Germs and viruses can survive for hours on hard surfaces, so it’s a good idea to give items like dishes and food containers an occasional sanitizing treatment to reduce germy dirt. This is especially true if someone in your household has just recovered from a cold, flu or other virus.
In addition to common cold and flu viruses, dangerous bacteria on food-adjacent surfaces can also cause food poisoning. It’s not just a problem for dishes and glassware. Lunchboxes, plastic food containers, water bottles and even stainless steel reusable straws can be affected. Fortunately, it’s also easy to fix. All you have to do is sanitize your dishes in a bleach solution after washing and rinsing them.
Just be sure to use the correct amounts of bleach and water to make the sanitizing solution.
|Container||Amount of Water||Amount of Bleach|
|Large sink||3 gallons||2 tablespoons|
|Large dishpan||2 gallons||1 tbsp + 1 tsp|
|Small dishpan||1 gallon||2 teaspoons|
|32 oz. water bottle||Fill with water||½ teaspoon|
|24 oz. coffee tumbler||Fill with water||¼ + ⅛ tsp|
|16 oz. water bottle||Fill with water||¼ teaspoon|
Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach
1 quart measuring cup
Plastic dishpansYou’ll need 3
Dish drying rack
- Fill a sink or dishpan with hot soapy water, and wash your dishes. As you work, transfer the washed dishes to clean water in a second dishpan or the other half of your sink.
Don’t wash non-stainless steel, aluminum, silver or chipped enamel with bleach. Disinfect these by scalding.
Drop the soapy dishes into the rinse water. They can stay there while you mix up the bleach and water solution.
Prepare the bleach and water solution
Refer to the guidelines above to determine the ratio of bleach to water you’ll need for your sanitizing solution. Use cool water along with a third dishpan or clean sink to mix your solution.
Sanitize the dishes
Submerge the dishes in the bleach and water solution, allowing them to soak for 2 minutes.
Let the dishes drip or air dry
Remove the dishes from the sanitizing solution and transfer them to the drying rack to air dry. No rinsing is required after sanitizing.
Frequently asked questions
- Do I need to use tap water for sanitizing dishes?
Yes, only use potable water. This application is not the same as what we recommend to make water safe to drink in an emergency.
- Why can’t I just add the bleach to the sudsy water?
The washing, rinsing, and sanitizing steps must all be done separately. That’s because bleach breaks down very quickly in the presence of organic matter. So the organics coming off your dishes would very quickly degrade the bleach if they were together in the same solution, and you would no longer have the correct concentration of bleach to kill the bacteria.
- Can I use splashless bleach to sanitize dishes?
No — even though Clorox® Splash-Less® Bleach is now EPA-registered, sanitizing dishes and other food contact surfaces is not an approved use on the EPA registration.
- Can I put bleach in my dishwasher with my dishes?
Regular bleach is not intended for use by itself in a household dishwasher. Instead, look for Automatic Dishwashing Detergents that already contain bleach. Commercial dishwashers (like what you’d see in a restaurant or other institution) do allow for bleach use depending on the model. Check the instruction manual or ask a service technician for guidance on proper use.
- I bought my bleach at a warehouse store and it has a different name. Can I use it instead?
Yes. Depending on where you buy your bleach, you could also use any of the following: Clorox® Bleach1, Clorox® Regular Bleach3, Clorox® Performance Bleach2 and Clorox® Germicidal Bleach4.
- How can I check to see that my bleach solution is strong enough?
Use a chlorine test strip to confirm you have the correct concentration of sanitizing solution, 185 ppm available chlorine. If the level is too low, carefully add a small amount of bleach and retest with a fresh test strip.
If you’re sanitizing a large number of items, periodically re-test the sanitizing solution to make sure you maintain the correct level of bleach active. If necessary, add a small amount of bleach when needed when the bleach active level falls below 185 ppm.