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99 Capacities Series – Capacity #9 – Clean and Sanitize Dishes

The ninth capacity I introduce in my eBook is that you must [be able to] clean and sanitize all cooking supplies and equipment. In it I state that:

You must “Clean and sanitize all cooking supplies and equipment. Cleanliness is normally important but becomes even more so post-disaster. In particular, dishes, silverware, and cups are significant disease transmission pathways. Do you know how to keep them clean? Start with stocking bleach then learn how to clean and properly sanitize dishes without running water. In short-term disasters a good supply of disposable plates, bowls, cups, and eating utensils will go a long way to both reducing water usage and easing stress levels.”

Why is Cleanliness Important?

The first question we should ask is: why is cleanliness of our cooking supplies and equipment important? The short answer is simply that, besides direct human-to-human contact, unsanitary cooking and eating supplies are among the biggest reasons for disease transmission. And, in an abnormal situation such as a disaster, the odds of contracting an unwanted pathogen go up; likewise, your body’s ability to fight disease go down. So, you need to be extra vigilant to ensure this doesn’t happen to your or your family.

What Supplies Need Cleaned?

Well, anything and everything that you would normally wash should be cleaned. Focus should be on the supplies that come in direct contact with prepared food and your mouth. In particular, this would include plates, bowls, cups, and silverware.

In addition, all supplies used to prepare food should be cleaned as well, including pots, pans, and utensils. While you’re at it, you should ensure any food preparation equipment (such as bowls, measuring cups, cutting boards, etc) and especially countertop surfaces are cleaned too.

A super simple way to solve a lot of your cleaning woes–in the short term, at least–is to stock and use disposable paper plates, bowls, cups, napkins, and utensils for this specific purpose. Although I’m not a huge fan of using disposable goods unless I need to, such an occasion as a disaster scenario certainly qualifies.

How to Keep Cooking Supplies Clean?

Learn to use the 3 step method to clean and sanitize your dishes [YouTube Video]. Watch the video and you’ll see how it’s done. To use this method properly you’re going to need 3 fairly large containers, dish soap, a minimal source of clean water, a scouring pad, and bleach. In a pinch, you could  stop up your kitchen sink to get one or two containers you can use for this purpose. You might also look at your local warehouse store (e.g., Sam’s Club) or restaurant wholesaler and pick up 3 bus boy trays, which will work great for this very purpose (among others).

Essentially, you’ll start washing your “cleanest” dishes first and work your way toward the dirtiest. The only word of caution I would advise is to begin working to clean your dishes ASAP after eating, otherwise, cooked foods may become remarkably difficult to remove if let set too long. Normally this wouldn’t be of much concern because of the ready availability of hot, running water but that luxury may not be available.

If you’re so inclined, you could also learn How to Clean Pots and Pans Using Wood Ash. This method could prove useful if you expect to do a lot of campfire cooking; if not, I wouldn’t bother with it.

A Few Final Thoughts

This is definitely not a good purpose for greywater and probably not for rooftop rainwater either unless it has been filtered first. Even though you are not directly consuming the rainwater, using it to wash dishes may end up contaminating them if not made fit for human consumption first.

However you choose to keep your cooking supplies clean, you’re going to need a supply of clean water to do it with as well as the mindset to ensure it gets done and done properly.

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series detailing the ideas from my free eBook, The 99 Capacities You MUST Acquire BEFORE Disaster Strikes You!, which you may freely download here.

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