It’s easy to take steam tables for granted. To ensure a long and productive service life, though, here are seven simple cleaning and maintenance tasks foodservice operators should perform.

Although steam a relatively simple piece of foodservice equipment, steam tables still require proper use, care and maintenance to ensure longevity and proper operation.

Many operators often ignore the care and maintenance of this type of equipment. Proper use of a steam table, including performing daily and weekly maintenance tasks, becomes critical to ensure the longevity of this equipment. Planned maintenance also goes a long way toward helping ensure consistent and reliable use of this equipment.

Service agent John Orr of Refrigerated Specialist offers a few tips on how to ensure a steam table meets expectations:

  • At the end of each day, turn off the unit’s thermostat and allow the steam table to cool. Then drain the water and scrub the well with a mild detergent using an abrasive non-steel wool pad to remove any food or soil. Always scrub with the grain of the stainless, never in a circular motion. Scrub the heating element lightly to remove any calcium and lime build up. If a steam table has high and low water probes, descale these items. Rinse thoroughly and dry after cleaning.
  • Weekly cleaning should include using a de-scaling agent approved for use on stainless steel. Remove all scale deposits from the well, elements and any water probes if so equipped, since these can cause corrosion and eventual failure. Scale deposits on the elements also inhibit heat transfer, making the unit less efficient. After de-scaling, rinse the well assembly with a mixture of vinegar and water to neutralize all cleaner residue. Do not use any highly caustic cleaners, acids or ammonia as they may cause corrosion and/or damage to the stainless steel well.
  • Do not allow water to stand in wells for long periods of time. Water must be removed from the well and the well cleaned and dried after each use.
  • Never turn the unit on without water being in the well. This can cause severe damage.
  • Most end users will operate their units with the thermostat at the highest temperature setting. This should only be set high enough to maintain proper food temperature. Running the unit on its highest setting consistently can cause damage to wiring and elements as well as increase operating cost.
  • During planned maintenance visits, the service agent should check for any type of damage as well as checking and calibrating the thermostat. Service agents should also check all electrical connections as well, and advise on any necessary repairs.
  • In the case of gas-heated units, which are fairly rare, the service provider should check burners, pilots, gas valves and safeties for proper operation. They should inspect the well and drains for any leaks and/or damage and repair these, as necessary.

Following these simple guidelines will lengthen the life and reduce the operating cost of steam tables.