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Sanitizing Dishes Without Bleach

by Yaya Maria |

Sanitizing Dishes Without Bleach

If someone in your home is sick and you need to sanitize dishes but are looking for an alternative to bleach, we’ve got you covered!

Read on.

Sanitize dishes

How to disinfect dishes without bleach in 5 steps

1. Clean the sink

Sanitizing dishes starts with cleaning your kitchen sink.


Because it’s where you’ll be washing the dishes, and also because it happens to be the dirtiest area in your home.

The abundant nutrients in the food residue that washes off of your dishes and into your kitchen sink provides a feast for bacteria to multiply.

If you don’t sanitize your sink, those microbes can easily get all over the dishes you are trying to sanitize – which is counterproductive.

Long story short: start with a clean sink.

Remove any bits and pieces of food that might be in your sink, add some dish soap, lather up using a paper towel, and rinse until clean.


2. Sanitize your dish sponge

We told you before that the kitchen sink is the dirtiest *area* in most homes – but the dirtiest item is the dish sponge.

A team of German researchers found that after about a week of use, kitchen dish sponges contain up to 82 billion bacteria per cubic inch.

This means that you could be rubbing more bacteria onto your dishes than is on them already.

While the slipperiness of the dish soap that you will be washing your dishes with will send most of those microbes down the drain, for certain people dealing with health issues, that may not be good enough.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution.

A study by researchers at the Clorox company (ironically) found that boiling a dish sponge in water for one minute killed 99.99999% of bacteria.

Problem solved.

Another approach is to switch out your dish sponge every other week.

But isn’t that environmentally irresponsible, you might ask?

Not if you use a compostable dish sponge.

We here at the Yaya Maria’s blog use these 100% compostable sponges at home, and love them. They don’t even cost more than the ones you get at the store.

To take things a step further, you can choose a dish soap (like this one) that includes essential oils, which naturally discourage bacteria growth.

No more smelly dish sponge!

3. Wash dishes before sanitizing them

This is vital since you can’t sanitize dishes without this step.

If you don’t wash the dishes before sanitizing them, you’re essentially sanitizing food scraps.

So what’s the best way to wash your dishes?

Apply some natural dish soap to a sponge and start lathering up your dirty dishes.

Why natural?

Find out in this video:


Then you rinse with clean water.

The advantage of this method over filling your sink with water and dish soap is that you don’t soak your dishes in a bacteria pool.

That would counteract your goal of sanitizing the dishes (and this post shows how to use less water than any dishwasher when doing the dishes by hand).

Now that you’re done washing up, let’s look at some natural ways to sanitize your dishes using alternatives to bleach.

4a. Sanitize dishes with boiling water

Boiling water is a great alternative to bleach, especially for non-fragile items made out of metal, ceramic, and glass.

The minimum temperature of boiling water is 212 ºF (100 ºC) at sea level.

Research has proven that this is high enough to kill common food-borne microbes found on meat (the food that is most likely to be contaminated with bacteria).

To avoid temperature shock for glass or ceramic items, place them inside the pot of water before heating it up.

Allow the water to boil for at least a full minute before turning off the burner.

What about items made out of materials that aren’t suitable for boiling in water, like plastic and wood?

We’ve got you covered.

4b. Sanitize dishes with vinegar

When you need to sanitize your dishes but can’t boil them, allow vinegar to come to the rescue.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that vinegar is an effective natural alternative to bleach for killing microbes.

And a British team of researchers found that soaking an item in a 10% vinegar solution for 30 minutes kills even hearty disease-causing bacteria.

So first wash the dishes thoroughly with natural dish soap and rinse with clean water.

Second, to sanitize dishes with vinegar, fill a tub or large pot with 1 part vinegar to 9 parts water.

Allow the dishes to soak for 30 minutes to kill any bacteria.

Next up:

5. How to dry sanitized dishes

Now you’re going to want to dry your freshly-sanitized dishes in a way that keeps them uncontaminated.

The most counterproductive thing you could do at this point (besides licking them) would be to dry them with a kitchen towel.

A recent study found that bacteria abound in most kitchen towels.

Why? Because every time someone in your household touches the kitchen towel, the towel picks up the natural oils and bacteria on their hand, and its moist environment causes those bacteria to multiply.

In other words, when you dry your sanitized dishes with a towel, you’re probably rubbing bacteria all over them.

Instead, the most sanitary way to dry your dishes is to place them on a clean (i.e. sanitized) dish rack and allow them to air dry.

Why sanitize dishes with bleach alternative?

Bleach is, unfortunately, the method for sanitizing dishes that you will find most commonly recommended in the blogosphere.

That’s bad advice, because bleach is a harsh chemical that is too dangerous to use in the kitchen.

Here’s why:

1. Bleach can harm your eyes.

One stray, splashing drop can damage your cornea badly enough to give you an open sore on your eye.

That would entail weeks of eye drops and expensive doctor’s visits.

All of that just to sanitize the dishes?

No one wants that.

2. Bleach harms your lungs.

A recent Harvard study revealed that when you sanitize dishes with bleach, it releases dangerous fumes into the air inside your home, harming your lungs.

More precisely, the researchers found that using synthetic disinfectants such as bleach just once a week increases your likelihood of developing a lung disease by 32%.

That’s why you definitely want to choose a natural alternative to bleach.

3. Bleach dissolves human skin.

When bleach comes into contact with your skin, it will immediately burn any natural oils and dead skin cells in its path.

If you don’t wash it off right away, it will give your skin a severe chemical burn.

That’s a lot of risk to take on just to sanitize dishes.

There are many other dangers to consider when using bleach on dishes you eat from.

Once bleach ends up inside the human body it causes vomiting and diarrhea, and in severe cases it may even be life-threatening.

And as if that wasn’t enough, bleach can react with certain chemicals in dish soap.

Ammonia, which is found in some conventional dish soaps, leads to a chemical reaction with bleach, causing toxic fumes.

Not what you wanna breathe in when doing dishes.

You get the point: it’s important to switch to a natural bleach alternative.

Advantages of sanitizing dishes with a natural bleach alternative

Switching to a natural alternative to bleach makes sanitizing dishes a lot more relaxing.

You don’t have to worry about bleach-related injuries.

You don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals on your dishes that could end up inside your body.

Bleach alternatives also allow you to sanitize a wider variety of items. That’s because bleach darkens anything made of metal.

You also don’t have to worry about unleashing a dangerous chemical reaction with your dish soap.

Overall it makes a lot of sense to opt for a natural alternative to bleach when sanitizing dishes. The 5-step method described above really works great.

Final tips

You’re almost an expert by now, but before you leave, here are a couple of additional tips for sanitizing dishes.

First, don’t be tempted to try “antibacterial” dish soaps, because they simply don’t work.

In fact, the FDA has told manufacturers to stop making antibacterial claims, because studies have shown that antibacterial soaps (including dish soaps) do not live up to the marketing hype.

You can read more about the fascinating issue of antibacterial soap here.

Second, now that you know how to use natural alternatives to bleach for sanitizing dishes, keep your dish soap natural too.

Conventional dish soap contains a number of harsh, hard-to-wash-off chemicals that form a film on your dishes and mix in with your next meal.

It’s smart to use a natural dish soap that keeps you and your family safe.

Hope you enjoyed the post! Be healthy.

(When you make a purchase from links in this post we might receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)


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