NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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Washing All Those Dishes

washing dishes, dirty dishes, dish detergent

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Holiday meals tend to generate numerous dishes that will leave the host toiling for hours in the kitchen long after the guests have gone home to sleep. After putting forth all that hard work and expense, the host reaps the rewards of wrinkled hands and tired feet.

Whatever the celebration, if food is involved, dirty dishes are the end result. Even with the use of dishwashers, paper plates or plastic utensils, some pots and pans used in preparation remain or we may decide to use “the good” china and have mountains of non-dishwasher safe plates and platters.

While the clean-up may seem daunting, it can be a cinch by having the best cleaning products handy. Take detergents that do the best job of washing a large amount of dishes, and other kitchen cleaners that leave heavily used surfaces looking spotless.

The dish detergent you use to clean all those dirty dishes may seem like a special formulation but it actually has several components.

  • Cleaning Agents/surfactants lift dirt and soil and produce good grease-cutting capability.
  • Stability and dispensing aids keep the product consistent under varying storage conditions and provide desirable dispensing characteristics.
  • Mildness additives may include moisturizing agents, certain oils and emollients, certain protein compounds or other neutralizing ingredients.
  • Fragrance is added to produce a pleasant or distinctive scent.
  • Preservatives help present any microbiological growth in the product that could cause color or odor change, poor performance and or separation of the ingredients.
  • Colorants are added to lend individuality and an appealing appearance to the product.
  • Enzymes help break down tough stains and burned-on soils.
  • Encapsulates deliver stability for special materials such as moisturizer or fragrance.

Due to the contact with foods, it is important to select a detergent that has been specially formulated for use on dishes. Before using any cleaning product, always read the use and cautionary information included on the label.  Like all household cleaning products, store dishwashing detergent in a secure location that is out of the reach of small children and pets.  Don’t mix dishwashing detergents with other cleaning products – irritating, potentially toxic fumes could result. Keep detergent in its original container with the label intact to avoid confusion with other cleaning products.  

If cleaning products are swallowed, get in the eyes or irritating fumes from combined chemicals are inhaled immediately read the label for emergency information, including any numbers to call. If the information on the label is not clear, contact the U.S. Poison Control Center’s nationwide toll-free number at 1-800-222-1222.

Whatever brand of dishwasher detergent you use, hand dishwashing detergent and dishwasher detergent are not interchangeable. The sudsing action of dishwashing detergent will prevent your dishwasher from properly cleaning effectively rinsing your dishes. Don’t use automatic dishwasher detergent to wash dishes by hand, as the detergent may be harmful to your skin and can damage fragile dish pieces.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your holiday entertaining!

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