There's a Good Chance You're Hand-Washing Your Dishes with Water That's Too Hot

Even food safety experts agree that your hands have had enough.

When it comes to hand-washing dishes, conventional wisdom has it that the hotter the water, the better. How else are you going to kill those nasty germs, right?


Washing Dishes
solidcolours/Getty Images

Sorry y'all, but it turns out that we've been scalding our hands for naught.

The Kitchn spoke with Ben Chapman, PhD, a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, who set the record straight on hand-washing dishes and water temperature. Warning: your hands won't be happy to hear what's coming next.

According to Chapman, when you're hand-washing dishes in the sink, "temperature of water isn't really a factor until above 135 which is way, way, way too hot for anyone's hand."

"The water doesn't even have to be hot," he continued. "Just warm enough to loosen grease or food attached to the plate." How warm is warm enough, you ask? As cool as 80 degrees. So, subjecting your hands to anything hotter that is ineffective and unnecessary.

Surprisingly, drying is actually much more important than the temperature of the water. Why? Bacteria thrives in wetness. Drying your dishes is "going to kill another 90 percent of whatever is left [after washing]," Chapman told The Kitchn.

To ensure complete sanitization of your dishes, nothing can compete with a dishwasher, which, after dousing them with water between 140- and 145-degrees Fahrenheit, also dries them completely.

So, give those poor hands a break, OK?

Was this page helpful?
Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. McMahan D. This Food Expert Says Most of Us Are Washing Dishes with Water That’s Too Hot. kitchn.

Related Articles