A Step-By-Step Guide To Washing Dishes by Hand

Washing Dishes

What a weekend I’m having! I won’t even go into it because I don’t want to think about it anymore, but when I sat down last night to do my blog post, my rotten weekend decided to go from BAD to WORSE! I went to edit the pictures I’d taken and POOF, they were gone! I don’t have the slightest clue what happened, they simply aren’t anywhere to be found! This was ALMOST the straw that broke the blogs back….but I decided to dig down deep and proceed to Plan B. (Oh how I wish I really had a plan B!)

Since it was VERY late at night when I discovered this disastrous turn of events, I went in search of something “quick & dirty” (as we used to say in the TV news biz) that I could throw together. I decided to dig deep into my ‘One Good Thing By YOU’ collection of ideas, and for some reason this sweet little gem stood out. How to HAND WASH your dishes! I know the majority of us probably have dishwashers, but I also know there are plenty of times when there are more dirty dishes than even that can handle. (And if you’re like my daughter Britta, and your apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher, hand washing is the ONLY option!)

So here is a step-by-step guide to hand-washing your dirty dishes, by someone who knows their way around the kitchen sink — one of my savvy readers! :-) (I’m sad to say I don’t have the name of the person who submitted it, so if you’re out there and recognize it, please leave a comment! I would love to give credit where credit is due.)

Thank you mystery reader for saving my bacon (and post) for today!

Mystery reader writes………….

  • For those, like me, who are not blessed with dishwashers AND have a sink of dirty dishes, start by taking all the dishes OUT of the sink… sort by glassware, silverware, plates/bowls, plastics, & pots/pans.
  • Pots & pans can soak with hot soapy water in them, on the stove while following these steps:

Washing Dishes

  • Fill the sink with HOT, soapy water and antibacterial dish soap (sometimes I will add 1/2 cup bleach.)
  • Add the plates/bowls, glassware & silverware.

Washing Dishes

  • Take a 15-minute break. Check emails, call a friend, read another chapter of your book. Allow the hot, soapy water to do its magic!
  • After 15 minutes, sponge the glasses & dishes, rinse with HOT water……..

Washing Dishes

  • And put in the dish drainer (leaving silverware in the sink.)

Washing Dishes

  • Now add the plastics & enough HOT water to cover them.
  • After another 15 minute break, put dry glassware & dishes in cabinets.

Washing Dishes

  • Soap your sponge with the antibacterial soap, and wash the plastics, rinsing with HOT water, then put in drainer.
  • This is also the time to finish the silverware!

Washing Dishes

Washing Dishes

  • Lastly, if there were any pots soaking, you are now ready to finish the washing.
  • Dry pots & pans & put in cabinets.

Washing Dishes

  • Take another short break and when you return to your “clean” dishes, go ahead & put the plastics & silverware away.

Washing Dishes

  • Wipe off counters & stove top, refrigerator door handle & anything else with a smudge…and enjoy a job well (and efficiently) done!

Washing Dishes

Being your own dishwasher can be a pain, but it’s amazing how some simple techniques like these can make a big difference!

Washing Dishes

What are your tips for washing dishes efficiently?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • Hi Jillee,
    I’m a senior citizen, with many health problems. Most of the time I have Home Health Care assistance. Not at the moment. These young women (around 18-24) come in and find out they have to wash dishes by hand. ( I’m in low income housing, with no dishwasher. ) I found it surprising when they commented they had never done dishes before. When I have to go in the kitchen while they’re doing dishes, I have found they have a sponge, running water, and rubbing the dish under the water. I’ve had to resort to asking if they’ve ever done dishes. Then I ask them to put water in the plugged sink, fill it up at least half way, add soap (can’t get any of them to add bleach or vinegar), then explain how to wash them. They’ve been known to ask me why. So many of the ladies tell me how much they don’t like doing dishes, then they quit.
    Speaking of vinegar. The women freak out when I tell them to use vinegar in the mop water.

  • Wow, what an overkill way to clean your dishes –

    First off, the dishes you use are relatively clean. There is no need for ANTIBACTERIAL soap OR BLEACH. As a microbiologist I do not have any antibacterial products in my house. The chemicals they use in these products add to the growing resistance of bacteria. Ever heard of MERSA at a hospital? They are from the overuse of antibacterial soaps.

