Washing dishes in the wild

Finally, an academic study on the best way to wash dishes while camping:
Methods — Different washing-up systems were tested with a simulated dish washing of 5 contaminated mess tins followed by 5 uncontaminated mess tins. Porridge was used to simulate food residue and was mixed with Escherichia coli to produce bacterial contamination. Reduction of bacterial load on the mess tins was measured, as were subjective observations regarding the various systems.

Results — Bacterial load on contaminated tins is reduced when the 3-bowl system is used. Uncontaminated tins become contaminated in bowl 1, but this is then reduced in subsequent bowls. Disinfectant use, especially bleach, produced a marked reduction in bacterial load on contaminated and uncontaminated tins when used in bowl 2. Detergent is needed to remove grease, and a final rinse removes the smell of disinfectant.

Conclusions — Overall, the most effective washing-up system in the laboratory was removal of most food residue with detergent in bowl 1, finish washing with bleach until visibly clean in bowl 2, and a final rinse in drinkable water in bowl 3. This system has advantages over the established 3-bowl system by getting mess tins clean more easily, killing potentially harmful bacteria, and removing the smell and taste of disinfectant.

The full paper (the above is from the abstract) requires an ID to read, but this article has some more details:
Of course, Mother Nature doesn't always provide campers with clean water, so dishes and utensils might become recontaminated during the final rinse in Hargreaves' system.

"If the water used for washing the dishes is of dubious quality," McLaughlin says, "then the first two bowls of the proposed system should be used alone."


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