What Cannot be Used to Dry Utensils?

Last Updated on January 27, 2023 by Claire

What cannot be used to dry utensils? According to experts, a paper towel, dish towel, or moist napkin cannot be used to dry utensils as they could contaminate the surface of the utensils with bacteria. For some reason, you might need to quickly dry your utensils after washing them so you could use them right away. You might also be wondering what method would be safe and hygienic for drying them quickly, and why you can’t just use a kitchen towel or napkin to do this.

What cannot be used to dry utensils?

What cannot be used to dry utensils

You can’t use a towel or fabric to dry utensils, as well as utensils. Instead, you should air dry them using clean and sanitized racks before storage. According to experts in the food industry, there are three factors you need to take note of when it comes to drying wet utensils:

First, do not use towels or napkins to dry sanitized utensils. If you must use napkins to dry utensils, then single-use paper towels are best suited to doing this. This is because they haven’t come into contact with any other materials, so there is no risk of bacteria transfer and therefore they can be used to dry utensils.

The downside to using single-use paper towels is that you can only use each sheet once and you must dispose of it immediately after use. This means that you will be producing a lot of kitchen garbage just to dry dishes.

Secondly, the best way to dry sanitized utensils is to air-dry them in a well-ventilated area using a dedicated and previously sanitized drying rack so that the water can evaporate naturally.

Thirdly, safe and hygienic drying of utensils (dishes) is an important part of the cleaning and sanitation process in the food industry and must be treated as such.

What do we use to dry utensils?

Having known the ways not to dry your utensils, below are recommended methods.

  1. Sun drying

Sun drying is a process where water is slowly evaporated from the surface of the utensils by the heat of the sun. Sun drying is a slow process that can take several hours.

This is because how fast the process depends on the intensity of sunlight and how humid the air is.

  1. Air drying

Air drying is the process of allowing wet utensils to dry naturally in the air by placing them in a well-ventilated area so that the water can evaporate. This can be done by using a dish rack, leaving them on the counter top or placing them by the window.

Air drying can take anything from a few hours to a day or two, depending on how humid the air is. Per WebMD, it’s better to air dry your dishes than to use a dish towel because a dish towel can harbor all sorts of bacteria.

  1. Dehydrators

A Dehydrator is an appliance that uses heat and airflow to remove water or moisture from food. You can put the utensils in a dehydrator and leave them overnight to dry them out.

  1. Dishwasher

Unless you use an industrial-grade dishwasher that has a dedicated automatic drying feature, using a dishwasher is the least effective way to dry utensils. This is because most dishwashers do not have a pre-set feature for air-drying dishes.

This results in damp dishes, which are a breeding ground for mold and bacteria growth since they are not properly dried.

  1. Utensil dryer rack

A rack brings versatility by holding whatever items until they dry. The utensil dryer rack will make sure the moisture drips and the utensils and dishes air dry. Just be careful with your dryer rack selection to avoid breaking your ceramic or glass utensils.

What should you use to dry utensils/dishes when they cannot be air dried?

If an automatic dish-drying machine is not available, air-drying is the best way to dry kitchen utensils. Air drying is the process of allowing wet utensils to dry naturally in the air by placing them on a sanitized dish rack in a well-ventilated area so that the water can evaporate.

In some states, air-drying sanitized utensils are a part of their food safety regulations.  The air-drying process comes after the utensils have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, to ensure that the utensils will not contaminate other kitchenware.

The most hygienic way to air-dry utensils is by using a thoroughly cleaned, properly sanitized, and specially dedicated dish rack solely for this purpose.

How do you dry utensils after washing?

Below are the steps to dry utensils after washing:

1. Apply a drying method

After washing your utensil, you want to pick a suitable drying method. Note that your selected drying method depends on the texture of the utensil.

You can choose to air dry, towel dry, or even dry the utensil with your dishwasher.

2. Sterilize (optional)

Your next step is to sterilize the utensil. This may be optional but when you do not sterilize your utensil after washing, there is the tendency of bacteria and other contaminants lurking around.

