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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Sanitizing Dishes if You Don't Have a Dishwasher

I believe that this first tip comes from Kris (here in the comments) from some time ago. I wanted to share this for anyone who is concerned that they don't have an easy way to sanitize dishes without a dishwasher.

If you have a plastic-coated dish drainer that fits in your sink, after you wash and rinse all of your dishes, put them in the drainer in the sink. Then bring a tea kettle of water to a boil and pour the contents completely over your washed dishes.

Alternatively, you can plug your sink, place all of the cleaned dishes in the sink, and pour the boiling water over all to immerse the dishes. This may take a couple of kettles of water. Allow to soak for at least 30 seconds. the temperature of the water would need to be at or above 170 degrees F for the duration of the soak. (source:

The website Stop Food Borne Illness also recommends a bleach/water solution for sanitizing dishes. When I volunteered for kitchen duty for fund-raisers at our church, we were instructed to add a small amount of liquid bleach to a sanitizing water after dishes had been washed and rinsed. 1 tablespoon of liquid bleach to 1 gallon of cool water (hot water stops the sanitizing effect of the bleach). Allow dishes to sit in this solution for at least 1 minute. Wear gloves when handling dishes.

What I've always heard is that it is better to allow dishes to air-dry, as opposed to towel drying. So, don't feel like you're being lazy when you let the dishes dry on their own! One less chore!

Anyway, check out that website linked to above. If one member of your household does become ill (with any virus), these instructions could help prevent infection with the rest of the family members.

If you do have an automatic dishwasher
My family does have a dishwasher and we've begun washing on a higher temperature setting than usual. This may cost a bit more in electricity, but worth the expense for peace of mind and perhaps keeping us all healthier in cold and flu season.


  1. This post has made me think about years ago when I would go camping with the Girl Scouts. We would first wash our dishes in hot soapy water (heated over a campfire), rinse in hot water, then put them in our dip bag (made of mesh), and dip them in cool bleach water. I don't know if we followed the directions like we were supposed to as kids, but the intention was there from our leaders.

  2. Huh. I must have mentioned the boiling water technique a really long time ago--I don't remember doing it! I know that's what my mom did for years before we had a dishwasher, on the advice of the doctor.

    I worked as a cook at a church camp when I was in high school and college and the bleach water rinse and not using towels but instead drip-drying dishes were the standards set by the health department back then. I haven't checked it recently, but it still seems like good advice to me. Bleach is one of the few ways to truly kill germs--there has been a trend in recent years to avoid bleach and use vinegar instead, which is probably fine for everyday issues, but I think bleach is best for those bugs we truly want to get rid of!

  3. Very good info!

    Our old dishwasher was broken recently, and I hand washed dishes for around a year and a half. We bought a new dishwasher about a month ago, and it's been so nice! It has the sanitizing cycle, and that is reassuring for preventing illnesses.

    The boiling water technique sounds good. I will remember that if I am ever without a dishwasher again. I had heard that about towel drying versus drip drying, but forgotten.


  4. I have a dishwasher and prefer to wash by hand but you are all making me think perhaps going back to using the dishwasher might be a good idea. I have a one hour time on my dishwasher and I have used it and it is very steamy so I do think I can get away with that and still have clean and sanitized dishes. Does anyone have an opinion on that?

    So how about washing machines? Hot or Cold? I prefer warm but will my clothes get clean using cold or warm? Do I need to use hot (seems like that was bad for a lot of reasons).


  5. Alice, good questions. I frequently use the one hour time on my dishwasher due to the need to get them done quickly so I can empty the washer and refill it. According to the link I'm including, it uses more water and/or heat, so probably not the most economical option ... that being said, I've heard that using a washer uses less water than hand washing. Then again, when I wash by hand, I usually put in 2-3 inches of water in my sink, especially for smaller amounts of dishes.

    Here's what I found for laundry:

    That link says what I have been taught about laundry. As a general rule, if there is a lot of illness going around, I tend to use hot water on my towels/dishcloths and my work scrubs, and underwear, as I feel these are most susceptible to holding onto germs that I want to kill. Also, in the summer if it is humid out, I am more likely to use it on towels and clothes that have gotten sweaty. I'm not sure if this is the right technique so don't take my thoughts as official guidance! :)

  6. Hi Live and Learn,
    I had forgotten all about dip bags until you mentioned them. I don't remember actually washing our stuff, but we must have. And I do remember the dip bags. Luckily, the adults were there to supervise and instruct as, otherwise, I'd have likely not washed my stuff at all!

