I have a glass/ceramic bowl. I've used the bowl so now I gotta wash it; instead of using a dish cleaner I manually wash it with soap and rinse it off with hot steamy water for about 1 minute. I pour the water out. There is some residual water inside the bowl and outside it. The bowl also comes with a lid (silicone).

Onto the drying part, should I...

  • close the bowl with the lid and call it a day?
  • not close the bowl and let it air dry?
  • wipe the residual off with a clean dishcloth?

I've thought of some counter-arguments for each but I don't know how true and valid they are:

  • lid is not hermetic, but can seal off most bacteria from forming... Or not?
  • there might be bacteria, but it might dry along with the air/sun... Or not?
  • the dishcloth might also have contaminants even if it's coming from the drying machine... Or not?
  • 34
    You're over-thinking this. Just... dry the bowl and then put it away. Even simpler, put it upside down on the dish rack to air dry.
    – RonJohn
    Oct 17, 2023 at 2:32
  • 13
    Rinsing for a minute sounds excessive. Just get rid of the soap.
    – Michael
    Oct 17, 2023 at 10:38
  • 1
    Sound like @Xyd lives in a hot/humid country where lingering and collected moisture could pose a health issue. Here in the UK, I just wash in soapy (detergent) water, rinse if covered in lots of suds and air-dry the pieces separately. Never had a problem.
    – Greybeard
    Oct 18, 2023 at 16:32
  • 1
    For what it's worth, food safety codes typically require that you air-dry (never towel dry) dishes in a commercial kitchen
    – Joel Keene
    Oct 19, 2023 at 4:36
  • 1
    The problem with towel drying is that over time the towel picks up material from the items being dried while also retaining moisture, making the towel itself a potential source of contaminants. The longer the towel is used, the greater the risk. The risk is low in a home setting, but in a professional kitchen, the risk is a lot higher because dishes are being done all day long.
    – barbecue
    Oct 19, 2023 at 16:20

3 Answers 3


The only important part here is to not seal water in the container.

You can either let it air dry, or use a clean cloth to dry it.

If you have a problem with your dishes and glasses having a white residue if they air dry, then I would use a cloth, otherwise, just leave it overnight to dry and then store it.

If you suspect that your dish cloth is contaminated, wash it and get a clean one. Even if there is a little bit of remnants of something on the cloth (from your hands? Although you hopefully washed those), it shouldn’t be able to replicate on a dry dish

  • 13
    I’m a bit concerned about the OP’s supposition that closing the lid might “prevent most bacteria from forming". I wonder if it might help to clarify here that airborne bacteria and mold will actually be sealed inside if the lid is closed and the real concern in a kitchen is bacteria and mold growing, as opposed to "forming". Oct 17, 2023 at 14:52
  • 8
    I'd also add that I never store anything [empty] with a sealed lid with the lid on. There's a [very] small chance that when you put it away it was still very slightly damp. Lid off, it will dry. Lid on, it won't.. & there's your potential petri dish.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 18, 2023 at 9:06

Bacteria and molds need 3 things in the right amount to thrive:

  • nutrients
  • water
  • temperature

If you don't let water go away from the surface, you are just relying on the lack of nutrients, which won't last long.

If you instead dry the surface, either by evaporation or wiping, it will take more time for both water and nutrients to be at the right level.

The time it takes for a little water to evaporate is normally not enough for enough nutrients to accumulate, unless the dishware is in a super moist environment, where evaporation takes longer.


Frame challenge:

It sounds like you expect hazardous bacteria or other contaminants to form on your dishes if you expose the inside of the glass bowl to the environment (like air or a kitchen towel).

The truth is that we are constantly surrounded by bacteria and mold spores in the air, on surfaces like kitchen counters and our own skin. This is our "normal" state of being and our immune system deals with these "contaminants" on a daily basis without you even noticing.

The only possible hazard in washing your dishes is not drying them properly, as other answers already noted. How you dry and store your dishes afterwards has no effect on the food safety unless there's some glaringly obvious problem like storing them in a moist or dirty place.

Even if the dish towel had some food stain in it and transferred it into the bowl, as long as there's not enough moisture for microbes to grow, the bowl with the food stain would not pose any health risk to you.

This rule also has an obvious exception that is toxins. In the absolutely unrealistic scenario that a dish towel was contaminated with a toxic substance, it could contaminate the glass bowl with this toxin as well. But honestly, how would this even happen? As long as you apply the most basic diligence and keep your kitchen free of harmful substances, there's no risk involved in drying dishes either way.

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