    Bleach is also overkill for your dishes. For all the hype that Jillee is about using natural and clean ingredients/supplies I would have thought she would have realized that the bleach residue is not good to ingest.

    Just use warm water and regular soap people, it will be okay – I promise.

    • You are correct, Andy, good grief, I learned this when I was in nursing school way back in the 1950s. Add to that bleach will damage some stainless steel eating utensils. Andy’s so sharp to have picked up on that.

  • We always washed glasses first, then silverware, plates, bowls and of course pots last. My Dad was army and that was the way. Thanks Jillie for your posts. I really enjoy them.

  • In my early life a few steps were left out; such as,
    getting water from the well, heating the water on the stove, washing dishes on the kitchen table, then we did not waste dishwater, we poured it into a bucket which brother took to the barn, poured in pig shorts (feed) and pour the mixture into the trough.

  • I have to say I did find the post just a little bit humorous. What a lot of steps just to wash a load of dishes! I’ve never had a dishwasher in my life and it never takes me more than 15 minutes tops (and that’s with the most dishes you can imagine having used lol).
    Fill your pans with water the minute you’ve finished cooking to soften cooked on gunk. Then, when you’ve finished eating, fill the sink with hot water and dishwashing detergent and just get on with it. You may need to change the water, depending on what you’ve been cooking or how many dishes there are, but other than that it really is very simple lol.

  • Just in the last few months, thanks to Jillee’s great info, I have discovered a great way to clean stuck on food, large amounts of grease and oil on pans and stop scrubbing dishes until my arms go numb!

    I do the dishes for our concession business, so things are always oily and there is always food and grease stuck on the pans and utensils. Over the last 7 years of doing this, I’ve tried everything to get them clean. I’ve literally scrubbed for hours until my hands and arms are numb to get all the stuck on food off.

    So when I read the post about how to clean the filters on your range hood, a lightbulb went off in my head! So now, I still have to soak the dishes, but I soak them with really hot water, some dish soap, vinegar and baking soda.

    I will leave them soak 15 minutes to overnight depending on how bad they are. When I come back to them with a sponge or brush, the stuck on stuff just wipes off. Very little scrubbing to do!

    Thanks so much for the great tips and tricks!

  • Count me in as someone who learned “glasses and cups first, plates and silverware next, pots and pans last.” I had a great dishwasher but it finally died. I never had to pre-wash with it, just scrape the dishes and in they went (it had a hard food disposer). Now I’m back to hand washing. I can say from my experience that hand washing DOES take more time for me than using a dishwasher. I took maybe five to 10 minutes each big meal to load the dishwasher, 2 to 3 minutes after small meals. When cooking big meals, even washing as I go, I spend much more time in the kitchen when hand washing than when using a dishwasher. I used an eco-friendly detergent in my dishwasher that had no bleach — I don’t like bleach at all, and I won’t use it with my hand washing. About sponges — cellulose sponges can be boiled, which is how they were sanitized years ago. I boil mine on a regular basis, and switch from sponge to sponge, using a clean one and cleaning the used ones.

    • Boiling is great, but if you have a microwave, you can put that/those wet sponges in the microwave with a cup of water, Nuke them for five minutes and the sponges will be sanitized. Of course, if they are filthy buy some new sponges the next time you shop

  • I use old cotton t-shirts that have seen better days, and cut them into dishcloth sized cloths and use them for my dishes and kitchen cleaning. They do last and can be washed and save lots of money in sponge buying :) Good to know I have been washing dishes the correct way…minus the 15 minute breaks. If you rinse your dishes after using them it is much easier and quicker to wash them when it comes time for the “big” wash

  • I would not put the bleach in the dish water because it takes away the grease fighting power of the dishsoap. Of friend of mine added bleach to her dishwater and all her dishes had a greasy film, so I redid them all without bleach.

  • I have a friend who is in her late 70’s who loves to do dishes. She calls it water play. I have found that since she explained her love of it this way, I don’t despise the chore so much. I keep telling myself I’m playing in the water and it makes it more fun. Another way to view it is to see handwashing as caring for your friends (dishes, utensils, pans). Perspective is what it’s all about. Teach your children the “fun” of doing the dishes–like the privacy factor someone else mentioned, it makes it a more pleasant experience.

