Picture this: You’re at a party. Everyone is sitting around a table having a drink or two…or more. The chips are great—homemade, no less—as is the dip. Along with having spirited conversation, you watch a friend grab a chip, dip it into that great dip, take a bite, and then dip the chip right back into the same bowl you've been scooping from for the past 30 minutes.
This is called “double dipping”: dipping a half-eaten chip back into the dip bowl. And according to one poll, more than half the people surveyed admit to double dipping.
When you think about it, this can be kind of nauseating, so here’s the good and the not so good about the practice of double dipping:
- As long as everyone at the party is healthy and not carrying any viruses, it is doubtful anyone will get sick.
- However, if just one person carries a cold or flu virus, that person could spread those germs to others as a result of double dipping; cold and flu viruses can survive at least 15 minutes in that homemade dip…plenty of time to get loaded onto someone else’s chip.
- But here’s where things get dicey. Say someone has norovirus—but no symptoms yet. Unlike flu and cold viruses, norovirus germs are much more contagious and can live up to 60 days in that dip bowl.
So, while the chances are relatively low that you and your friends will come down with a disease, if just one person is sick, and depending on what he or she has, double dipping can cause just about everyone at the party to become ill, possibly seriously.
The Mops and Floors Connection
While the odds are in our favor with chips and dip, things change dramatically when it comes to double dipping with mops and floors. Floors are hotbeds of contamination. The severity varies based on how how the floor is cleaned, what cleaning solutions are used, and cleaning frequencies.
Just to show you how serious this can be, right now one of the big controversies in the food-service industry is how long a food item can rest on a floor and still be served to consumers. “When you drop a piece of food on the floor, any bacteria living on the floor will adhere to it,” according to a report in National Geographic. “So, if you eat the food you've dropped, you're also eating any bacteria the food picked up.”1
The traditional rule has been that if it sits on the floor for three seconds or less, the food can still be used. But recent studies point to the “zero-second rule.” This means the second the food is on the floor, the only safe option is to toss it in the garbage.
And this contamination problem becomes worse when we mop floors. Once again, we are double dipping, but instead of chips and dips, it’s soiled mops dipped in cleaning solution and then used on floors. The more often we double dip the mop, the more contaminated the mop and solution becomes, and the more contaminants are spread on the floor.
This can have serious consequences for human health. For instance, in a hospital, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “investigators have shown that mop water becomes increasingly dirty and contaminated during cleaning. [This] contamination has the potential to spread contamination and result in patient exposure.”
So here’s what needs to be considered: Are you comfortable dipping chips into a dip that has indirectly been exposed to a dozen mouths at a party? If not, then don’t risk your health or the health of others by dipping a mop in contaminated water and spreading it all over the floor.
1. Sarah Whitman-Salkin, “Scientists Study What to Do If You Drop a Cookie on the Floor,” National Geographic, March 15, 2014.
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.
He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry.
Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.