Why a dishwasher could be the healthy option

HOORAY for the dishwasher! I know not all of us can afford one, or feel we need one as there are not so many dishes to do, but I, for one, would miss my dishwasher more than my washing machine. DSCF0094 crop

Now this isn’t just because I am lazy (moi?) or that I think there are better things to do with my time than wash and and dry dishes, but because I am convinced that dishwasher use is better for the health of the family as a whole.

I remember a time before I had one, and talking to a friend who’d had one for over a year. She said she was sure her family, including two children, had had fewer infections of any kind, including colds, since she’d been using the dishwasher. It sounded almost silly. I mean.. you catch a cold by air-transported viruses, don’t you?

After we got ours, which with 8 people in the house was an absolute godsend, I was minded to agree. Those childhood tummy bugs that children pick up in school (you know the ones that are ‘going round’, if one boy came down with it… that seemed to be it. Just the one boy… we didn’t all follow on.

You may recall my plea in a previous (very popular) blog for understanding about the importance of putting the LID of the toilet seat down before flushing (click here to read if you missed it). (No, not the old chestnut of male versus female, SEAT up or down.. but the scientifically backed need to put the LID DOWN to prevent an aerosol of faecal-carrying moisture being puffed up into the bathroom) When following up on the research on that I came across the evidence for the most germ-laden part of the home … and thought that one day I’d blog this too. Today is the day.

The kitchen sink / work-surfaces / chopping boards /cloths and sponges ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS GERM-RIDDEN PLACES IN YOUR HOME.

Why? Because we bring dangerous bacteria into our home and usually work on it in our Kitchens.  We ought to be aware of the dangers of raw meat by now – we are told often enough. Only this past summer there was a campaign telling us NOT to wash our chicken as it could ‘splash’ the salmonella all around the kitchen sink and surrounds. (having told us that most chicken meat was contaminated with salmonella but was fine to eat as long as it was cooked properly)

We also bring vegetables into our homes. The danger here lies in the fact that these have been GROWN .. in SOIL.  It is the bacteria clinging to them from the soil that provides the danger here, and, of course, we have to wash our vegetables.

All in all this means that our kitchen sink areas are not clean areas in terms of bacteria, in fact research shows they are probably worse that the lid of the toilet! And you wouldn’t clean your cups and plates and leave them to dry there  … would you?

So is the kitchen sink the best place to wash up your dishes? Is the sink-drainer the best place to stand them to dry?

Add to that the fact that to kill bacteria the washing-up water has to be hotter than  your hands can stand and you can see that a dishwasher has certain advantages. Washed in very hot water then heat dried – dealing with those pathogenic bacteria – especially on the hotter cycles. This goes not just for your crockery but also for your chopping-boards – harbourers of lots of bacteria according to the studies. It seems most people just do not have a different board for each use (colour coded) .. or clean them properly. I find it best to have a number of the plastic ones, using them for the different things, then just put them all in the dishwasher for a proper clean when I wash the dishes from the meal they were used to prepare.

Talking about drying-up… one of my pet shudders – the use of a tea-towel as a hand-drying cloth and a dish-drying cloth! A good way to spread bacteria around. There should always be a dedicated hand-drying towel, distinct from the dish-drying cloth, so that the dish-drying cloth is only used to dry clean dishes (Nor should either  be used as a serving cloth to hold plates of food). Research shows drying-up with a tea-towel to be the worst option – better to let them stand and air dry (as long as what you are standing them on is bacterially clean!)

Cloths and sponges are used to wipe up spills and splashes – that is their job, and as they also usually reside in or near the sink also pick up these bacteria.. and a damp, warmish environment, with ‘food’ from the spills, those ‘few ‘ bacteria will multiply into a veritable smorgasbord of bacteria that we then spread all over out work-surfaces when we wipe them down. The manufactures of bactericidal wipes would have you snatching these out and using them at every turn.  This is all good for their sales, but not necessary. Traditional cloths, a fresh one daily, the previous day’s dropped into a solution such as Milton sterilizer, until you have sufficient for a hot wash, will do just as well.

I’m not a great believer is banishing all bacteria from the home environment. I do believe that we need to meet these to keep our immune system in condition, but simple ways to prevent some of the nastiest bugs getting a grip on us is sensible. So I say. HURRAY for my Dishwasher … and, like my friend before me, I do think it helped keep the bugs from spreading within the household.

Do you have a dishwasher? What are your observations?

Do you have an un-sung household appliance that you’d like to praise?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you!




4 thoughts on “Why a dishwasher could be the healthy option

  1. Ha! I had a dishwasher before I had a washing machine!

    Before that, I used to wash up once a week, whether I needed to or not!! So it was somewhat of a necessity 🙂

    I am now on dishwasher number four (and washing machine number two) and I think that the most important part is the hot rinse you get with a dishwasher – my pet hate (washing dishes-wise) is when people dry with a towel, wiping the suds from the cup or plate at the same time, aargghh! Imagine all the washing up liquid that they have eaten and drunk over the years.

    Even a hundred years ago before I had a washdisher (as I like to call mine) (crazy, moi?) I used to wash and then rinse in water just about as hot as I could stand whilst wearing rubber gloves. Brownie points there??

    • Hi Christine,
      I so agree, washing-liquid flavoured cup of tea anyone – yuk. To wash-up in a sink properly you need a double sink with one full of clean hot water, or to rinse under very hot running water. I was expecting someone to comment on the ‘waste’ of water using a dishwasher… but nowadays they are more efficient than washing up properly (ie with a clean hot rinse after the washing process, which, for a full family meal say, may need more than one full sink of the hot and soapy, let alone the rinse)
      Thanks for pointing this aspect out 🙂

  2. Actually, as an afterthought…..

    I wonder if you may have perhaps made a big assumption in your bit about the sink area being dirty from the washing of those vegetables grown in soil. I imagine that probably a majority of 21st century kitchen sinks never see dirty veg – not because people don’t wash their veg – but because they buy their veggies from the supermarket freezers.

    • To a certain extent I agree, but it is in the research AND I felt I had to counter a statement I saw on a Vegetarian website that was saying that only meat-eaters kitchens carried danger from pathogenic bacteria (as the meat eaters had raw meat in their kitchen areas). I suspect that vegetarians will also be amongst the most likely people to eat ‘real veg’ – as it is grown – and therefore potentially contaminate their kitchens in just the same way. 🙂 ‘Washed’ veg doesn’t mean no bacteria either – as it has been found that in some cases the ‘washing’ actually put bacteria on to the veg!

      As it happens, one of the larger food-poisoning outbreaks recently was traced back to Leeks and Potatoes. Last year’s widespread out-break, with some fatalities, was traced to Spanish cucumbers and German beansprouts.

      And did you know that one of the most likely foods to pick up a food poisoning bacteria from is from unwashed lettuce. It makes me cringe every-time a TV chef grabs a whole iceberg type lettuce and just chops it up – voila – ready to serve – without washing all the leaves!
      happy eating 🙂

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