  • Love everyone’s comments! I too am “Old School” by washing glasses and cups first, then silverware, then dishes, and then pots and pans if I have not washed them as I empty them. I use Dawn: No bleach: No sponges: Dish cloths do the job. I dry everything with a thick hand towel- and place everything in the dish drainer….to finish air drying. Once I clean the sink and counter tops, and wipe down the stove and refrigerator doors, I am ready to put all the dishes away in the cabinets. Finish with a quick clean in the sinks with Barkeepers Friend, and dry it them, and then hang the dishtowel over the laundry basket to dry- and be placed in the next load for the washing machine. I never thought about “breaks” as I want to get done so I can relax! Ha-Ha

  • I put a splash of vinegar in the rinse water. I also prefer to use a sponge, I just like the way they clean. However, I switch them out daily, and they get washed just like a dishcloth would.

  • The idea of a sponge on my dishes gives me the shakes!! I don’t even own one except for the one my husband uses to wash the cars. I use a clean dish cloth, blue Dawn dish detergent, and water as hot as I can stand. I start with glassware, then silverware, plates, bowls, plastics, pots and pans. Everything is rinsed well in hot water, and put in the drainer. Then they are dried and put away….hopefully by my husband. Unless a pot or pan needs to soak, I complete them all at one time with no soaking time. I’m too eager to get it over with and move on to something I enjoy.

  • Hi, I just love you and all of your fabulous tips…they are simply fantastic. I too wash dishes by hand. I was proud to see that what i was doing is what you suggested above!..The only difference is that my mom taught me to not put bleach in the sink..mixing it with certain soaps can give off nasty gasses…
    ( Many dish detergents contain chemicals which may react with chlorine bleach. Ammonia would be one example. Bleach should not be added to the wash water ever. Bleach should be added at a rate of one teaspoon per gallon of water, to the rinse water, not the wash water. This is standard in restaurants across the )

    What i do is wash with dish detergent, and then i have about a generous half a cup of vinegar in my rinse water. It makes dishes squeak! it also neutralizes some odors in my plastic containers if i let them soak for a bit in there..when i am done, I was my dish rags in the vinegar water. It gets all the soap out etc and then they never get slimy on me!
    thanks !!

  • I love hand washing dishes! But I do use my dishwasher also. I load glasses, plates and silver into the dishwasher and hand wash the rest. My sink has a window over it so I can day dream, wash dishes and let my mind rest from cooking for an hour. I love using my soft dish cloth to wash the leftover delicate items, wood handle knives, non-stick skillet and my stainless steel cookware. I use gloves and very hot water and rinse the soap off like crazy. I use empty space in my dishwasher to let the hand washed things drip dry if possible. Otherwise I stack them on the counter top and dry with my sparkling white flour sack drying towel. Sometimes I add eos to my dish water and enjoy the fragrance. We all have such unique methods of washing dishes, isn’t it fun to share! And Jillee, Monday starts a new week, better times ahead!

  • My 27 yo daughter that has a masters in cell biology needs directions. She knows about bacteria and still leaves pans and dishes for days stacked up. I had tried to teach her over the past 13 years the “old school” method, to no avail. I want her to learn to cook and clean as she goes before she gets married and has children in the next few years. I am one that believes the kitchen should be cleaned up before you move on to other activities. (Also, no sponges for me, a fresh dishcloth and dry towel daily.)

  • I love to see all of these worthy comments and helpful hints on this very common and necessary chore. How ever the dishes get cleaned at your house, sharing what works for you, has been very pleasing for me to read. I will be using some of the tips, while admiring the rest. A job well done, is very satisfying. “Done” being the key word. ;D

  • Scrape all food off plates and stack them on
    counter; soak silverware in sink with plastic cups. After washing those, wash glass cups, plates then pans which are already soaking. A dish-cloth with dish-soap and no bleach or antibacterial soaps is all that is needed other than a scrubby for stubborn spots.

    Also, teach your children to clear the table from the youngest age safe (2 years old here.) 3 year olds can clear plastic cups and spoons; 4 year olds can clear other flatware and 5 year olds can clear plates or bowls one at a time.

    Our children start putting dishes away at 4 years of age, drying at 5 years of age, and washing at 7 or 8. Teach your children to help in the kitchen; they will learn a life long skill and understand that pitching in together makes the work go better and faster!

