Popping your pots, pans, plates, and other used tableware items into the dishwasher is a major time saver; the appliance does all the heavy lifting, from rinsing and cleaning to sanitizing and drying. But this isn't the only way to ensure your dishes are disinfected before they return back to your cupboards. It certainly is possible to get these essentials clean by hand—and to make sure they are safe to cook with and eat on the next time around. Ahead, we gathered insight from cleaning experts on how to properly and thoroughly hand-wash and sanitize your dishes.
First, clean your sink.
Before getting to your dishes, you'll want to make sure the temporary home you're placing them in is clean. Meaning, the sink. Angela Bell, a Grove Collaborative guide and sustainable cleaning expert, says vinegar is the best natural cleaner to sanitize the area, along with a cleaning cloth or sponge. "Remember to launder dishcloths regularly and keep any washing tools clean and dry in between uses," she says. "Boil or microwave your sponge to kill bacteria."
Get the dishes squeaky clean.
Joshua Henderson, a Colgate and Palmolive senior scientist, explains that using an EPA-registered antibacterial dish soap, like Ultra Palmolive Antibacterial dish liquid ($4.99, target.com), is essential to sanitize your dirty dishes; they kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and rids surfaces of germs in 30 seconds. "We recommend that you dilute one part product to 20 parts water," Henderson says. "Allow dishes to sit in the solution for 30 seconds, then wash and rinse thoroughly as you normally would." Give your dishes even more time to soak before washing, if you'd like. Bell explains that allowing them to sit in the solution before scrubbing and rinsing can help the soap break down stuck-on food. Another pro tip? No matter the dish liquid you use, avoid mixing detergents or adding bleach, since this could release toxic fumes.
Consider a post-wash soak.
"If you don't have a dishwasher, you can sanitize simply by using a hot water soak," Bell says. If you opt for this technique, you'll still need to wash your dishes first. After this step, "fill up a bin or the sink with water about as hot as you can get it (165 to 180 degrees)." In the event that the tap water from your sink doesn't get that hot, Bell suggests using a kettle. From there, let the clean dishes soak in the steamy water for about one minute. Either let the water cool before reaching for the dishware or use silicone kitchen gloves, like Grove Co. Cleaning Gloves ($7.95, grove.co) to prevent burns.
Pay attention to how the dishes feel.
While dishes may sparkle after giving them a good cleaning, there could be leftover residue or caked-on food. One way to tell if a dish is still dirty is if it has a gritty, greasy, or soapy feel. Henderson also notes that if a stream of water doesn't flow uniformly on a dish's surface, there could be residue on it. "There may even be bacteria or particles so small that you can't see or feel them," adds Bell. "Using the scouring end of a good scrubber sponge (like Grove Co.'s Walnut Scrubber Sponge ($4.95, grove.co)) can be a great way to break down food particles while handwashing."
Dry clean dishware with a towel.
Tackle the drying process as soon as the items are clean. Bell urges people to avoid air-drying, since this can expose dishes to bacteria. Instead, consider using a clean towel, like the Grove Co. Kitchen Towel ($9.95, grove.co), which absorbs water easily.
Wipe down your cupboard shelves.
Keeping the space where your dishes permanently reside is just as important as the rest of the sanitizing process; this also helps avoid cross contamination. Again, turn to a vinegar and water solution or another pre-made disinfectant, such as the Grove Co. All-Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner ($6.95, grove.co), to get your cabinetry and drawers clean. Bell suggests cleaning and disinfecting your silverware holder at least once a week. "These are commonly made of plastic, stainless steel, or silicon, which means you can use the same process you use to clean your dishes," she says. "Be sure to wash down the inside of the drawer, as well!"