Should You Wash New Dishes Before You Use Them?

New dishes might seem like the freshest things in your kitchen—but even if they’re just out of the box, there could be some surprising residue left on them.

Say you finally got your hands on the Le Creuset Cast Iron Dutch Oven that you’ve been coveting for months—but before you cosplay as Julia Child and test out that Boeuf Bourguignon recipe, there's an integral first step you don’t want to miss: washing your new dishware and utensils.

But why would you possibly need to suds up that brand new dutch oven (or new dishes, utensils—anything you’d eat or cook off of) if it’s fresh out of the box? The truth is that those dishes might actually be carrying germs, remnant packing materials, or even dust that you’ll want to scrub off before first use, rather than risk ingesting it.

Sink full of new dishes needing to be washed

Rick Gayle Studio / Getty Images | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

Do You Need to Wash Brand-New Cookware? 

According to UNC professor and food safety extension specialist Ben Chapman, Ph.D.—who spoke with The Kitchn on the subject—“it’s really, really low risk” to not wash your brand-new dishes or dishware, but “there might be some plastic or other materials that are placed in appliances, like plastic sheeting, or dust from [the] warehouse.” While he notes that the risk of materials being toxic is pretty low, it may create some funky flavors at the very least, and nobody wants that.

You also have to keep in mind the number of hands that may have touched the dishes or dishware in the manufacturing process—or even in stores, for that matter. If you’re like us, you’ve probably been tempted to graze your hands over a stack of stunning new plates at Crate & Barrel. Assume that, if you’re picking something up from the store, a number of other people have done the same thing with your new dishes: You need to wash off those germs.

“Something that’s open like that to the world, in my home I would clean it and sanitize it before my first use,” Chapman said. “Cleaning and sanitizing are two steps.”

How to Wash New Dishes

There are a few schools of thought on how to best sanitize your dishes. Chapman recommends a simple bleach spray to nix those microbes first, then cleaning with soap and water (as you don’t want to consume that bleach residue). You could also sanitize your dishes and then run them through a normal dishwasher cycle (which is especially helpful if you’ve purchased a brand new set and have a lot of new dishes to wash).

Cookware retailer Royal Prestige advises a similar method for cookware: “Before using your new cookware for the first time, be sure to wash it thoroughly,” the site reads. “Add 1/4 cup of vinegar to warm soapy water, and with a sponge or dishcloth, wash each piece. This will remove any residual manufacturing oils or polishing compounds that may still remain in the cookware.” 

Royal Prestige also notes that not washing the cookware properly before first-time use could result in discoloration or stains.

Should You Wash Nonstick Pans Before Use?

Of course, you’ll want to take special care depending on the cookware you’re cleaning. For example, nonstick pans require a different set of care instructions. Some are not dishwasher safe and require hand-washing, while others are fine to toss in. Double check the care instructions on your purchase.

You’ll also want to season your nonstick pan before first-time use. After cleaning it, just lightly rub cooking oil on its surface (vegetable oil works great) and heat the pan over the stove for two to three minutes on medium heat. Let it cool, wipe off the excess oil, and bam! You’re good to go.

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