The Science of Washing Dishes

We all know how to hand wash dishes. You squirt soap on the sponge, scrub, and rinse. Voila! These shiny wares are clean!


First, lets take a step back to assess some of the ingredients required for a good clean dish.

  1. Soap – the magic of soap lies in its hydrophobic (water hating) and hydrophilic (water loving) properties. The hydrophobic end of the molecule attaches to oil, while the hydrophilic end attaches to water. Once attached to the oil, the water can be removed to leave oil-free surfaces. But it’s not just oil, but also bacteria which can be removed by the surfactants found in soap.
  2. Scrubber – scrubbers and the act of scrubbing physically remove grime, bacteria, and oil from plates. House-cleaning experts recommend staying away from wood/cellulose based sponges (the traditional sponge) as their propensity to retain water attracts bacteria. Instead, they recommend using a plastic based sponge (just like the Nylon in Neptune’s Dishnets) to clean instead.
Hot Water –  high temperature water will further help remove oils and kill certain bacteria. However, temperatures high enough to kill most bacteria are not safe to handle with your hands. Nonetheless, hot water reduces streaks and spots in your dishes.