3. Store

Finally, store your utensil. Ensure to store them in a clean and dry place, not moist. Storing the utensils in a dirty area can contaminate your initial hard work.

Drying wooden utensils

After you wash any wooden utensil, you want to wipe it to dry quickly. You can then leave the wooden utensil out to thoroughly air dry.

Wooden utensils easily trap water droplets in gaps within the wood, which keeps it from drying completely. The water will accumulate over time, warp in the wood and cause it to crack.

You do not put your wooden utensils or even cutting boards in the dishwasher. Your dishwasher produces intense steam and extended hot water time that can cause the wood to crack.

Never sit a wooden utensil in water to soak it for extended periods in water. You can pat the utensil with a dry cloth and allow it to air dry or leave it on a rack. You can rub a slice of lemon on it and let it air dry.

To protect your wooden utensil from cracking, you can occasionally apply mineral oil to it.

Drying plastic utensils

After washing your plastic utensil, perhaps, in the dishwasher, you can leave it for 30 minutes to air dry. When the utensil air dries, you can put them away.

A plastic utensil can take longer to dry because the droplets have a smaller surface area when compared to glassware and ceramic. You may wipe plastics with a paper towel to reduce the drying time.

Drying glass utensils

To dry glasses utensils, leave them for up to 30 minutes after washing. You can use a clean cloth to wipe or just turn them over to air dry. Note that air drying can take longer, and the accumulated water can attract bacteria.

Drying ceramic utensils

A slow and even drying is recommended when drying your ceramics. Ceramics require air to freely circulate around the object.

Ensure to cover the objects loosely using plastic to avoid quick drying. You can turn pots upside down for an even drying.

Drying stainless steel utensils

Dry your stainless steel utensil with a soft lint-free cloth after washing it. Do not allow your stainless steel to dry naturally, otherwise, the water and detergent will leave marks and also attract bacteria.

The drying process of stainless steel begins immediately. It may take up to 1 hour or more for stainless steel to dry completely, depending on the size of the utensil and the drying method employed.

If you invest in good stainless steel, it can remain stainless even without wiping it immediately. But this is necessary to prolong the lifespan.

Exposure to water for a long time can cause rust on stainless steel, this happens when there is no more interaction between its alloying elements and the environment. Meanwhile, is your stainless steel safe for dishwasher?

How do restaurants dry utensils?

Although most small restaurants chose to simply air-dry their sanitized utensils, larger restaurants or businesses cannot use this method as it would slow down their operations.

Larger restaurants or food businesses use industrial-grade dishwashing machines to dry their sanitized utensils.

These types of dishwashing machines are capable of washing and drying large amounts of utensils at once, as they possess an automatic drying feature.

These machines also improve the efficiency of the cleaning process and the restaurant’s operations, while ensuring compliance with any food safety regulations obtainable in their location.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you dry items after washing?

The best way to dry utensils after washing is to air dry them. Using a paper towel, dish towel, or moist napkin might contaminate the surface of the utensils with bacteria and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Why do plastics not dry in dishwasher?

Plastics do not retain heat, so they tend not to dry when you put them in your dishwasher. This is unlike ceramic which gets dried because it retains heat. Water on plastic does not easily evaporate. This is where the setting of a dishwasher’s heat comes into play.

Should kitchen utensils be left to dry naturally?

In some cases, you want to leave your kitchen utensils to air-dry instead of using a towel or soft cloth. It is more advisable to air-dry since hand-drying may harbor all sorts of bacteria (if the cleaning material is contaminated).


Although there are quite a few ways to dry utensils, the 2 most effective ways to dry utensils hygienically are air-drying and using an automatic drying machine- these are industrial dishwashers equipped with an automatic drying feature.

As tempting as it might be, you must avoid using towels or napkins as they could contaminate the surface of the utensils with bacteria and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses. Lastly, when air drying, always remember to use a thoroughly cleaned, properly sanitized, and specially dedicated dish rack solely for this purpose to avoid any cross-contamination.