De-germing your dishes

We’d all like to be certain that the dishes we eat from every day are not contaminated by anything that could make us ill. For those of us fortunate enough to have a dishwasher, keeping our dishes clean is not as much of a hassle as it is for those who handwash.

If you are hand-washing, there are a few ways you could go about it, depending on just how clean you’d like to get those dishes!

Why follow these steps?

dirty dishesFirstly, half-baked attempts at washing dishes can lead to bacteria build-up, could contaminate our food (especially if you use those dishes to store food for a period), and could make us quite ill. A poorly-washed knife which cuts you could get bacteria inside a wound, leading to all manner of unfortunate results.

And while we’re talking about dish cleaning, we may as well include the kitchen counters we clean off with the dish cloth or sponge, as well. So often we simply rinse these items after wiping the counters down, when the truth is that without adequately disinfecting these surfaces, bacteria may build up, making us very ill indeed. Don’t forget that everything you chop or spill ends up on those counters, as often do your keys, books, bags, hands, the works! The result could even be as dangerous as the spreading of E-coli or Salmonella.


Before getting wet:

  • spongeEnsure that you scrape the food remnants from your dishes to get as much as you can off. If you have a rubber spatula (such as those used with cake mixing or decorating), this would work well.
  • Organise your dishes so that you can wash them efficiently & wash similar items together (e.g. glasses first, soak your cutlery & pans with some hot, soapy water on the side).
  • Items that come in contact with your mouth first (and therefore are exposed to more bacteria more regularly, or those which are smaller nooks which are harder to clean) should be washed first, when the water is hottest & cleanest.
  • Ensure you use a CLEAN sponge or cloth. Keep these clean by washing them daily with disinfectants or microwave WET sponges to kill germs.

Water temperature:

Try to keep your water quite hot when washing dishes. Many experts maintain tapthat ‘the hotter the better’, so we recommend investing in some decent rubber washing gloves & keeping the water temp. high. We understand though, that there are expenses associated with using hot water, so we recommend that you conserve your energy use by insulating your sink, using fewer dishes, and not filling the sink multiple times a day. It has also been recommended that you use hot water for rinsing your dishes too, as this helps them to dry faster & possibly ‘allows less time for breeding bacteria to take hold’.

Rinsing is important!

Many people, especially in South Africa, tend to skip the rinsing process after hand-washing their dishes. The danger? Chemical soaps are not designed to be ingested & can even cause diarrhea if done so. In addition, the soap leaves a greasy residue on the dishes, taints the taste of the food or drink contained in the dishes, and can make one ill.

For the uber-conscious:

Ultimate hygiene standards, as used by professional dishwashers & approved by health inspectors, allows for a third step in the dishwashing process, after washing with soap & rinsing. This step is sanitising.

If you don’t have the space create some. For those with the standard two sinks, divide the second, rinsing sink into two – one for rinsing, and one for sanitising. Or put a large plastic bowl nearby to sanitise your dishes in. Camping sinks are also ideal for this if you don’t have the space, and may be found at camping outlets like Cape Union Mart, Game or Makro. Even Pick ‘n Pay or Checkers may stock something you could use.

To sanitise, fill the sink or bucket with very hot water & a capful or so of bleach (not too much). Rinse in this solution & move on to drying.


bluetowelDishcloths have been shown to carry lots of harmful bacteria (not to mention leave bits of fluff all over your nice, clean glasses), particularly for those who do not wash them daily. So if you’re not excited about increasing your laundry duties, just let them air dry! As long as it’s not in a heavy dust-area, this should be fine. Collect the dishes as soon as they dry, to avoid too much contamination from people walking past, sneezing on them, flies sitting on them, etc. Hotter water during the rinsing or sanitising stage will help your dishes dry faster.


After the dishes have been dried, it’s important to store them in a clean place. Keep them away from dust, out of reach of little children, and away from where people may be coughing, sneezing or spilling things. Clean out the storage areas once in a while as well, as cockroaches are known to walk about cupboards at night, and germs can build up over time in your cutlery drawers, etc.

Cracked dishes:


Many people continue to use their cracked dishes, and we advise against it, as the cracks may collect harmful bacteria & spread that to your food. If you particularly love the dish, repurpose it for another use (bowls can be used as decorative storage, mugs in place of vases, and plates could be used for wall decoration, etc.).


Be especially vigilant about dish-washing when there are colds or flu going around in your household.

Read this handy wiki-how on dishwashing here:



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