  • My big tip: Make cuffs when using rubber gloves (like the package photo shows). Why? Because the cuff keeps water from dripping all the way down the arm & off the elbow. SO always buy the extra long.
    I was cracking up with all those breaks, but then got to thinking. I “do” breaks. My breaks (much shorter) though keep the task at hand in motion. Meaning, while something soaks, wipe or prep the next step.
    As a side note, when my kitchen remodel was done I was so excited about my new farm sink that I washed the dishes by hand for weeks. I felt like a little kid playing house–it was so fun (what a sicko). The DW gets plenty of use–but when I have an overflow of dishes I am still excited to wash them by hand.

  • I was taught to wash the things we put in our mouths first when the dishwater is clean and hot. That would be silverware first and then glasses and cups, then the plates and serving dishes. Clean hot water for the pots and pans, stove top and counters. Fifteen minute breaks, why? I have never minded doing dishes, I have always done my best thinking with my hands in dishwater, but I do want to get the job done and on to other things.

    • The breaks leave time for dishes to soak and to dry, but doing them all at once is great, too! I love getting them out of the way quickly, but sometimes there are just too many :-)

  • I add 1/2 cup of vinegar, its safer and food friendly. I also do them all at once and don’t wait 15 mins. between each otherwise I’d be doing dishes a long time.

  • One thing I like to do is slather some good rich hand cream on before putting on rubber gloves. By the time I’ve finished washing in very hot water, my hands are lovely and soft!

  • I also don’t use antibacterial soap to hand wash dishes but I do use vinegar in the rinse sink. I put my clean dishes sometimes inside the empty clean dishwasher to drip dry. We were taught to clean the least dirty dishes first and to save the dirtiest ones for last. That way you don’t have to make fresh dish water again.

  • I have been hand washing dishes most of my adult life, 30+ years. Our hard water here seems to “eat” dishwashers, making them only last a few years. At our house, plates and serving bowls are scraped (using a rubber scraper or dinner knife) after a meal and before stacking beside the sink. I prefer to wash the plastics first, as they seem to pick up any grease in the wash water washing them later . Starting with hot soapy water and a wash cloth, I wash plastic cups first then other plastics. Then I wash the glasses and mugs, then bowls and plates. (Sometimes it is necessary to use a brush or plastic “scubbie” to get stuck on particles off. I use ones that can be washed or soaked occasionally in bleach water.) Utensils are washed next, being allowed to soak a few minutes while sharp objects like knives are washed. Knives and sharp objects are never put down into the dish water to soak but are taken from the counter, washed, and rinsed without letting go of them. This way I don’t get a nasty surprise by grabbing a sharp edge and cutting myself. Lastly, I wash the serving bowls and then pots & pans. Sometimes it is necessary to empty the sink and to run fresh water to wash the serving bowls and pots & pans, if we have had company or have let the dishes collect for a few meals. I may have to run a new sink of rinse water a few times while washing dishes as I don’t like when it has bubbles or food particles in it. I’m going to try adding some vinegar to my rinse water to help with spotting after reading other comments. I like to let my dishes air dry after learning in nursing school that this is the most sanitary way to get them dry. I occasionally add bleach to a sink of water and soak my plastic cutting boards for 20 minutes or so, but don’t use bleach for standard dish washing. Everyone will have a different method that works for them.

  • We were taught in Home Ec class back in the dark ages to wash the glass ware first by itself. Then add the dishes then do the flatware and last do the pots and pans. This was back before the age of plastic dishes. I like to empty the sink after the silverware and start fresh to do the plastic then pots and pans. You should not be adding bleach to anything with ammonia as it causes fumes. And ditto the not using antibacterial soaps. Hot water and regular soap will kill germs.

  • I use the germ collecting sponges everyone mentions and dislikes so much. The trick to keeping them from smelling and collecring germs is to throw the sponge in the microwave for about 2 mins so that the high heat quickly kills any germs and dries out the sponge. The germs come from a wet sponge sitting around taking forever to dry. We greatly extend the life of our sponges by doing this repeatedly.

  • I have rarely had the luxury of a dishwasher so it have found tricks along the way to get it done. I agree that if you clean as you go that is the best way to stay on top of it. However, sometimes our busy lives don’t always allow for it. So when I do have a stack of dishes to tackle I also allow time for my dishes to soak. Definitely makes them easier to wash. I use the breaks to get other things in the kitchen cleaned up such as the appliances. One tip I would like to offer for cleaning your microwave ( I learned this trick back in my housekeeping days), take a wet washcloth and place in your microwave and run it for a minute at a time depending on how dirty it is. This will help to steam clean the the baked on food. Make sure to use your rubber gloves as it will be hot! Use the hot washcloth to wipe down the microwave. Rinse and repeat until clean. Works like a charm!

