Pretty straight forward question. 

I've seen people put it in a pitcher for between uses

I've seen people use a sanitizer solution


Do you find it gross to use it to wipe of the espresso from the drip tray? 


This has been a discussion of late in our shop. You know; separating preference vs properness. 

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Moistened with water, on a plate beside the machine.
i do about the same but the cloth need to be change every hour minimum
Definitely a damp towel ONLY for wiping the steam wand that is rinsed or changed often.  In a past shop, we had a lot of difficulty with this subject and the health inspector.  We were required to wipe the steam wand with single use paper products (i.e. a damp paper towel or Wipe-z brand wet naps).
We only change the towel once per day. We do rinses regularly and only use the towel for the wand. This has been the case at every shop that I've worked with and I've never caught flak from a health inspector. Different regions have different rules though.
The major issue of discussion was the exclusivity of the towel to the wand. I find it absolutely disgusting to use it to wipe of the drip tray. But I haven't been convincing.
We use the steam wand towel ONLY for the steam wand and its a damp towel that sits on a tray next to the machine. We have a separate (dry) towel for wiping down portafilters to clear any debris. Any other cleaning is a separate towel entirely. It sounds like a lot of towels, but cleanliness is super important.

This is actually a place where Starbucks is right on the money - every place I've been since the 'Bux has not had as elegant a solution. There was a plastic tray with a little mild sanitizer solution in it slid under the espresso machine, with 2 towels in it. The towels were changed regularly, as was the solution. We would wring a towel out, wipe the steam wand, purge it, replace the towel in the tray, and slide the tray back under the machine, where nothing could fall or spray into it.


Anytime anyone questioned why we didn't use those towels for anything else, I suggested they lick the surface they wanted to wipe with the steam wand towel. If they weren't willing to do that, then they shouldn't be using the steam wand towel to wipe it (and yes, if it weren't for the heat, I'd be willing to lick the steam wands - that's how clean they should be).

Actually, I'd like to think that everything in that general area of the machine is lick-clean...even the drip tray!
changed every hour minimum agreed .........also rag should be kept out of sight from the customer I have a thing about reading customer's facial expressions in between interactions and I never want to see them have a moment of wonder (I wonder if that rag is clean) lol details.... details... details....

We have a bench cloth (for wiping machine and the barista bench in front), a milk cloth (exclusively used for the steam wand) and a dry portafilter tea-towel which hangs from our dump box and is used for wiping our the PFs. They are regularly washed (especially the bench and wand cloths) and ne'er the twain shall meet. It's a big no-no to use them for anything other their designated use. Sometimes they get chucked through the steriliser as well to keep them spiffy. We tuck the bench cloth under the edge of our La San Marco, keeps it out of the way when not in use, but handy for a quick wipe and invisible to the customer.


Besides, if you use a milk cloth to wipe an espresso machine, any residual milk makes it all streaky and yuck. 

In our area it is a requirement from the Health Department that there is an exclusive towel only for wiping the steam wand.

Jeremy Perrine said:
The major issue of discussion was the exclusivity of the towel to the wand. I find it absolutely disgusting to use it to wipe of the drip tray. But I haven't been convincing.
Found out early on that I worked with a bunch of morons who were using cloths to the steam wand as well as counter tops. Saw it. Face turned red with. Lost it. Nearly had a brain hemorrhage. It hasn't happened since.

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