Maybe not at home. Most people I know are in the habit of washing dishes after eating. The practice of leaving dirty dishes in the sink for hours, or even overnight, doesn’t enter my zone of understanding (ahh, tolerance). If I do visit homes where dishes left in the sink is the tendency, there is a feeling of un-doneness in the air. But rarely for those of us who do wash after we eat, do we feel it necessary to wash them again before eating. Clean is clean, isn’t it? Or maybe,…
Restaurants in China have a system of leasing serving sets of tableware. When you are seated at most common restaurants, you either have, or are given, a package of ceramic tableware. Wrapped in a plasticized bundle is a ceramic plate, rice bowl, tea cup, spoon, and small drinking glass. Chopsticks may or may not come in their own wrapper. You or your party is normally also given a thermos or jug of warm water or light tea, that doubles for washing and drinking. Each table also has its own trash can.
Even though the dishes in the plastic bundle look clean, people still perform a washing ceremony prior to use. Normally the customer, after using the chopsticks to poke a hole in the sealed plastic bundle and discarding the plastic either in the can or on the floor, begins the cleaning process by pouring warm water into the tea cup and/or the drinking glass. The eating ends of the chopsticks are then cleaned in the drinking glass, after which the water is poured into the cup, then the rice bowl with spoon, then onto the plate. The trash can is the water dump. Any mess created by this process can be cleaned up with tissues or toilet paper that each table may be provided (sometimes at a cost).
At home most folks I know don’t normally clean dishes prior to use, unless perhaps they’ve not used them for an extended period. Therefore, I would not have thought to clean what looks to be clean restaurant dish-ware. It seems like a social tradition, chit-chatting while cleaning. After all, going out to eat is not something done in a hurry — so why not spend idle time rinsing your dishes while waiting for the food to be prepared.
Logic says that if locals are sanitizing their dishes before using them, it’s probably a good custom to follow. It may not be smart to doubt unfamiliar cleanliness habits. Besides, it’s actually started becoming an enjoyable ritual. My one concern is whenever I’m traveling to places and eating out where pre-meal dishwashing isn’t the norm, that I don’t automatically ask for a jug of warm water and a trash can.