If You Only Wash The Top Of Your Dishes, We Need to Have a Sanitary Intervention ASAP

published Aug 30, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

On the scale of pleasant to deplorable, washing dishes is off-the-chore-charts detestable for me. Why does my dislike of dish-washing matter today? Well, because I’ve just realized that 1) I’ve been doing twice as much work as others, and 2) There’s a good chance you have been too, and you’ll be terrified.

It all started when I saw this Bon Appetit article about washing dishes. In it, the writer posits the polarizing claim that washing dishes requires a full scrub of the top (check) and the bottom (check) of each and every pot, pan, plate, and bowl. I’m shook, and I’m not the only one. This means there are people who don’t wash every surface of the plate?

Curiosity piqued, I did my own research to get to the bottom of it. Do experts say it’s OK to only wash the top of a plate? And how dirty is dishware that’s only gotten the top treatment?

I turned to Mary Gagliardi, aka Clorox’s laundry and cleaning expert, who didn’t mince words. “No, dishes are not clean if you do not wash the underside of the dish—there are too many possible scenarios for dirty dishes and what’s getting washed off a dish to suggest only washing one side as a good idea, even some of the time,” she says.

There are several things to consider mid-washing. If the dish is super dirty, you have to scrub hard and use extra detergent to clear it away. All that gunk is likely to drip around to the bottom of the dish, and yep, you guessed it make it dirty too.

That’s not all, plates and bowls come into contact with a lot of different surfaces (counters, tables, and so on) between meal prep, eating, and clean up. Right here is where any glimmer of hope of eating at friend’s houses ever again disappears. “Salmonella can linger on counters after meal prep if the counters aren’t sanitized,” says Gagliardi. “This is a source for cross-contamination and items placed on a counter that haven’t been sanitized can pick up germs.”

Salmonella is just one of the bacteria and germs that can pop up in and around the kitchen and on cooks. “Hands still come in contact with the dishes, and hands aren’t always as clean as we’d like them to be,” says Gagliardi. “This is particularly true for a shared kitchen, especially during flu season when it’s easy to spread germs through sneezing or coughing and then contacting high touch surfaces like counters, cupboard doorknobs or drawers.”

Then, when you put the dishes away, they’re likely stacked one on top of the next. In the cupboard, the dirty bottoms of the dishes come in the contact with the formerly clean tops of the dishes. And they sit there all cozy together.

Twitter had so many thoughts on the dish-washing debate. Here are some of the top reactions:

You can’t see it but we’re cringing.

Game, set, MATCH.

Because better safe than sorry?!

Remember, Mom is always right.

Stay away…stay very far away.

Where do you stand on the great dishwashing debate of 2019? Let us know in the comments!