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Doing The Dishes

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 22 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Washing Dishes Washing Crockery Washing

We all hate doing the dishes and consequently we tend to rush through the job, often leaving food residue clinging to the bowls and dishes or to the pots and pans and leaving stains in cups and glasses. Not only does this look unattractive but it can also be bad for your health as food residue can harbour virulent bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Top Tips

So here are a few tips to make sure that you are doing the ‘washing up’ correctly:
  • Always use hot water – as hot as you can tolerate, without scalding yourself. You may wish to use rubber gloves to protect your hands. Hot water cuts through grease better and has better overall sanitising properties.
  • To conserve water, use a sink filled with hot water or a washing up bowl, rather than a free-running tap. This also means that you will use less washing up liquid. A washing up bowl can be more hygienic if you use the sink for other purposes as well and it is also easier and quicker to refill.
  • The choice of washing utensils is a personal one and depends on your own habits and preferences. All types will have their own advantages and disadvantages. Sponges and soft clothes are good for general cleaning and thinner areas of dirt and grease. Scourers and scrubbers are more effective for food and grease that is stuck on, such as baked-on cheese and crust; be careful though as they can damage certain surfaces (e.g. glass) so think carefully about the object being cleaned before using them. For narrow openings or more viscous residue, a brush with a long handle is a good choice for removing the stubborn dirt.
  • Before you start, make sure you scrape off as much excess food and sauce into the bin, as otherwise these will clog up your sponge or brush.
  • If you have stubborn residue, like baked-on food, these items may benefit from some soaking first so fill them with hot water and a little detergent and set them aside, while you tackle the rest of the washing up first (or for about 10 minutes). If they are not things that are “fillable”, such as pots and pans, then put them into a separate bowl or sink and cover with hot soapy water. After 10 minutes, the food should have softened enough to be removed by a stiff brush, before being washed as usual.
  • It is a good idea to start washing the cleanest items first, as they will dirty the water least. Glass, in particular, is best washed in hot, clean water.
  • Dip each item in the bowl or sink of hot, soapy water and rub vigorously with your sponge or other washing utensil. Take it out periodically to examine the item and repeat, until all food residues have been removed. If the dirt is stubborn, you may need to put some detergent directly onto your sponge or brush, so you can have more cleaning power directed at specific areas.
  • Once you are satisfied, rinse in clean water and then place on a drying rack or have an “assistant” waiting to help dry with a tea towel. Glasses in particular need a hot rinse at the end.
  • China and glass will usually dry fairly rapidly if washed in hot water and metal as well, although to prevent water marks and add shine, it may be a good idea to wipe cutlery and other metal areas over with a tea towel.
  • If you’re washing anything made of wood, try not to soak it if possible and make sure that it is dried thoroughly before you put it away. If you leave it to drip dry, turn it occasionally so that no section is sitting in a water puddle.
  • Check all washed items to make sure that are no food residues stuck in corners and that there is no “greasy” feel to the surfaces. Your fingers should encounter some resistance as you run them over the surface – if them slide over the surface too easily, there may still be some grease left and you may need to re-wash the item.
  • Remember, if you’re washing knives, do each one individually. Do not pour them all into the bottom of the filled sink or washing-up bowl as the water may be murky and you may cut yourself when you put your hand in to retrieve one.
  • Finally, pour out the dirty water from the washing up bowl or drain the sink. Remove any food particles from the plughole. Rinse the washing up bowl and use the sponge or brush if there any food residues stuck to the sides. Also, rinse out your washing utensils and make sure they are placed in a well-ventilated area where they can dry effectively. Moist cloths and sponges quickly grow bacteria. If they start to smell unpleasant, throw them away. Otherwise, periodically sterilise your washing utensils by boiling the in water for 10 minutes or using bleach (if you do this, make sure that you rinse very thoroughly afterwards).
In general, try to wash dishes as soon as possible – leaving them to congeal until the morning only makes the chore harder and more unpleasant. If you really can’t do them, at least rinse them to remove as much food residue as possible and prevent things becoming sticky and hard to remove.

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