily detected if something goes wrong. For example, if detergents and sanitizers are not being delivered to the wash system, an audible or visual alarm will alert the operator. This capability must be provided by the manufacturer or the chemical supplier per NSF International and the FDA Food Code for food safety purposes.”


So, why do some only opt for a commercial compartment sink in the first place?


 Mojo Bar and Grill’s story about how switching to automated warewashing alleviated some pain points.

Narrow margins. This is especially true for independent or young restaurants that are struggling to stay afloat with startup costs.

Even though compartment sinks are quickly becoming known as the “old way” of cleaning and sanitizing dishware – they leave much to be desired in terms of energy efficiency, water conservation, chemical usage and labor output – they’re still a commodity. They are a lower investment upfront compared to most commercial dishwashing units, and in some cases are already in place when a new restaurant acquires a space.

Another positive: there is typically minimal downtime and can be repaired easily. However, as labor costs continue to rise and food safety remains the top priority, operators are looking to implement more efficiencies. This is where an automated dishwashing system can help.

Benefits of Automated Dishwashing

Environmental Benefits

Centerline™ dishwashers use less than one gallon of rinse water per cycle, compared to 120 gallons to fill a basin in a compartment sink. Hobart Centerline undercounter units are Energy Star certified and may be applicable for certain rebates depending on the area you live because they only use 20,500 gallons of water per year in the average commercial kitchen. Again, compare this to more than 400,000 gallons of water used per year in a typical three-compartment sink.

Economic Benefits

Compartment sinks may have a lower cost upfront, but because automatic machines use less water than manual dishwashing there are inherent utility savings.  A case study conducted by Hobart found that operations that switched from a compartment sink to a Centerline undercounter dishwasher saved between $4,111 and $6,765 annually.

Food Safety Benefits

Centerline™ undercounter dishwashers are in standardized compliance with NSF food safety regulations to safeguard against foodborne illness. The 180°F final rinse sanitizes dishes to kill 99.99% of microorganisms that could result in illness. It also better guarantees a consistent wash every time. During manual dishwashing, the proper temperatures to meet the FDA food code are not always followed by operators. If using chemicals to sanitize, the wash basins may not always be monitored properly to ensure the right concentration of sanitizer to water. With automated dishwashing, consistent wash and rinse temperatures are displayed on the machine for easy monitoring.

Labor Benefits

Many dishwashers, including the Hobart Centerline™ Undercounter unit, feature built-in support ergonomics for operator ease-of-use. At the push of a button, soiled dishware is cleaned and sanitized in the span of two minutes. Compare to the time-intensive task of manually washing each piece by hand, as well as the added potential for back strain and workers’ comp claims.

Here are a few more benefits for comparison: 

Centerline™ by Hobart

Hobart’s Centerline™ series is the result of thorough industry research, listening, and seeking to understand the unique demands of today’s commercial foodservice operations. These needs vary based on menu, application, and service volume. The Centerline™ assortment features simple and affordable food prep and dishwashing equipment for operators in need of quality and reliability who can bypass the super-advanced technology or continuous run-time requirements.

See the Centerline by Hobart Undercounter Dishwashing Unit in action to learn all about its unique benefits.

Randall Residence customer testimony about the impact the Hobart Centerline Undercounter Dishwasher had on their business.

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