Do you drink your dishwater?
I've just recently learned of this practice. A coworker told me about a trip she'd taken on the Hoh River Trail. She mentioned that one of her hiking partners insisted that everyone drink their dishwater after cleaning up.
Mind you, they hadn't used suds, and they'd scraped away most of the rice and beans detritus. And this enforcer did offer to drink everyone else's water if they refused.
But to me, it seemed a bit extreme.
The practice is a rather strict interpretation the seven Leave No Trace principles of backcountry travel, one of which is "dispose of waste properly." The thinking is that critters might be attracted to those little carrot nubbins and pesto grease left over from your meal.
I've informally surveyed hiking friends and discovered a surprising number of dishwater drinkers. Me, I've been content to scrape my bowl, pack out the scraps, and fling the few remaining particles of chili mac and water into the woods. But I suppose that's heresy to some strict interpreters of the Seven Leave No Trace Principles (not to be confused with the seven deadly sins, discussion of which is best left elsewhere).
But here's a counter argument: this article in Science News reports that campers are at risk from bacteria and parasites in their dirty dishes. It urges that campers wash with--horrors!--soap and a bleach solution rinse. That's probably overkill. If you are going to wash with soap, use it sparingly, use biodegradable soap, and scatter your dishwater in a location at least 200 feet from water sources.
I'm for the middle way--I don't need my dishes completely sanitized, but I'm also not interested in drinking warm water and falafel grease. How about you?
Photo of camp cooking by Dave Schiefelbein.