Washing dishes?


Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
One of the things I pondered during the summer's Grand Cruise (tm, patent pending) was.... what's the best way to wash dishes on a boat?

At present, I do a first pass with the seawater footpump and soap, then rinse with fresh water from the tank, then wipe 'em dry.

But between never knowing what's lurking in the seawater, and not really being sure what's lurking in my tanks, either.... I sometimes wonder if they're really clean.

(I clean out my tanks periodically, fill with good water and treat with bleach, but I've never felt all that comfortable drinking water that's been in the tanks - and hoses - for a while, so... it makes me wonder whether "cleaning" dishes with that water is helping or hurting)

When I do use the water from the tanks, I may use hot water if the tank is hot, but... even then, 180F isn't enough to really disinfect.

I've thought about wiping down the dishes with disinfecting/antibacterial wipes as a final pass, but.... most of those say "not to be used on dishes or utensils". I woulda thought that somebody would make "dishwashing wipes", but... nope.

Short of boiling a big pot of water.... what do you do to make sure dishes are really clean before you eat off them again?

Or am I overthinking things.... as usual....?


Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Being clean, and ... tidy

There are probably a whole sink full of "right answers" to this question. :rolleyes:

Our boat has an SS double sink. We use the hot water from the tank, if washing 8 hours or less from turning off the engine. Fill a couple inches into one sink with some "liquid dish soap" and wash everything with a little scrubber brush. Pile them into the adjacent sink, in sequential groups if there are a lot of them. Rinse them with hot water from tap unless it has cooled too much or then pour hot water over them from a just-boiled kettle on the stove.
Stack them beside the sink on a fluffy towel and dry them and put 'em away.
Last, let the soapy water drain out of the sink (and find the sneaky spoon that was lurking under the suds...). :)

We have thought about buying a plastic fold-up dish "drainer" but then there would be one more gadget to store.

BTW, not that you asked, but one trick I learned from my early delivery days is to ask every one aboard to "have and to hold" their very own cup and spoon and keep it separate from the sink area all day. They can rinse and reuse it - or not - but this eliminates a *lot* of dirty dishes & silverware from accumulating in the sink. Much appreciated when off shore.


Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
If they're degreased, clean, and dry, they're good enough. Hot water is more for degreasing than for any sort of "sterilization." Household dishes are never going to be "sterile." Ordinary detergent has a considerable bactericidal effect, in addition to desorbing microbes from surfaces. Really, the only time it might be worthy of a second thought is in the case of containers that you're going to use to store prepared food for several days. Nothing you can do, outside of the pressure cooker, is going to kill spores (i.e. botulism). Ordinary gram-negative bacteria - found everywhere - will grow in raw creamy foods at permissible temperatures and give you a nice little day of vomiting. Probably best to avoid storing uncooked prepared foods (e.g. chopped salads and the other usual suspects) at all if your refrigeration is in any way sketchy or delayed.
Although I'm not sure that I could live without my gazpacho...
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Geoff W.

Makes Up For It With Enthusiasm
Blogs Author
Hot water, wash w/ Dawn and dry. I have a dish drying rack that usually lives on top of the engine cover. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger :)

And my boat came with a charcoal filter on the pressure water system, which does eliminate any plastic tank / hose taste that should arise. Haven't died yet!


Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
FWIW, I have a "collapsible" dish tub and drying rack that folds flat enough to wedge into the dead space between the sink bowl and cabinet wall. IDK exactly how many fold/unfold cycles those things are good for, but more that I'm using at present, anyway.

Gary Holford

Member II
Although I'm in fresh water I fill a solar shower with potable water before I leave the dock. After it heats up tie it to the boom and rinse the dishes clean. Free green energy.


Kevin A Wright

Member III
I also have the foldup dishrack that lives on top of the engine compartment cover. By the time after dinner drinks are done the dishes are dry and can be put away.

Ordinary dish soap is all the disinfection you will ever need. Commercial 'disinfectants' don't give any better results than simple soap. Back in my microbiology days when we were using colonies of E.Coli to manufacture target proteins, we used one drop of Joy dishwashing soap in the mixer with the bacterial colony to lyse (break open the cell wall) of the bacteria to kill them and release the proteins. Not any fancy chemicals, just Joy dishsoap. No this won't kill spores, but neither will any other chemical cleaner that would be remotely safe to use. You need to use an autoclave for that.

Warm water helps with grease removal so if the tank isn't hot anymore, heat some on the stove.

Past that, don't worry about it.

Kevin Wright
E35 Hydro Therapy