  7. Hi Kris,
    I thought it was you who mentioned that about your mother's dishwashing practice.

    I agree on the bleach thing. Vinegar is fine for every day cleaning, where there's no big threat. But when it comes to highly contagious viruses, bleach is an effective agent to use. A couple of years ago, my daughter picked up norovirus and I was determined none of us would also get it. I cleaned the house very thoroughly with bleach and water. None of us did get it, so it must have worked. That and washing hands constantly. The other really great things about bleach is it's cheap. We all can afford it.

    My favorite cleaners are the Mrs. Meyers products, but I'm not counting on them to disinfect right now.

  8. Hi Angie,
    I'm glad you have your new dishwasher! They really are wonderful inventions, especially those with higher temp or sanitize cycles.

  9. Hi Alice,
    On the washing machine for laundry, this is what we're doing. I'm washing all bath and kitchen towels/cloths and cleaning rags, plus all whites and light colors in hot wash/cold rinse right now. Then it all goes through the hot dryer. I'm using warm/cold for darks, simply because they bleed. we're using the dryer exclusively for now, as the added heat continues to kill germs after the wash. This may cost more for now, but well worth it for peace of mind.

    I don't know about the 1-hour dishwasher cycle.

  10. Lili you're not in the Washington county asking residents to stay indoors are you? I am hoping we can stop this virus soon and life gets back to normal.

  11. Hi Cheryl,
    We live in the county with the second most cases. But my husband works in King county, where the health department has just today suggested those age 60+ or who have additional health concerns stay completely at home for the next 3 weeks. I haven't heard necessarily stay indoors. Have you read that? If so, please tell me where.

    My husband is in the high-risk group. He's been staying home using some PTO this week and hopes to negotiate work-from-home with his office by next week. A lot of Seattle businesses are allowing employees to work from home. If enough people did just stay home and isolated themselves, there would be fewer infections in two weeks' time. Then those in a high-risk category might not catch this.
    Anyway, if this works out with my husband's office, we'll just plan on going nowhere at all until April. I think we can manage that.

  12. We are probably not washing our dishes well. No dishwasher here, and our hot water is not hot enough in the kitchen. So I use bleach in our soap water, scrub it real good, let it stand for a few minutes, then rinse. So far we haven't gotten sick. We use hot water in laundry washing for our home clothes at least.

    About our water supply, I misspoke. Sorry, I probably trust our water supply more than I do our plumbing lol I found on the CDC website a general discussion about our water supply and it did list a number of outbreaks, including the e coli which you mentioned, but it is still puzzling to me why we should keep water on hand for the corona virus which is not a waterborne germ. I guess it doesn't hurt to stock up a wee bit. Thank you for all the good research and info.

    I apologize for being so negative and looking for all the red flags. I guess I'm just a fearful person, and the older I get the worse I my fears.

    Have a nice evening,

  13. Hi YHF,
    Part of the problem is that none of us know how this is all going to play out in the US. I think the stocking up on water may be just like stocking up on water in case of hurricane or earthquake or any other disaster. The virus may or may not become a "disaster" so preparing a little is just a hedge against worst case scenarios. I'm not buying bottled water because that isn't our norm, and at this juncture, I don't want to go out into the stores. But I am filling empty containers that I already have and planning on using the water that I regularly keep in the garage fridge. (A long time ago, I posted that I keep emergency tap water in 2-quart/liter bottles in the spare fridge, in case of earthquake because we're in an earthquake zone.)
    Thanks for the link. I'll check that out.
    You know, I'm pretty nervous about this too. If I were younger, maybe I would be able to be a bit more cavalier about the virus.

  14. I just wanted to add another precaution were taking, being careful about mail and packages. We're not opening our mail for at least 9 days, and some as long as 14 days. We don't have an outbreak on our island yet, but we decided to dry run our plan to pick up our mail using a plastic bag, recording from the outside the sender or type of mail, and keeping it stacked (still in the plastic bag) in a bin. and so far it is becoming second nature. As we get older, it takes more effort to change habits so we're doing as much as we can now before panic city, as my husband calls it. BTW, he never endorsed my reasoning that it could be our plumbing that would be a threat. He said wastewater plumbing, yes, but not our supply. So now when I complain about brain fog, he brings up plumbing line or reasoning


  15. Lili sorry I was wrong about staying home. Didn't mean to cause you more stress or worry. I found an article in a British paper called the Daily mail which talked about it before it was even on the U.S. news.


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