  • No sponges. Just a clean washcloth each time dishes are cleaned. I have three different colors for washclothes. One that is used only in bathrooms. Then two different colors for kitchen. One for dishes and one color for tables, counters and wiping out sink and faucets after all the dishes are cleaned.

  • Hey Jillee, I have nothing to offer on dishwashing, but I would like to say that I am sorry you are having a rough weekend and that I hope things are much better now! Sending you a virtual hug!!

  • I was taught to wash silverware first, because they go in your mouth, glasses next, because they touch your mouth, then plates, then pots and pans. I do wash pots and pans as I’m cooking, and start with fresh soap and water after eating.

  • Antibacterial liquid soap contains triclosan. That ingredient is supposedly absorbed through the skin and accumulates in your body. It’s a suspected endocrine disrupter. While washing dishes, if you don’t use gloves, you will be absorbing it. If you don’t adequately rinse, you may be eating the residue on your dishes.

    Please see the news reports about the FDA action against triclosan:

    The FDA is re-evaluating whether this and other common antibacterial in soaps are safe. This appears likely to be a step on the way to banning triclosan in soap eventually. There appears at this point to be NO EVIDENCE this ingredient makes these soaps more effective at disposing of germs either.

  • I remember high school health class, and being told to put a small bar of soap in your first aid kit for wahing scraps and small wounds because it would kill bacteria. Please don’t use soap that says it is antibacterial. But I can recommend Dawn Platinum Power Clean. It does in 3-5 minutes what a overnite soak wont. I do use a few drops of bleach in my dishwater if someone is sick though. I worked in a pet grooming shop that was attached to a veternarian. He came in one day and smelled the bleach we had used to clean cages. He told us that you only needed to use a few drops per gallon to sterilize. If you can smell the bleach your using too much! I also do plastic and glasses first so they have least contact with any grease in the water.

  • I love hand washing dishes. For many years I did not own a dishwasher (or a washing machine/dryer) so I didn’t always love it. Perhaps it has to do with choice! My method.
    BEFORE I cook or bake I fill my sink with hot soapy water. As I work I put dirty items in the sink. I save knives and really gunky stuff for later.
    WHILE my dish is simmering or baking I wash the dishes and then rinse them and place them in the drainer. I then RINSE the dirtier dishes* and put them aside. I n a new sink of hot soapy water. I add BAKING SODA & VINEGAR and carefully wash my knives and cutting boards with a CLOTH. AFTER THIS I add my rinsed but still dirty pots. I always wear rubber gloves and find the ones with ridges help in getting the pots and pans clean. I dry and put away whatever I can and then I put my pots and pans on the drainboard. FINALLY AFTER a meal we end up just having plates, glasses and utensils to do. Hot, soapy (DAWN) water, vinegar, a little baking soda are all you need!
    *If something is really greasy I use pieces of newspaper to wipe them out before rinsing.

  • Back when I was in 7th grade….a long, long time ago….we had a class known as home ec (home economics)….our teacher, Mrs. Weaver, taught us how to wash dishes….I was amazed that there was actually a formula for doing them! I am on my way out of my 50s, never had a dishwasher that wasn’t attached to my arms, and I have to agree with one comment above….get it done! LOL Thanks for posting this….brought back memories!

  • If you have hard water add a tablespoon or two of baking soda to the rinse water. This will help break down any residue left from the wash water. One of the reasons you’re left with spotty dishes.

    This article brought back memories of our kitchen reno. I washed dishes in the bath tub for 6 months!!

  • I take a microfiber cloth, cut it into quarters, and use the smaller cloths to do my dishes. They clean the dishes well and I throw them into the wash after each use. I keep a big stack in the drawer next to the sink and always have a fresh piece of microfiber for small jobs.

  • I’m probably weird because I do have a dish washer that I have never used in the 9 years I have lived here. I was always taught that you wash the items that go in your mouth first – silverware, then glasses, the what your food is eaten off of – plates and bowls, next is what the food was served from and last are the pots and pans the food was cooked in. The idea is that the water is cleaner at the beginning of the washing then it is at the end…and the pots and pans will get heated up with the food so anything not washed off will be killed in the heating process. I love the idea of using vinegar in my wash water! Air drying everything is the most sanitary method of drying dishes. And yes, I would really rather do the dishes myself – no one else can stack the dishes in the drainer like I can!!

