UK’s first washing up swab study reveals a nasty bacterial soup brewing in the nation’s washing up bowls
In the first study of its kind, campaigning website stopwashingup.com reveals the dirty truth about washing up habits and how a potentially dangerous bacterial soup is created in our washing up bowls and sinks.
As part of Stop Washing Up Week, the new ‘in-home’ Hygiene Swab Study* measured the temperature of washing up water and took swab samples from bowls, taps, washing up bottles, dishcloths and tea towels nationwide. The results have revealed some serious flaws in our washing up process…
1) Luke warm water: For a start, we’re not using hot enough water. Eight out of ten households tested were using water under 39°C, which is kind to hands but simply not hot enough to kill off bacteria. None used water over 60 oC, the recommended temperature.
2) Dirty bowls: A quarter of people in the UK never clean the washing up bowl**, yet its used for an alarming variety of non-washing up tasks including rinsing raw meat, cleaning hands after using the toilet and even for washing football boots and fish tanks. Combined with the low water temperatures, this can leave behind what hygiene experts call a kind of ‘bacterial soup’. Swab tests show that some 40 per cent of bowls were found to be harbouring bacteria, with nasties even lurking in bowls that look seemingly clean.
Leading the Hygiene Swab Study, one of the UK’s leading food safety consultants, Dr Lisa Ackerley said:
“Interestingly 74% of swabbed samples were described as visibly clean, but nearly half of these went on to fail the test, demonstrating that visual appearance may not be a good indicator of hygiene.”
3) Contaminated cloths: An incredible 95% of dishcloths and 60% of tea towels failed the hygiene test; even E. coli was detected, indicating faecal contamination. Damp tea towels can be a breeding ground for bugs yet one in five of us (21%) waits a whole week or more to replace it with a clean one.
Why is this ‘bacterial soup’ happening?
Dr Lisa Ackerley said: “By not sanitising the bowl and using the same cloth for cleaning surfaces as well as dishware, germs can be transferred from chopping boards or items such as mucky shoes and grimy fishing equipment onto the dishes we eat from. In fact many households could be making relatively clean items even dirtier by cleaning them in a washing up bowl of bacterial soup, then drying with a germ laden tea towel.”
Finally, an accompanying YouGov survey revealed that one in seven have cut themselves when doing dishes – hardly surprising then that washing up is the least favourite chore for 20% of the households surveyed!
How do we protect ourselves?
The good news is that we can avoid this bacterial soup by ditching the washing up altogether. Dishes washed in a dishwasher are on average cleaner than those washed in the sink.*** That’s because it uses higher temperatures, (particularly at final rinse stage) than hands can stand in the sink.
Even on a 30 minute quickwash a Zanussi dishwasher reaches temperatures of 65 oC which will kill off bacteria, leaving your items hygienically clean – something washing up by hand rarely succeeds in doing.
Not only are there cleaning benefits, a dishwasher also dries your crockery and utensils reducing the amount of items being dried with that nasty tea towel, no wonder up to 20,000 UK households a month are switching to using a dishwasher.
Dr Lisa Ackerley shares her solution to Bacterial Soup:
“We will always use the washing up bowl for a number of different things, but I have to put the items I use to prepare food and eat with such as plates, cutlery and chopping boards into a dishwasher because that way I know that they will be hygienically cleaned. However until you are ready to get a dishwasher, here are some top tips to improve your washing up habits:
- Washing up water should be as high a temperature as possible – wear gloves to protect your hands
- Remember just washing up in your bowl isn’t actually ‘cleaning’ it! Sanitise the washing up bowl after washing bins, dog bowls and other non-dishware items
- Clean cloths, scourers and washing up brushes regularly – if particles of food are left, bacteria will thrive – letting them air dry also helps
- Ideally use fresh tea towels each time you wash up and provide a distinctive separate hand towel for drying hands
- Wash tea towels and cloths at temperatures above 60 oC and do not mix with other items in the washing machine that are likely to be contaminated (e.g underwear)
- Use an anti-bacterial spray to sanitise tap handles regularly and always after preparing raw food.
- If you have prepared raw meat, poultry or vegetables, always use an anti-bacterial spray to kill harmful bacteria on chopping boards and knives such as E. coli, Salmonella or Campylobacter which may not be destroyed by washing up by hand
Visit www.stopwashingup.com for more facts and findings from the Hygiene swab study, plus video tips from Dr Lisa Ackerley.
STOP WASHING UP SPECIAL DEAL: Up to £75 cash back is available to claim with the purchase of a Zanussi or AEG dishwasher at selected stores until 5th August 2012 – download voucher at www.stopwashingup.com or join the dishwasher revolution on Facebook www.facebook.com/stopwashingup and Twitter @stopwashingup
Notes to editors:
* Hygiene Audit Systems UK 2012 Hygiene Swab study of 20 homes in UK.
**You Gov study. Total sample size was 2061 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th – 14th June 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
***Bonn University 2008 Washing up study. 150 consumers washing up 12 place setting by hand
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