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How to Sanitize Dishes with Bleach

Different clean plates in dish drying rack on kitchen counter

Hand washing dishes may eliminate visible food and dirt, but it’s not enough to kill bacteria like salmonella. To sanitize, you can rinse your dishes with a bleach and water solution after washing.

More from Clorox experts
By Mary Gagliardi

Bacteria on dishes can make you sick

Food poisoning — stomach cramps, diarrhea, and worse—can be caused by dangerous bacteria on the items we use to eat, drink and cook with. Harmful bacteria can also make the food we eat and drink taste off.

And it’s not just a problem for dishes and glassware; it’s really obvious in an insulated water bottle or coffee tumbler, and even stainless steel reusable straws. Fortunately, it’s also easy to fix!

Safely wash dishes with bleach

If you don’t have an automatic dishwasher, and wash all your dishes by hand, adding in a routine sanitizing step after washing and rinsing is pretty easy to do. Or maybe you do have a dishwasher, and only hand wash items that aren’t dishwasher safe.

Either way, always be sure to measure the correct amounts of bleach and water to make the sanitizing solution.

ContainerAmount of WaterAmount of Bleach
Large sink3 gallons2 tablespoons
Large dishpan2 gallons1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Small dishpan1 gallon2 teaspoons
32 oz. water bottleFill with water½ teaspoon
24 oz. coffee tumblerFill with water¼ + ⅛ tsp
16 oz. water bottleFill with water¼ teaspoon

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Sanitizing dishes is simple

  1. Wash the dishes with dish detergent.
  2. Rinse the dishes with clean water.
  3. Soak the dishes for 2 minutes in a 185ppm available chlorine bleach and water colution.
  4. Drain or drip dry. No additional rinsing is required!

You can mix up the bleach and water solution in a larger container or sink. This makes it easier to sanitize a large number of items. Or if you just need to sanitize one item, you can sometimes treat the item itself.

For coffee tumblers or any other item with a lid, be sure to sanitize the lid, too. If necessary, disassemble the lid to thoroughly sanitize all the pieces.


Don’t wash non-stainless steel, aluminum, silver or chipped enamel with bleach. Disinfect these by scalding.

Gather your supplies

Steps to sanitize your dishes

  1. 1

    Wash your dishes

    Use hot water and dish detergent. Use your sink or a dishpan depending on the amount of dishes you want to wash and fill it with hot soapy water, then wash the dishes. As you work, transfer the washed dishes to a second dishpan or the other half of your sink filled with clean water.

    washing dishes
  2. 2

    Rinse the dishes

    Drop the soapy dishes into the rinse water. They can stay there while you mix up the bleach and water solution.

    faucet with water
  3. 3

    Prepare the bleach and water solution

    To mix up the correct sanitizing solution, use the table earlier in this article to determine how much bleach and water to add for your situation. Use cool tap water. You can use a third dishpan, or clean out your sink and use it to mix up the bleach and water solution.

    pouring bleach mixing with water
  4. 4

    Confirm the bleach solution concentration

    Use a chlorine test strip to confirm you have the correct concentration of sanitizing solution, 185ppm available chlorine. If the level is too low, carefully add a small amount of bleach and re-test 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 185ppm.

    chlorine test strips
  5. 5

    Sanitize the dishes

    Submerge the dishes in the bleach and water solution, allowing them to soak for 2 minutes.

    peron soaking something in a bucket
  6. 6

    Let the dishes drip or air dry

    Remove the dishes from the sanitizing solution and transfer them to the drying rack to air dry. You don’t need to rinse them when you take them out of the bleach and water solution — no rinsing is required after the sanitizing step.

    Different clean plates in dish drying rack on kitchen counter

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 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.