  • I Thank God I don’t have a dishwasher and my kitchen is really small , to me dishwashers take too much time and they do run your electric bill up!
    I wash as I’m making my meals and clean my kitchen in the morning after kids go to school and at night after supper and I don’t have so much to do.
    , I put in vinegar and baking soda to give it that extra scrubbing power on dishes or use a Sos scrubbing pad or Brillo pad for my pots and pans . I don’t see nothing wrong with bleach every now and than. We have to use it when we are washing big pots and pans and grills in the concession stand at our local high school.

  • So, I live in a 3rd world country and I do not have a dishwasher (or a dryer for my clothes!) I don’t even have hot water in the sink to cut grease.

    I use one of these dish wands :http://www.amazon.com/3M-650-12-Scotch-Brite-Heavy-Dishwand/dp/B00450LLYA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410699249&sr=8-1&keywords=dish+wand

    And keep it filled with Dawn that cuts grease in cold water. (This is the only “chemical” that I have in my house as I am toxic chemical free in everything else)

    But, I cannot fathom having stacks of dirty dishes in my sink. Seriously it would freak me out. I just clean as I go. Sure, I am doing dishes 10 times per day, but while I wait for the water to heat up for my hot cacao (bullet proof coffee substitute) I can do all the dishes that need to be done, plus prep the ingredients. (here is that recipe — it is SO healthy and yummy! http://blog.purifyyourbody.com/2014/07/bulletproof-hot-cacao-recipe-healthy.html)

    What I hate is when I have a pan soaking that I used for something greasy, like sausage…. and my husband puts cups, dishes, glasses, bowls etc IN it, making the bottoms of those dishes greasy (making it extra work for me).

    Grr. I can’t wait to move back to the states and have a dishwasher, or hot water even!

    But, we have a housecleaner once a week that would do all the dishes if I left them for her…. She is here from 8am to 3pm and costs only $10 TOTAL, and she works HARD…. So, I am very lucky on that count.

  • And don’t forget the baking soda trick on your cookware & bakeware: moisten the item that needs some TLC cleaning and sprinkle with baking soda – let it sit (sometimes overnight) and it should come clean with very little elbow grease (scrubbing). This will also help keep the outside of your cookware & bakeware looking great! I recycled a couple of name brand coffee creamer containers by removing the labels and keeping baking soda in them. I keep one under my kitchen sink and one in with my cleaning supplies!

  • The dishes, cutlery and pots and pans should be rinsed off first before washing.

    The glassware should all be washed first; then the plates; then cutlery then pots and pans. This is to ensure that the glasses come out sparkling clean and the cutlery doesn’t jab your hands/gloves.
    Also your article talks about using antibacterial dish soap and bleach. I would ditch the antibacterial dish soap and be very careful about the amount of bleach if using it at all. One is overriding the other not to mention you are not giving your body a chance to naturally learn to fight diseases.
    So, unless someone has a contagious disease, I wouldn’t use either. Perhaps a spoonful of white vinegar but that is it.

  • Do not waste water when rinsing. Have a separate washbasin full of hot water and change it when needed.

    Wash first glassware & silverware, those will touch your mouth!

    We don’t have a dishwasher at our cabin and I make sure, that everybody will pre wash their dishes. I just fill the sink with water and add some soap, after you have done eating pre washing is easy to do with a dish brush.

  • Many years ago, in my other life as I like to call it, a woman who worked in a school cafeteria gave me some simple pointers that I still follow. She said always put your silverware in the bottom of your hot soapy water, then your other dishes and lastly your glassware. Pots are usually set aside soaking. She said you always wash your glasses first, something to do with less germs I think, then everything else but the silverware and pots. Silverware is last(except for pots and pans) because it needs to soak longer. Lastly, pots and pans and sometimes mine get to soak in the dishwater for a bit and I come back to them. Sometimes if you have a ton of dishes, you can’t fit it all in the sink anyway, but you still put the silverware in the bottom and then go from there, glasses first, etc. I don’t have a dishwasher, so all my dishes are done by hand. I always rinsed my dishes in the hottest water I could stand but I read somewhere that actually rinsing in cold water is better because it cuts the soap better than hot. Just a thought there. I think it’s like my friend says, “different strokes for different folks.”

