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What is the Temperature of Detergent Water in a 3 Compartment Sink?

In the United States, the required water temperature in a three-compartment sink will depend on the sink you intend filling. Note that the detergent water in the first sink and the water in the second sink is expected to be a minimum of 110 degrees Fahrenheit to meet FDA requirements.

But to use water in your third sanitizing sink, the water will have to be 171 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Howbeit, it is always imperative to consult your local health guidelines to make sure you are complying with all regional requirements.

The popularity of the three-compartment dishwashing process entails that a three-compartment sink is a requirement for nearly every foodservice establishment. In the United States, most local health codes mandate them, and they are an essential piece of equipment to have even if you also choose to invest in a commercial dishwasher.

Although with prior approval, a good number of health departments allow two-compartment sinks in business establishments with low dishwashing volume.

While some businesses may opt to move in the opposite direction and acquire a four-compartment sink, providing an additional bay for soaking utensils or a garbage disposal unit, the 3-sink method has remained an older and more traditional way to wash dishes and is also a reliable and effective dishwashing process.

However, there are guidelines in place for each step to ensure that every dish emerges clean and sanitized. Have it in mind that the three-compartment sink can also be used to wash wiping cloths, clean produce, and thaw food, but it can’t be used as a mop sink, for hand washing, or to wash maintenance tools.

Ideally, to limit any possible cross-contamination, separate hand washing sinks and mop sinks are expected to be provided for employees to wash their hands and rinse off maintenance equipment. Also, note that posting accessories such as hand washing signs and timers in the kitchen can help indicate which sinks are meant for hand washing to avoid confusion.

If the food product is to be washed or thawed in the three-compartment sink, note that each basin is expected to be emptied, washed, and sanitized before and after use. The same rules apply if wiping clothes are washed in the sink.

However, irrespective of the purposes it has been used, each section of the three-bay sink will have to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before each dishwashing session, and it should also be entirely emptied and cleaned every 4 hours.

In addition, the dishes should be prepped before they’re washed, while excess food will have to be scraped into a trash can or food waste disposal. For businesses using a four-section sink, the first section can be used during this prep period, either to house the food waste disposal or as a compartment to soak dishes to make removing caked-on food easier.

FDA Ware Washing Guidelines for the 3 Compartment Sink Method

In the United States, the FDA is tasked with providing a number of additional guidelines for every step of the three-compartment dishwashing process, and it’s pertinent to also be conversant with every local health code when setting up your dishwashing station. To help with the process, here is the general FDA ware washing guidelines related to manual dishwashing.

  1. Wash

Note that the very first step in the three-sink method, after prepping, is washing. It’s critical to note that washing dishes only makes them visibly clean, so it’s pertinent to complete the process through sanitization.

Have it in mind that the first compartment in a three-compartment sink should be filled with a solution of water and one of the following: soap, detergent, acid or alkaline cleaner, degreaser, or an abrasive cleaner.

However, still depending on your local health codes, the water’s minimum temperature will have to be around 95 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ensure to keep a thermometer close by to ensure the water is at the right temperature. In addition, depending on your restaurant’s needs, a combination of glass brushes, sponges and scrubbers, dish cloths, and scrub brushes may be vital and needed.

  1. Rinse

The second section in a three-compartment sink is primarily used for rinsing. The mandatory temperature of the rinse water in this section may vary depending on your local health code but is generally a minimum of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Have it in mind that this step uses clean water to eradicate surfactants and other cleaning agent residue from the first sink section.

Note that Wares can be rinsed by soaking them in the rinse basin or by spraying them with clean, hot water. However, to ensure sanitary operation when soaking wares, water in the rinse basin will have to be drained and replaced with fresh water when it cools down below 110 degrees Fahrenheit, becomes visibly soapy or cloudy, or once every 4 hours during regular sink cleaning.

  1. Sanitize

According to the FDA, this is, without doubt, the most vital part of the 3 Compartment Sink dishwashing processes and it is meant to ensure that all harmful microorganisms are killed. This can be achieved in one of two ways;

  • Chemical sanitizing: This entails the use of a chemical solution to kill bacteria. Businesses in the foodservice industry can use EPA-approved water sanitizers, which come in dissolvable tablets or a chlorine solution. If you use a water sanitizer, endeavor to follow the manufacturer’s directions.

For a chlorine solution, ensure to comply with your local health codes to determine the solution strength and sanitizer temperature you need and how long the dishes should soak.

Chlorine test strips can be used to confirm you have achieved the correct concentrations, and most often, each dish will need to soak from 7 to 30 seconds to be well sanitized.

  • Hot water sanitization: Indeed, very hot water can be functional in killing all microorganisms on dishes. However, to leverage this method, the last section of the three-compartment sink will need to have a sanitizing sink heater installed.

Note that these heaters, expected to be mounted underneath the sink, steadily circulate water to ensure it remains at or above 171 degrees Fahrenheit, the minimum sanitizing temperature. To decide which sanitizing sink heater you need, you will need to know the size of your sink compartment in square inches.

Note that dishes and utensils sanitized with any of the methods mentioned above will have to be entirely soaked in the hot water or chemical sanitizing solution for the mandated time period.

Since the water in a hot water sanitizing system is meant to be at temperatures hot enough to burn skin, you’ll also have to outfit the sanitizing sink basin with a rack or basket for employees to comfortably lower and lift items in and out of the hot water.

Consider making use of a ware washing machine for items that are too large to be fully soaked in the sanitizing sink basin.


In every food service operation, spotless wares and clean utensils play a very vital role in customer satisfaction. Note that unkempt tableware not only instills a negative perception of your facility but can put your patrons at risk.

In addition, lingering food particles and germs heighten the risk of food borne illnesses. Making sure your wares are clean will improve customer satisfaction and limit the possibility of food borne illness, ultimately increasing your bottom line.