I was recently in a camp where the group of attendees would take turn into cooking and doing the dishes.

There I observed that, while I followed these steps while washing the dishes:

  1. coarse rinse with water
  2. wipe/scrub with soaped sponge
  3. rinse with water
  4. wipe dry with a cloth

all the other, when it was their turn, skipped step 3 and directly wiped dry the soapy dish/pan with a cloth.

when I observed "oh, don't you rinse it before drying?" I was just told "nah, not needed".

Is it safe to not rinse the dishes before wipe dry them?

Based on what I know, water will evaporate, but dish soap won't, so the cloth would simply smear a layer of soap all over the dish/pan which will then be ingested with the food going into that dish/pan at the next use.

  • 3
    I think I read somewhere that this is a cultural (or nationality) thing. In some countries, everyone does it one way and finds the other weird. Was it a mixed group by any chance? Jun 16 at 9:52
  • @phipsgabler yes, I was the only one from a different nationality than the rest of the group
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 16 at 10:06
  • Are you worried that the soap (if it is still present after the wipe) is unsafe, or are you worried that the wipe is not enough to remove potential pathogens?
    – moscafj
    Jun 16 at 10:34
  • @moscafj, about getting soap in my food
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 16 at 11:15
  • I vaguely recall watching a Japanese sitcom-type show on NHK World about cultural differences (a British guy who married a Japanese woman and moves to Japan to live with her father), and his finding out that the Japanese don’t rinse dishes after cleaning. It was called “Home Sweet Tokyo”, but I don’t know which episode it was. I did find this analysis of different countries when searching, though: owlcation.com/social-sciences/…
    – Joe
    Jun 16 at 23:19

4 Answers 4


Taking a mainstream retailer brand, Dawn Dish Detergent, as a representative sampling source (they represent 28.8% of their product segment's market share as of 2022), I've pulled their SDS for their primary flagship (here's an online copy, and a backup for link retention).

Note that although there are precautionary statements and first aid statements for ingestion, there is no known hazard enumerated. There are several CAS components broken out...


...and here's the toxicological data...


...so presumably, the hazards of concern are only present in negligible concentrations.

TLDR; while it certainly would not be pleasant and you'd likely want to avoid accidentally ingesting any whenever possible, there is no evidence at this time that suggests ingestion to be hazardous (under normal use cases).


This probably depends a bit on the wiping technique. Any soap residue left is not a safety risk. So, you are left with concern about tasting the soap. It seems to me that if campers were tasting soap, they would make that known, and the dishwashers would either rinse or take more care in wiping. From a food safety perspective, drying is probably more important. Moisture promotes pathogen growth. So, to answer your ultimate questions, this seems safe.


Many bio-degradable camping dishsoaps are safe to ingest in small quantities.

I would be more concerned about how your food would taste, and about potential particles of food left on the plates due to the lack of rinsing.


I don't think my mother rinsed or dried a dish in her life. They got left to drain & put away when dry.

I've done the same ever since I was old enough to have my own place, though I have shorter patience so will finish off drying them before they're fully aired & put them away sooner.

I'm 63 & it hasn't killed me yet.

Also consider that in a dishwasher, there must be rinsing because all the food is still in the soapy water being sprayed around. Of course, as it rinses, it then puts a separate chemical rinse-aid in the water. End result, you're no longer eating soap, you're eating rinse-aid.

  • Your “of course” section is somewhat inaccurate. Not everyone uses a rinse-aid, so for a lot of people they get dishes rinsed with regular water at the end. Jun 16 at 19:33
  • Er, I don't see how this response answers the question
    – FuzzyChef
    Jun 16 at 20:38
  • @FuzzyChef - it says, quite clearly, that it has caused no ill effects whatsoever in over 60 years, hence rinsing & wiping is nothing more than just being over-fussy. It's like not letting your kids play outside in case they get dirty - another 'modern fear' [which they're now trying hard to train parents out of.]
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 17 at 6:42

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