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Why soaking the dishes is better for your family’s health



Calah Alexander - published on 12/18/18

Turns out that pre-soaking dishes before handwashing isn't just a time-saving trick.

Growing up, we never soaked dishes. My parents find the practice unhygienic and, frankly, gross. So dishes got rinsed and stuck in the dishwasher, or washed by hand and dried.

When I first began washing my own dishes in my own home, I abided by my family’s practice of washing immediately. But then I had a baby, and another, and another, and another … and one more for good measure. Suddenly, washing dishes was no simple task — particularly after cooking a large meal that would feed our family for a few days. So I began filling up sinks full of hot, soapy water and plunging the dishes in while we ate dinner.

It was a miracle time-saver. By the time the meal was over, the pre-soaked dishes were ready to be pulled out and stuck in the dishwasher or washed by hand and stuck in the drying rack. Doing the dishes after dinner took me half the time it had before. But to be honest, the sink full of dirty dishes still grossed me out, and I continued to have lingering doubts about whether soaking dishes was entirely sanitary.

Well guess what? If you’ve ever has similar hesitations before soaking dishes or eschewed the practice entirely on the basis of hygiene, Well + Goodis here to set us both free just in time for holiday baking. It turns out that hand-washing dishes isn’t even effective without the unfairly maligned presoak:

One big germy mistake most people make while doing their dishes is not taking the time to give everything a solid soak. According to Apartment Therapy, the extra step ensures your plates and bowls are properly sanitized and free of foodborne illness-causing bacteria. You can kill those bad guys by submerging your dishes for 30 seconds in scalding-hot water that’s at least 170°F. (Water steams at 212°F, so H2O straight out of the hot tap should do the trick.)

Granted, this step is almost certainly unnecessary if you’re going to put the dishes through a cycle in the dishwasher, but not everyone has dishwashers. And even if you do, you definitely can’t put everything in there. (Lookin’ at you, sharp knives and enameled cast-iron pots). And while nothing beats presoaking for loosening grime, it’s pretty awesome to know that it’s also a necessary and effective step to properly sanitize those dishes.

As for me, when I’m up to my elbows in Christmas bread and Christmas cookies at my mom’s house this year and she wrinkles her nose at the sink full of soaking dishes, I’m definitely going to have this article on hand for her to read. Or on the refrigerator. Or, worst case scenario, stapled to my apron. Not only will I be saving time, but I’ll be doing her the favor of making sure those dishes are germ-free and properly clean.

I’m sure she’ll be grateful. Right?

Read more:
The dishes CAN’T wait: Why chores are important for everyone in the family

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