Dishwashers with sani-rinse functions can heat water in the dishwasher to 160 degrees Fahrenheit for the final rinse cycle. That's hot enough to meet standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation for properly sanitizing kitchen utensils. You should use the sani-rinse function whenever you want your dishes and utensils to be as clean and germ-free as possible.
Some people may use the sani-rinse function all the time, while others may use it only when people in the home are suffering from colds or other contagious illness. Children, for example, may easily spread cold germs by sharing cups or spoons. Making sure everyone in the house uses sanitized utensils may make for a healthier household.
Using the sani-rinse function adds to the cost of using the dishwasher. Heating the water to 160 F results in more energy consumption. Most dishwashers heat water to 120 to 150 F under normal settings. For some people, the extra expense is acceptable. The Benson Agriculture and Food Institute, a nonprofit organization, recommends sanitizing dishes as part of an overall plan for keeping the home cooking area clean and as free of germs as possible. The organization stresses that germs, illnesses and parasites are spread to people through dirty plates, glasses and utensils.
People who have just a few dishes to sanitize can do that by washing them in the sink with soapy water. Use water heated to 160 F for the final rinse. This may require boiling water and using a meat thermometer to confirm the temperature. Putting dishes away in covered areas after washing is also important to protect them from germs. Children should be taught to wash their hands before reaching into a drawer or cupboard for a utensil or cup. Leftover food or garbage should be kept in covered containers.
People shopping for dishwashers should confirm that the washer meets sani-rinse standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation. Salespeople may tout the dishwasher's cleaning abilities, but you should look for written confirmation of sanitation standards from the manufacturer.