Can you stack wet dishes after you washed them?

If you have a small kitchen and limited counter space, drying dishes can be a challenging task.

Many people think that there is nothing wrong with piling up and storing wet dishes. The purpose of my post is to find out if you can pile up wet dishes without negative consequences and how to dry them in a sanitary manner.

Dishes stacked on top of each other can stay wet for a long time, and it is difficult for the remaining moisture to evaporate. So, it’s not a good idea, as the lingering water creates good conditions for the growth of bacteria and fungi.

After manual washing, it is best to drain the dishes on a clean, dry surface or dish rack and then let them air dry. If you use a dishwasher, just leave the dishes inside the machine until they are dry. 

Should you put dishes away wet?

It is not a good practice to store wet dishes, as the remaining moisture will promote the growth of microorganisms on the surface of the items and in the kitchen cabinets.

If you work in a professional kitchen or in the food industry, you often don’t have time to dry everything ideally before putting the dishes and other utensils away.

However, containers and tools used for storing low-moisture foods must be dry, otherwise, deterioration processes may begin and mold may appear.

According to FDA regulations, all surfaces that come into contact with food must be appropriately cleaned, sanitized, and then thoroughly dried.


Should you wipe dishes after washing or is it better to let them air dry?

You can easily transfer microorganisms to the clean dishes by wiping them dry after washing. This is especially true for kitchen towels, which usually harbor a large number of bacteria. You may also wish to read my article about why people dry dishes with textile towels

The most sanitary way to dry washed dishes is to place them on a clean paper towel or an unused, clean kitchen towel.

This is the method recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is especially important when it comes to utensils used by small children or people who are immunocompromised.

Should you use a dish rack?

The dish rack allows you to place wet dishes on it to drain and then let them air dry. However, not all dish racks are good. Some types are difficult to clean, which should be taken into account when purchasing.

It is a good practice to clean the dish drying rack once or twice a week, as lingering water can cause bacteria to multiply and mold to appear on it. You may also wish to find out what can you use instead of a dish rack.

How sanitary are drying mats?

Dish drying mats are sanitary if you maintain them well. You should clean them regularly and keep them dry between uses. Mats that are constantly wet can provide an excellent breeding ground for various microorganisms in a warm kitchen environment.


Antimicrobial drying mats are a good choice, as they are made of quick-drying materials and are easy to clean, making them safer to use.

The drying mat is more space-saving than a dish rack, and you can easily put it away when you don’t need it. It provides a good solution in a small kitchen and if you use a small number of dishes.

How can you make dishes dry faster?

Kitchen utensils rinsed in hot water dry faster, as the water evaporates faster from the warm surfaces. Always leave space between wet dishes to allow air to circulate.

If you use a dishwasher, adding a rinse aid will speed up the drying process and prevent the appearance of white spots caused by water drops.

Some dishwashers have a heated air drying cycle, and they dry dishes faster. The other type uses residual heat left over from the washing cycle for drying. The drying process in such dishwashers takes longer, but it saves energy.

Why are my dishes still wet after the dishwasher?

Final thoughts

So, from a food safety point of view, it is not a good solution to stack dishes or put them away while they are wet. Lingering water favors the growth of bacteria and mold, which you certainly do not want on the tools used for food preparation and consumption.


The best and FDA-recommended method is to place your dishes on a clean surface after washing and let them air dry. If you clean kitchenware with a dishwasher, it is best to let them dry in the machine before putting them away.

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