Color-Coded Cleaning Plans

Guide To Color-Coded Cleaning Plans

Implementing color-coded cleaning plans in food-safe and hygiene-sensitive environments offers many benefits, above all helping to ensure quality and safety in a facility. For a color-coding plan to be successful, the planning process must be approached thoughtfully. Here you'll find an overview of the benefits to color-coding, an introduction to the most commonly used color-coding plans and  tips for creating a color-coding plan from scratch. 

Color-Coded Plan Definition: A strategy for a plant or business that designates certain colors for a specific area or purpose designed to promote safety and cleanliness. 

Industries That Benefit from Color-Coding

  • Food Manufacturing & Processing
  • Meat Processing
  • Seafood Processing
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing 
  • Brewing
  • Health Care
  • Cleaning & Sanitization  

 Reasons to Color-Code

  • Ensures tools stay in proper place
  • Helps meet FDA and HAACP requirements
  • Reduces pathogens & allergens contamination
  • Is easy to understand
  • Creates a culture that holds employees accountable 
  • Long-term money saving 

Example Color-Coding Plans

Color-Coding For Allergen/Potential Contaminant Distinction   allergen-color-coding.jpg

Facilities that handle common allergens are at a higher risk for contamination issues. Food manufacturing and processing, pharmaceutical manufacturing, If you haven’t already, you need to implement color-coding to be sure that all employees are only handling certain tools around these areas. To see our full guide on color-coding by allergen, click here.

Any plant that handles chemicals and food should have a color-coding plan in place. Chemicals present a high-risk for food manufacturers and incorporating a color-coding plan can help to reduce risk for contamination.

Color-Coding For Zone Distinction  


Many larger facilities, particularly manufacturing facilities have designated areas or zones sectioned by step in the production process or by product. It is very popular to designate colors to zones to differentiate tools and cleaning supplies that belong to each zone. Depending on the difference between zones, this color-coding of tools can help with everything from prevention of contamination between zones to proper organization and storage of tools by holding each zone accountable.

Similarly, health care centers often color-code by floors or wings.  

Color-Coding For Shift Distinction 

Color Coded Plan: Shift Distinction Color-CodingEmploying a large staff sometimes makes it difficult to hold people accountable for treating tools properly and for cleanup duties. It is a common practice to assign colors to shifts to encourage proper usage and storage of tools. In addition to adding this accountability measure for employees, this can help managers track excessive spending by identifying where they need to replace tools most often. 

Color-Coding For Assembly Process Distinction 

Color Coded Plan: Assembly Process Distinction Color-Coding

Facilities that have any type of assembly process in place should consider color-coding. This is especially important in food manufacturing and processing plants where these steps need to be kept separate.  

For example, meat processing facilities and kitchens often color code to distinguish raw meat from meat that is cooked.  

Color-Coding For Cleaning Purpose Distinction 

Color Coded Plan: Cleaning Purpose Distinction Color-Coding

For many facilities, there is a clear distinction between cleaning and sanitation procedures. Many facilities that are concerned with upholding high cleanliness standards choose to implement two-color coding to distinguish tools for cleaning and for sanitation.  


Best Practices For Creating A Color-Coding Plan  

Keep the plan simple 

A color-coding plan works best when it is kept simple. If your facility only requires a two-color plan, don’t implement a third just because you can. Keeping it simple helps everyone remember the plan and stick to it.  

Involve employees at all levels in planning process

Managers and workers in plants have very different perspectives of the daily operations in a facility. Therefore it’s important to have employees from all levels have a hand in the planning process. This ensures your plan will work for everyone from the start saving time and money in the long run. 

Contact color-coding manufacturers and distributors with questions 

Producers and distributors of color-coded tools are a great resource if you run into any questions or concerns when developing your color-coding plan. 

Expand color-coding to include all necessary tools 

You need to color-code all of the tools possible according to your plan for the plan to be successful—including things like the storage racks for the tools. If you want to encourage employees to follow procedure, they need to be able to follow it in all aspects of their daily job. If only some tools are color-coded and others are not, procedures vary and may not be carried out properly. 

Begin all color-coding at one time

A color-coding plan is only successful when rolled out all at once. Therefore there is no confusion. Be sure you have all tools in place before beginning.   

Provide ample training & signage on color-coding plan 

Before expecting employees to follow a plan, adequate training needs to occur. Managers must communicate the meaning of the colors and all expectations for carrying out the plan on a daily basis. In addition, you will need to post signage around the facility that is readily visible to act as reminders. Depending on your staff, you may want to consider getting multi-lingual posters to ensure that all employees can read them.  

Reevaluate the success of the plan often

Plan to set aside time about every six months for the first couple of years to evaluate how the color-coding plan is working. If any issues are identified, consider modifying your plan. In addition, if any major changes occur at your facility, you should revisit your color-coding plan to see if it the way it currently exists still makes sense for the needs of the plant.