Is it okay to wash your hands in the same dishwater that you are using to wash the dishes? In other words, Can someone use the kitchen sink filled with soapy dishwater to wash hands after using the restroom? Is it safe or just gross?

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    This was actually the punch line of a professional comedian here ("I always wash dishes after I poop, very efficient, washes my hands at the same time", delivered in a deadpan voice) and the audience collectively went "Eeewww!" Dec 2, 2021 at 16:11

2 Answers 2


No! This risks fecal contamination of the dishes.

One of the most common methods for disease to spread is the fecal-oral route. By washing your hands after going to the toilet in the same water as the dishes you're cleaning, you're transferring that fecal contamination to the water and then to all the dishes washed in it, and then to all the food eaten from those dishes.

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    Your answer reminds me of a person who was repulsed by the thought of washing their underwear with their other clothes. Do you also wash dishes that held raw food separate from cooked food? I say that washed hands in the same dish water makes no difference and your link is not quite the same thing.
    – Rob
    Dec 1, 2021 at 11:14
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    @Rob "Do you also wash dishes that held raw food separate from cooked food?" That shouldn't matter. The water should be hot enough to kill any bacteria from that - but if it's cold enough to wash your hands in, it's too cold to do that.
    – nick012000
    Dec 1, 2021 at 13:46
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    @Rob There are likely two scenarios at play here— a home cook, and a professional. For a professional, this would be a health code violation. For a home chef, maybe you won’t get hundreds of people sick, but you’ve just walked all the way from the bathroom to the kitchen without washing your hands. Did you touch and doorknobs or light switches on the way back to the kitchen? I admit I’ve washed my larger pots in the bathtub before, but that was because I lived in an apartment with a tiny sink that couldn’t even fit my plates unless they were at an angle. (The kitchen was about 5ft wide)
    – Joe
    Dec 1, 2021 at 14:43
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    @nick012000 washing up water is rarely hot enough to kill stuff, which would require over 60°C for some time. It probably doesn't come out of the tap at 60°C and you wouldn't want to repeatedly reach into a bowl of 60°C water for things anyway
    – Chris H
    Dec 1, 2021 at 15:05
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    @nick012000 Most tap water doesn't go above 60C (140F), and you'd need to hold your hands in that water for 12 minutes to be good bacteria-wise according to food-safety time-temperature tables (see foodprotect.org/issues/packets/2012packet/attachments/…), at which point you'd have 3rd degree burns from the water (5 seconds @ 60C is enough for a 3rd degree burn: ameriburn.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/…).
    – bob
    Dec 2, 2021 at 13:48

I completely agree that after the toilet it's a very bad idea. Just don't. Food hygiene regulations for commercial settings, strictly interpreted, are likely to mean that you wash your hands after the toilet and on arrival in the kitchen, i.e. again.

If what you're washing off is from food prep, it's less clear-cut. I still wouldn't recommend it in a professional setting, where there should always be a separate hand-wash sink. At home, when cleaning as you go, sometimes you have little choice. I find this especially true when batch-baking, or when preparing a lot of fruit/veg for several dishes at once - you may need to wash the onion smell off before prepping dessert, for example. Then you're either washing in or over the washing up water.

Somewhere in between is dirty food-prep. By this I mean tasks like getting soil off root veg transfer the soil to your hands. You wouldn't want that in your washing-up water either. Of course that's fairly unlikely as you'll need a sink to clean the veg, so you'll have somewhere to wash (once the veg is out of the way so you don't get soap on it).

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