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Chopsticks etiquette: how to use chopsticks the right way

Don’t be the only one at the table using a knife and fork! Here you’ll find everything you need to know about how to use chopsticks properly. Chop-chop! Let’s get to it.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

person eating sushi with chopsticks

Key steps

  • Hold chopsticks in your dominant hand.

  • Keep the lower chopstick stationary.

  • Use your thumb, forefinger and middle finger to move the upper chopstick.

  • Pick up food between the two chopsticks.

  • Never use one chopstick alone.

  • Clean them thoroughly between uses.

  • Use dowel rods as homemade chopsticks.

Are sushi rolls even sushi rolls if you have to use a fork? Technically, yes, but it's always a little embarrassing to be shown up by delicate chopstick etiquette when you're the only one at the table using a knife and fork! Worry not. Learn how to use chopsticks properly with this super simple step-by-step how to use chopsticks guide below and discover ideas for how to make chopsticks at home.

Chopsticks are easy to use once you know how, but ensure you follow proper chopstick etiquette. For example, never leave your chopsticks in rice — in some countries this is considered to be bad manners as well as bad luck!

How to use chopsticks: a step-by-step guide

If you’re wondering how to use chopsticks properly, it’s a two-part process. First, you’ll need to learn how to hold chopsticks, before mastering the chopstick etiquette for how to use them. Have a look at these simple steps to get you started:

How to hold chopsticks:

  1. Lay the chopsticks next to one another on the table. The narrow end should face away from your dominant hand.

  2. Grab them using your dominant hand, with the outside edge of your hand (little finger side!) near the end of the chopsticks.

  3. Using your other hand, hold the chopsticks in line. Place your dominant hand on the underside of the chopsticks.

  • Your thumb should rest over the top of the chopsticks.

  • The chopsticks should sit in a sideways v shape.

  • The top chopsticks should rest on your middle finger, with your forefinger resting on top.

  • The lower chopstick should rest on your ring with your little finger resting beneath, to support the chopsticks.

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How to use chopsticks:

  1. The bottom chopstick should always remain stationary.

  2. Ensure it is well supported by your small finger and held in place by the base of your thumb.

  3. Using your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, move the upper of the two chopsticks. You should be able to move it away from and back towards the lower chopstick.   

  4. Pick food up between the two chopsticks.

  5. To ensure you are using your chopsticks properly and sticking to chopstick etiquette, bear in mind the following points:

  • Never use one chop stick on its own to spear food.

  • You shouldn’t pass food from your chopsticks to someone else’s.

  • Avoid leaving your chopsticks crossed on the plate, bowl or table. They should be placed flat next to the bowl or on a chopstick rest.

  • Don’t leave chopsticks upright in rice, it is believed to bring bad luck.

  • Rest your chopsticks next to one another on the bowl to indicate you are done with your meal.

How to clean chopsticks:

  1. If you have plastic or metal chopsticks, start by soaking them in lukewarm soapy water for two minutes.

  2. If you have wooden chopsticks, they need only be soaked in the soapy water for a maximum of 30 seconds.

  3. Clean them thoroughly using a sponge or soft bristled brush and the soapy water.

  4. Wipe them dry using a soft cotton cloth.

  5. To store them correctly, it is best to wrap them in a cloth or paper.

How to make chopsticks with household items: ideas for homemade chopsticks

If you’re planning a nice dinner party with Japanese or Chinese food on the menu, but don’t have chopsticks to hand – don't panic! There’s a very simple answer to how to make chopsticks at home, and that answer is – dowel rods! You will need to whittle them into shape so make sure you have a sharp knife to hand and always take care. Blunt the end using sandpaper to avoid any splitters!

With this super simple guide, you not only know how to use chopsticks properly, but also how to hold them, clean them and even make your own! For more household cleaning advice, have a look at this manual for how to clean silver and stainless steel cutlery.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on using chopsticks the right way

Can you put wooden chopsticks in the dishwasher?

We do not recommend that you put wooden chopsticks in the dishwasher. The detergents and cleansing cycle of the dishwasher could cause damage to the finish of your chopsticks and shorten their lifespan.

Are chopsticks compostable?

The only chopsticks you should be placing into your compost are ones made of bamboo. This natural material will degrade quickly and not cause any harm to the environment in the process. Plastic chopsticks will need to be recycled.

Can you reuse disposable chopsticks?

Bamboo and wooden chopsticks should be reused, just ensure you wash and care for them as you would other wooden utensils to allow you to use them again and again.

How long can you use wooden chopsticks?

When it comes to wooden chopsticks, we recommend you change them every 3 – 6 months. If you notice that the wood is becoming broken or frayed, pop them onto the compost and swap them out for new ones.

Originally published