COSHH Cleaning Colour Coding – Training & Equipment

The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICS) developed the system of COSHH cleaning colour coding for UK cleaning businesses during the 1990s.

This became a widely used concept among all cleaning companies to help protect against cross contamination.

Although using cleaning colour codes is not a legal requirement outside of healthcare settings, it is widely used.

Many UK cleaning businesses use the colour coded system to ensure they remain safe and hygienic at all times.

What are Cleaning Colour Codes?

Cleaning colour codes is a system of using different colour cleaning equipment for different areas.

The idea behind this practice is to have sets of cleaning materials and products for each separate area of any given building. Colour coding is used to make it clear which cleaning supplies should be used in individual areas. This will help prevent the spread of bacteria and germs. It also helps prevent potentially harmful cross contamination.

There are some industries where this practice is more important. This is particularly true of hospitals, care homes, and hospices. Such environments depend on a clean and sterile atmosphere for the wellbeing of their patients.

Colour coding cleaning equipment means making it obvious at a glance which materials are for which area. Cleaning companies should set up an easy to use system where all staff understand the importance following the colour code process.

Cleaning businesses can set up and use a colour coded system as they wish. However, the universal system is adopted by most and is also important in any job that involves catering.

The 4 main colour codes for cleaning are red, blue, green and yellow.

  • RED:  Toilets, urinals and all bathroom equipment.
  • GREEN:  Public areas such as hallways, receptions and food preparation areas.
  • YELLOW:  Sinks, washroom surfaces, and cabinets.
  • BLUE:  Low risk areas such as offices, classrooms, and lounge spaces.

See the BICSc colour coding guidelines for detailed information and best practises.

How to Set up a Colour Coding System For Cleaning

Setting up a colour coding system creates a clear and easy to follow method to prevent unhygenic cross contamination.

Once you have set up your preferred cleaning colour codes, it is essential everyone knows how it will work.

Therefore, as well as implementing the changes, it must be understood by all staff. Topics such as cross contamination, safety in the workplace, and legal regulations should all be thoroughly covered.

Some areas of the premises will be low risk in terms of spreading germs. Think of cupboards, hallways, and reception areas where there are no high risk bacteria. On the other end of the scale, we have toilets, urinals and food preparation areas.

Understanding these concepts is important if you are just starting up your own cleaning business too. It may be a requirement of some potential clients.

Staff Training

Staff training is a key part of any system you plan to set up. After all, employees need to fully understand the changes and why they are so important.

Visual guides are very effective in the cleaning trade. Having the colour codes laminated and placed inside cleaning bags can be a great visual reminder for cleaners. This would support staff training and help keep procedures consistent in the work environment.

Staff should also be fully aware of the importance of using equipment solely for certain tasks. Preventing cross contamination should be the number one priority at all times. Staff might be coming from a company that did things differently or individuals who have never used a colour code system before.

COSHH Training Courses for Cleaning Operatives

Staff who complete a COSHH training course will acquire sound knowledge of the importance of a colour coded cleaning system.

COSHH stands for The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health. This concept is very relevant to the cleaning industry. Cleaning businesses are responsible for using products safely and avoiding the spread of bacteria.

They are also liable for the products and equipment they use so being trained in practises around cleaning COSHH is a sensible step to take.

Courses will cover topics such as:

  • The dangers of using hazardous products.
  • Safety measures to put into place.
  • How to train staff in using equipment safely.
  • Following appropriate procedures.
  • The importance of cleaning risk assessments.
  • Looking at the appropriate PPE.
  • How to report any incidents.
  • The importance of abiding by UK legislation.

Colour Coding Cleaning Equipment

When all cleaning equipment is colour coded, staff have a very clear guide to follow. This helps make the system clear and easy to follow.

This will prevent cross contamination and also improve food hygiene practices in the workplace for businesses who prepare and sell food. This system needs to be well thought out and executed for maximum effectiveness. You may need to consider the needs of your staff.

They may struggle with colour codes (for example if they are colour blind) so things like this should be assessed during initial staff training.

One way to solve this potential issue is to follow the colour code system with a numbered system too. That way everyone will still be following the correct protocols.

Colour Coding for  Cloths

All cloths used for cleaning purposes should be clearly colour coded. You can buy a huge range of colour coded cloths for cleaning so having them available for each cleaning area shouldn’t be an issue.

Cleaners should also understand the correct way to store dirty cloths so that they don’t spread any bacteria. Thought should also be given to how they will be washed and stored, ready for their next use.

Colour Coding for Mops & Mop Buckets

All mops and buckets should also be colour coded. This will remove the risk of using the same mop heads and buckets in multiple areas.

Mops are used to clean large surface areas, which means implementing a colour coding system is important to reduce cross contamination risks.

You can get colour coded mop buckets and handles in different colours and with an easy to see icon on them. This ensures each mop is used in the correct area and care is taken to keep them separate at all times.

Other Equipment Which May be Colour Coded

Ideally, all equipment used in a cleaning job should be colour coded. Having designated equipment and products for every area makes perfect sense. It helps prevent cross contamination and keeps staff safe too. Some of the equipment you should colour code include:

  • Dustpan and brushes.
  • Brooms
  • Dusters
  • Spray bottles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sponges and scrubbing brushes.
  • All cleaning liquids.

Everything Should Have Its Place

As well as staff being aware of the appropriate colour to be used at any given time, they should also be aware of correct storage.

There is little point in using separate equipment for certain areas and then throwing it all together in one cupboard. Everything should be washed and then stored in its individual places ready for its next use.

Many businesses store cleaning materials in COSHH cabinets, to comply with regulations relating to the safe storage of chemicals. Whilst colour coding systems for cleaning are not a legal requirement, the safe storage of hazardous cleaning materials is a strict HSE requirement.

Use a Strict Cleaning Schedule

Each staff member should know the order to do the jobs and work from a specific schedule.

This will ensure they have the right equipment for each area and know how long they have to spend on them.

Having a laminated colour coded sheet for them along with a cleaning rota will ensure they are working to high standards.

New Employees Should Have an Induction

Any new staff must be given an induction to the colour coded system. Ideally, they should be given a copy of the system in place so that they can follow it accurately at all times.

The quicker employees learn the system, the more efficient they become. It is the responsibility of everyone in the cleaning firm to ensure they comply with safety regulations.

Are Cleaning Colour Codes a Legal Requirement?

Cleaning colour codes are not an official legal requirement but you must be within the standards as set out by COSHH.

Both COSHH and BICS industry standards require cleaning systems to be safe and free from the risk of cross contamination. Adopting the colour coded system is the most effective way of ensuring this happens. Staff need to be aware of the dangers and the importance of sticking to such protocols rigidly.

Within the cleaning industry, you become solely responsible for all cleaning practices. This means storing equipment safely, knowing what is used in which areas and having strict washing routines for all equipment used.


What colour mop is commonly used for kitchens?

The colour green is used for mops and other cleaning products to be used in kitchens. This includes areas where food is stored and prepared.

Why is it important to colour code cleaning equipment?

It is important to colour code cleaning equipment to avoid the risk of cross contamination. It also protects the health and ensures no UK laws are breached.

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