Objective.—A 3-bowl system is used for washing-up eating utensils on many expeditions when running water is not available. The utensils are washed in the first bowl until they are visibly clean, rinsed in the second bowl, and disinfected in the third bowl. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of this system in reducing bacterial loads on contaminated utensils and to compare it with alternative washing-up methods.
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.