I know that a soap's main effect is to bind fats to water, i.e., to make fatty substances water-soluble. When washing fat-free dishes, e.g., a bowl that was only used to temporarily hold a can of tomato sauce, I wonder whether there is any point in using dish soap, or whether rinsing with water is just as good?


  • Only fat-free foods were used in the dish, such as many vegetables or fruit.
  • No relevant skin fats from mouth or fingers, i.e., I am not asking about glasses that someone drank from, cutlery, or items that where touched/handled a lot.
  • Ignore pure optical effects of dish soap, e.g., substances to make glass shinier.

Does dish soap (detergent) have relevant effects in such cases?

  • It might be helpful to clarify. What do you mean by "exhibit effects." Your question already eliminates main effect of soap (creating an emulsion)....so I'm not sure what you want to know? It is certainly possible to clean dishes and kitchen items without soap.
    – moscafj
    Jun 19 at 18:23
  • I think my question boils down to whether without soap there is a higher risk of food remains being left on the dishes, providing grounds for, e.g., bacterial growth.
    – Simon
    Jun 19 at 19:39
  • These are two different questions. 1. Does soap facilitate the removal of food from dishes...and 2. Is soap necessary to sanitize dishes? I would still suggest rewording your question.
    – moscafj
    Jun 19 at 21:06
  • What's the practical application of this information - are you going to leave one dish on the side to just give a quick rinse later, whilst ensuring the rest get a good soapy wash?
    – unlisted
    Jun 20 at 7:37
  • 1
    I for sure only rinse out bowls that held cut vegetables, or a knife I used to slice a tomato, for example, if nothing is stuck. I don't know if I am missing anything, though.
    – Esther
    Jun 20 at 16:04


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