How Bad Is It If You Don’t Wash a New Dish or Gadget Before You Use It?

updated Nov 4, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Oh happy day, you got the shiny new kitchen gadget you’ve been eyeing. If, say, a new Instant Pot or KitchenAid stand mixer was your dream gift, and you finally got one, you’re probably champing at the bit to get in the kitchen and give it a whirl. 

But do you rush to whip up some delicious new dish so quickly that you bypass one of the most basic (and probably ignored) pieces of the instructions? I’m talking about washing it. 

I’m guessing you, dear reader, fall into one of two camps. There’s the “Obviously, I wash it, who wouldn’t?” And then there’s the “Umm, it’s brand new, why would I need to wash it?”

To find out which camp is correct, I turned to an expert. Ben Chapman, Ph.D., is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. He works with people across the country, making sure they’re appropriately worried about food safety. He also co-authors what has to be the funniest blog about food safety on the internet,, and co-hosts a food safety podcast

According to Dr. Chapman, both camps are right: “If you don’t wash it, it’s really, really low risk.” But (you knew there would be a but!) during the manufacturing process, “there might be some plastic or other materials that are placed in appliances, like plastic sheeting, or dust from warehouse,” Dr. Chapman said. The Instant Pot is a good example, he said. If there’s dust inside, “the likelihood of it being toxic is pretty low,” but now you’re cooking with dust that could burn and create off-flavors and tastes. 

“People do report a chemically taste,” sometimes, he said, and “it’s almost certainly not toxic but it could smell up your house a bit and turn you off that appliance.”

So to avoid that, “cleaning it with super-simple soap and water and a rinse of water at the end would be sufficient to remove anything that makes its way in there during manufacturing, storage, and transport,” he said.  

How about a gadget that’s not packaged up in a box? Say, a fun new rolling pin or spatula from Target’s kitchen aisle? What about all those people who might be touching those things? 

Again, the food safety specialist isn’t worried. “The likelihood of someone touching it and transmitting [something like] norovirus, it’s not something I would worry about,” he says. 

That said, just to be safe, “Something that’s open like that to the world, in my home I would clean it and sanitize it before my first use,” he said. And take note, he points out, “Cleaning and sanitizing are two steps.” He uses a bleach spray to take care of any lingering microbes and cleans items with soap and water.  

But frankly, he said, just handling the shopping cart with your bare hands presents the same risk as anything you’re buying, so be sure to wash your hands before handling food after that shopping trip. 

Do you clean things before you use them or do you take the risk?