You would think washing the dishes counts as washing your hands — dish soap is usually stronger than hand soap, and you might well be giving each individual finger a proper exfoliation with that skillful maneuvering of the sponge. On the other hand, so to speak, you could also reasonably think that repeatedly bashing your fists into crusted mashed potatoes in the process of washing the dishes should necessitate an additional handwashing for good measure. But is that really necessary, or is the dish soap enough?
“When we’re washing the dishes, we’re constantly getting our hands clean,” says Jason “The Germ Guy” Tetro, author of The Germ Files.
Great, so no extra washing needed! Thanks for reading my article! Oh, wait…
“But if you happen to clean up the area afterwards,” Tetro continues, “you may pick up microbes that weren’t washed down the drain. This is especially important if you also use the sink area for food preparation, such as with vegetables and raw meats. It’s always good to wash your hands when you’re completely finished — just to be sure you’re safe.”
Welp, I guess I should have expected that, considering germs are literally everywhere. As for those microbes Tetro is referring to, he sent me a study that identifies a whole bunch that are likely to inhabit your kitchen sink — namely, Campylobacter and Salmonella from chicken, E. coli from beef, Clostridium from vegetables and Staphylococcus aureus and fecal coliforms (actual poop) from other humans. Most of these bacteria can cause some kind of food poisoning — which would result in vomiting and diarrhea — but others, like staph, can contribute to more serious infections that could even be deadly.
While all that bacteria might sound scary — and yeah, I just washed my hands 36 consecutive times — the chances of actually contracting a serious illness as a result of not washing your hands immediately after washing the dishes is admittedly low. “This paper reveals that the numbers can potentially pose a risk to health,” Tetro says. “Although, it’s relatively low, unless you lick the surfaces — and your fingers — which you probably won’t want to do when your hands are wet.”
Then again, those crusted mashed potatoes are looking pretty tasty right now.