How To Wash The Dishes


CLEAN DISHES NOT ONLY LOOK nice, they’re more healthy to eat from. Everyone has their own special method for this daily (or twice-daily) chore, and I’ve found this one to be most efficient in terms of time and water savings:

- Large or divided sink
- Drain rack
- Dirty dishes
- Dishwashing soap (I like good ol’ yellow-bottled Crystal White for its inexpensivity and universality)
- Rubber gloves
- Sponge with one soft-scrub side

1. Don rubber gloves (they insulate your hands somewhat and enable higher water temperature). Sort the dirty dishes in the left (side of the) sink into plates, bowls, cups/glasses, utensils. (I usually leave big pots, pans etc. on the stove until finished with everything else. Rinse with hot water.

2. Apply and integrate soap to sponge (about a 1/2 tablespoon). Get it good and lathery.

3. Scrub dishes with sponge, stacking as you go in the right (side of the) sink. Then wash the cups/glasses. Then the utensils. (Use the soft-scrub only for stuck-on stuff). Relather sponge as necessary (sometimes it just needs a bit of water).

4. Put water on highest heat you can stand (hence the gloves). Rinse stacked dishes in such order as to best fit the rack (they’re probably stacked that way already from step 3).

5. Collect pots, pans, etc. from stove. Repeat steps 3 and 4. (Be careful not to use the soft-scrubber on Teflon, T-Fal or other non-stick surfacing, and if you use a cast iron skillet, DON’T USE SOAP. EVER.)

6. Rinse sponge, wipe counter- and stovetops. Rinse sponge again in HOT water and wring dry.

7. Now do something else! (But dry your hands first.)

If you’re like me, you may elect to put on a radio or other sound-emitting device to “keep you company” during this task. Keep in mind, however, that this method is VERY fast, so keep the picking to a minimum. (Yes, I have on occasion spent more time picking music than washing dishes. It’s a procrastination thing.)

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2 Responses to How To Wash The Dishes

  1. Kathryn Hildebrandt on 2011.08.04 at 1555

    I am amused. Mainly, I’m amused that you are so fond of your dishwashing method that you are moved to write about it. I can relate. I, too, am an enthusiastic advocate of rubber gloves, uber-hot water, and running water rinses (as opposed to the method taught in childhood, of filling the right sink with water and consecutively dunking each washed dish into the increasingly greasy, scungie pool. I am also a dreamy procrastinator.

    However, my method differs some, with less efficient use of resources, probably as an adaptation to being a 5’4″ woman working in a kitchen designed for a 6’0″ male. (Why, oh why, do they do that? Because of the far and away greatest probability of the heaviest kitchen user in the typical American home being a 6’0″ man? Not). This means that the height of the kitchen sink is not optimized for the leverage I need to scrub stuck food. In addition, my upper body strength is, on average, 20% less than yours, owing to the sex difference.

    So, here’s what I do:

    1. Neatly stack all dirty dishes, or as many as will fit, into the left sink, into which the stopper has been seated.

    2. Fill stopped sink with hottest water possible, typically hotter than the hands can stand. Add enough dish soap to make a modest blanket of lather. Do the same for any cookware or bake ware that could not fit inside the sink with its dirty brethren.

    3. Go away and procrastinate to the heart’s content, for about 15 – 45 minutes, depending upon how long the water takes to cool to a gloved-hand safe temperature.

    4. Return and find the dishes have practically cleaned themselves. Proceed with Neal’s method, from Step 3 forward.

    Additional note: In especially tough cases of food burned onto cookware, I like to use the “deglazing” method: With spatula or other cooking utensil still inside vessel on stove, add one half inch very hot water (no soap) and light burner. As water begins to boil, scrape burned bits away with cooking utensil, as if deglazing pan to make a sauce. Once shiny, bare metal has been sighted at pan bottom, remove from heat, and allow to cool while washing other dishes. Then run cooled pan through remaining soapy water to finish cleaning. Easy peasy.

    • Neal Ross Attinson on 2011.08.04 at 1957

      (nods) That sounds good. As for your amusement pour moi, it all fits in with the new masthead I made today: “All That’s News To Me, I Print.” Expect more in this vein.

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