How To Properly Clean and Sanitize Utensils by Hand

How To Properly Clean and Sanitize Utensils by Hand

We’re mostly a dishwasher society, but if you visit your grandmother’s house, you might find her still washing dishes by hand. 

Although the first dishwasher was invented in the 1800’s, they did not gain household popularity until the mid to late 1970’s, and even then, were only really found in wealthier homes. The dishwasher wasn’t really a staple in new construction until the mid to late 1980’s, so many dishwashing veterans simply didn’t trust the machine to properly clean dishes and flatware even when it started becoming more popular. 

Thankfully, most dishwashers today are fully capable of not only cleaning your dishes, but also sanitizing them. According to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), a dishwasher’s sanitization cycle reaches at least 150 degrees during the final rinse. According to the NSF, that temp can kill 99.999% of bacteria on your dishes. 

If you don’t have access to a dishwasher with a sanitizing cycle, no worries -- it is possible to still clean and sanitize your utensils by hand. You can trust that your flatware is clean and ready for use if you follow a few simple guidelines and steps. 

The team at is here to help. We specialize in making sanitizing easy, accessible, and affordable to all. Especially during a time when worldwide concern for health and safety is at an all-time high, learning how to clean and sanitize the things we use on a daily basis can help us prevent the spread of illness and remain proactive in our fight to keep safe. 

You don’t have to own a dishwasher or have access to one to properly sanitize your flatware. Here’s how to do it “old school.”

Cleansers and Sanitizers: What’s the Difference?

Before we dive into properly sanitizing utensils by hand, let’s talk about the differences between cleaning and sanitizing:

  • Cleaning. Cleaning refers to removing surface-level dirt, grime, stains, and other debris. Cleaning includes things like sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and general tidying up. When we talk about utensils, cleaning would refer to removing food particles and any other surface grime like fingerprints. Cleaning does not have to include sanitizing or disinfecting by definition, but it can in practice.

  • Sanitizing. Sanitizing refers to lowering the amount of bacteria, germs, viruses, and spores present on a surface. Sanitizing does not destroy or inactivate all germs, but it does reduce the amount of germs to a safe level. Sanitizing utensils is what makes them safe for use, and what prevents them from spreading germs from one diner to another. 

Cleaners and sanitizers also differ in their ingredient list. A simple cleaner may only contain purified water and a mild soap, while sanitizers need a little more cowbell to be able to effectively remove germs.

When it comes to sanitizers, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that it must contain 60% isopropyl alcohol by volume to be considered effective. That same hand sanitizer can be used to clean surfaces and other non-porous objects like smartphones and tablets if it contains at least 70% isopropyl alcohol by volume. 

When preparing to clean and sanitize your utensils, make sure you have the right tools, including a good cleaning and sanitizing agent. You can check out the FDA’s website to find a list of approved sanitizing agents for utensils, especially since some sanitizers and disinfectants are actually too strong, and aren’t safe to use on a surface that comes into contact with food. 

How to Correctly Clean and Sanitize Utensils by Hand

You don’t have to have a dishwasher to clean and sanitize your utensils -- you can easily do it by hand with a little extra time and elbow grease. 

Here are six easy steps to keeping your utensils clean and sanitized without a dishwasher:

  1. Disassemble. Take apart your utensils if possible, such as unscrewing spatula heads or handles. 

  1. Wash. Wash your utensils in warm, soapy water. It’s not really necessary to use an antibacterial dish soap -- a mild dish soap and warm water are good enough to break down leftover food and grease. 

  1. Rinse. Rinse your utensils in clean water, running them under hot water and separating them from the other dirty dishes in the sink.

  1. Sanitize. You have two options for sanitizing by hand: you can either submerge your utensils in boiling water, or soak them in a sanitizing solution like a bleach and water mixture. 

If you choose to boil your utensils, double check that they can withstand boiling temperatures and boil them for no more than 10 minutes. Then, set them on a clean, dry kitchen towel to air dry. Be careful when you remove them from boiling -- they’ll be hot no matter what they’re made of. 

To use a sanitizing solution, you can create a disinfectant formula of bleach and water by combining one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. Place your utensils in the mixture and allow them to soak for about 10 minutes. This will allow the solution time to break down bacteria on the utensils. Remove the utensils (using gloves) and set them on a clean, dry paper towel to dry. 

Once your utensils are dry, they are ready for use or storage.

  1. Clean storage space. Make sure you sanitize your storage space, too; there’s not much point to sanitizing your utensils if you store them somewhere dirty! You can easily clean and sanitize the drawer with a quick wipe-down using a kitchen rag, followed by some sanitizer spray to finish the job. Spritz some spray, then wipe the surface with a clean paper towel.

Reminder: For cleaning surfaces, use a hand sanitizer spray that contains at least 70% isopropyl alcohol by volume. 

Cleaning and sanitizing your utensils is a lot easier with a dishwasher, but for times when you can’t use one, the above method will keep your utensils clean and germ-free.

Where Can I Buy Sanitizer Strong Enough for Surfaces?

You can always find effective and portable hand sanitizer spray at Our hand sanitizers are 80% isopropyl alcohol mixed with hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, and purified water, and the sanitizers on our marketplace have all been vetted so you only get what actually works. 

We also offer our hand sanitizer spray in a convenient monthly subscription, so you can get access to the hand sanitizer you need without paying a ridiculous price or having to hunt it down across multiple stores. Our monthly subscription allows everyone to get access to affordable hand sanitizer that is effective against germs yet gentle on hands.

Plus, we keep our prices low. We promise to never price gouge, and we hope you never hoard because of it. 

Our hand sanitizer is on a mission to clean the world, and your utensils drawers are welcome to join in on the mission, too. 


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