Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Eco-Friendly Cleaners for Food Safety

Effectiveness of environmentally friendly commercial surface cleaners towards removal of bacterial cells  

Fellowship Details

  • Mentor: Stephanie Smith, Ph.D., Statewide Consumer Food Safety Specialist, Assistant Professor, Youth and Families Program Unit, School of Food Science
  • Location: WSU School of Food Science, Pullman, WA
  • Dates: May 29 – August 2
  • Stipend: $4,500 (Housing Provided. Costs of Travel Covered.)


There are many “natural” or “eco-friendly” multi-surface cleaners at the market that consumers use to clean kitchen food and non-food contact surfaces. Despite their increasing popularity, there is no data available on how effective they are for cleaning and removing microorganisms that may cause foodborne illness. Moreover, ineffective cleaning of organic residues may result in reduced efficacy of secondary sanitation of surfaces (e.g. use of Clorox wipes). This might result in the presence of harmful microorganisms being maintained on surfaces.


The undergraduate research and extension fellow will work directly with the Statewide Food Safety Specialist, Dr. Stephanie Smith, and Postdoctoral Scientist, Dr. Aleksandra Checinska, at WSU Pullman (School of Food Science). The intern will prepare bacterial suspensions of various microorganisms and inoculate the surfaces of wooden or plastic cutting boards. The surfaces will be covered with various materials to imitate organic matter commonly found on kitchen surfaces. Surfaces will be treated with cleaners as per manufacturers’ instructions. Half of the surface’s samples will be swabbed immediately after the use of the cleaner and the remaining samples will be collected after the use of sanitizer (e.g. diluted bleach, Clorox wipes) to assess the survival of microorganisms. The intern will test a variety of cleaners and microorganisms, as well different times of exposure to determine their efficacy of inactivating microorganisms on surfaces.

Additionally, the intern will assist in a microbiological profile assessment of herbs from the home aquaponics systems and other tasks related to food safety including development of educational programming and extension resources.

The intern will be expected to complete an individual summer research project that will be presented at the WSU Undergraduate Research Symposium in Pullman, WA. This project will include a significant effort to be familiar with current literature related to the research project.

Learning Outcomes

The intern will work Monday through Friday, for approximately 8 hours per day. The work will involve preparation of microbiological materials, microbiological media, and other work as necessary for performing the experiments. Most of the work will take place in the microbiology laboratory.

As part of the REEU summer fellowship cohort, the fellow is required to attend a 1-week on-farm experience at the Quillasacut Farm School in Rice, WA at the beginning of the fellowship period, and participate in a research symposium at the end of the internship program.