The best way to keep your dishes sparkling clean and germ-free

Whether you love it or loathe it, doing the dishes is one of those daily chores that just has to be done. Cleaning your cookware with the right detergent keeps food bourne illnesses out of your home – and it helps your good china last longer, too.  

But what’s the best way to keep those dishes and utensils sparkling? We reveal how dishwashing soap kills germs, and whether you should hand wash your dirty dishes or stack them in the dishwasher for better results.

How does dishwashing soap work?

Much like hand soap, dishwashing soap targets the fatty membrane that surrounds bacteria, making it easy to wash away the germs and viruses that live underneath. Friction and hot water help with the whole process, which is why rinsing dishes under tepid water isn’t enough to kill germs, even if you can’t see any visible traces of food. Bacteria can live for up to four days on items like stainless steel if those microbes aren’t scrubbed away.    

When hand washing, select a dishwashing liquid that is biodegradable and gentle on sensitive skin. Use dishwashing tablets in your dishwasher instead of power or liquid because they’re conveniently pre-measured and less likely to spill.

Which is better, dishwashing or hand washing?

While both have their pros and cons, either option will get the job done. It ultimately comes down to your personal preference. Dishwashers are more efficient and conserve water, but washing the dishes by hand makes sense if you live in a smaller household. Interestingly, hand washing is also scientifically proven to reduce stress levels.  

 

Tips for getting the most out of your dishwasher

There are a few things you can do to help dishwashing soap excel inside the dishwasher:

  • Skip the pre-rinse: You should always scrape off big food scraps before placing your dishes in the dishwasher, but there’s actually no need to do a pre-rinse. The enzymes in detergent need to attach themselves to food particles, so washing those stains away beforehand prevents the detergent from doing its job. Pre-rinsing also uses up extra water. On average, Australians waste 22,000 litres of water a year by pre-rinsing their dishes, so resist the urge! The jets in modern dishwashers will blast away small bits of gunk.
  • Wash a full load: Your dishwasher will work more efficiently when it’s full, but overcrowding will prevent the detergent from reaching every pot, pan, plate and glass, so make sure everything is spaced out evenly.
  • Protect your fragile items: Keep sharp knives, delicate china, non-stick or cast-iron pans and wooden cutting boards out of the dishwasher. The heat and strength of the dishwasher can damage these items, so it’s better to hand wash them instead. And if you’re worried about your plastic containers flying around in the wash, use an upside-down wire dish rack to pin them down, which will ensure the detergent gets inside.

 

Tips for getting the most out of hand washing

Follow these tips when washing the dishes by hand to keep everything fresh and clean:

  • Disinfect your sponge: Your dish sponge is actually the dirtiest item in your kitchen, so there’s no point dipping it in soapy water if it’s going to smear germs everywhere! Disinfect it regularly and replace it altogether about once a week. Our favourite hack involves sticking it in the microwave for a minute. It sounds strange, but the heat kills any lingering bacteria and freshens up the sponge.
  • Keep the temperature hot: Hot, soapy water is always more powerful against bacteria, but wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
  • Air dry your dishes: Using a drying rack is more hygienic than individually drying your dishes with a towel that has already been used on other surfaces. You can use a clean towel, of course, but air drying is easier than pulling out a new towel every time you need to dry the dishes!
  • Don’t leave items soaking overnight: While it can be tempting to leave a food-caked casserole dish soaking overnight to loosen the food, the cold water will turn into a breeding ground for bacteria that you could then accidentally spread onto other surfaces in your kitchen. To play it safe (and save yourself the extra work in the morning), soak a cakey dish in hot water for 15 to 30 minutes while you do something else like tidying the kitchen, but don’t leave it overnight.

And there you have it. While there is no right or wrong method when it comes to washing the dishes, following these small and easy tips will keep germs and viruses firmly out of your kitchen.

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