    • ” I read somewhere that actually rinsing in cold water is better because it cuts the soap better than hot. “”

      This applies to dishes which messes come from milk, eggs and starchy foods.

    • Glasses are done first because grease tends to stick to it and show up as a foggy finish or as spots. Plastic will hold onto grease and feel slimy, but if you rub it well with a soapy dishcloth, it will all come off. After I do the glassware and plastics, i add the silverware and dishes to the sink.

      I make (crochet) dishcloths out of acrylic yarn. Used to do it from cotton but found that cotton is too soft. Acrylic scrubs and works better than those sponges with the net over them.

      • When a friend had an annual celebration, I’d always help her with the dishes, a relative got to the sink first and rinsed everything in cold water, but they took so much time to dry the cold dishes. I prefer to rinse in hot water and drying is a breeze.

      • I don’t know how on earth I never heard of this before & I’m 39!! I love the idea of using vinegar because our water is City Well & SMELLS like bleach/Chlorine combo just running the water. Yea, we don’t drink or cook with it. I don’t need to add the bleach, it’s already in there!!!

  • You don’t need bleach or antibacterial soap! Regular hand soap will do just fine! Ditch the bacteria holding sponge and use a wash cloth. I’ve been using a wash cloth and homemade bar soap for years. A wash cloth is just the ticket and can be washed out and dried unlike a sponge with deep pores that trap food particles.

      • I’m with you. I refuse to have it in the house. If we’re ill, like me this week, peroxide in the dishwater or wash dishes, spray eith it, hot water rinse, drain dry. Sponge can be microwaved (also steams up microwave for easier cleaning) toss it ib dishwasher with rest of dishes daily or toss into washing machine.

      • Hi Renee,

        I make my soap with used fryer oil. Whatever you fry with or can get a hold of will work fine. Or you can use animal fat. It doesn’t matter if it’s dirty and smells like fish and onions. It will not smell after processing. I use the hot process method. You can find recipes on line. You do not need to use any fancy oils or fragrances or complex mixtures of different oils. Here’s an idea of what it looks like. http://allcrafts.tripod.com/

  • I have been married 38 yrs and never had a dish washer. I also come from a large family, so hand washing is the norm for me. I have watched friends use their dishwashers but honestly feel my way gets them cleaned in just the same amount of time as it takes to pre clean and load a machine.
    I will admit to redoing the dishes after my hubby or kids! A little fussy I guess.
    I prefer to let my dishes air dry, except for my new stainless,,copper based pots and pans. Love them but could use guidance on proper way to wash and care for them!

    • I am so with you Kathee! 58years old, married almost 40 years and I don’t even know how to us a dishwasher and don’t want to. I never have to worry about breakdowns, leaking water every where or having the noise. Yes I know they making them so you can “hardly” hear them, but you can! I hate the smell and taste of bleach so instead I use a little vinegar in my dish water and rinse. NO SPOTS and I get shine and clean! Love that! Plus I like having the storage where the washer would go.

    • Kathee,

      I have been caring for stainless steel Lifetime Cookware and copper bottom Revere Ware for 50 years.

      To ‘polish’ the cookware after washing and rinsing, I use a product called “Barkeeper’s Friend” and a Scotchbrite (or equivalent) Delicate Care sponge . (Try to find Barkeeper’s Friend. Other products on the market simply DO NOT work as well.)

      Your pans should be damp but not wet. Dampen the sponge, sprinkle a LITTLE Barkeepers’ Friend INSIDE the pot and polish with the scrubbing side of the sponge, then do the same to the outside. Wash well in the dishwater (using a cloth to be sure you have wiped all surfaces) and rinse.

      To prevent oxidation of the copper, the bottom should be dried immediately, otherwise the remaining pots can air dry if you prefer.

      Rinse the sponge well and let air dry. If you are concerned about any germs in the sponge, pop the WET (not dripping) sponge in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high. The steam generated by the water in the sponge will kill the germs. I do this with my dish cloths. They go in smelling ‘dishwater funky’ and come out smelling like wet fabric!

      I always make polishing the last step as the Barkeeper’s Friend seems to deactivate the effectiveness of the dish soap. And I polish, not just for the pretty, but because it affects how the cookware functions. If I don’t polish, the residue left prevents the pan from heating evenly. That’s the only time when my food sticks and burns, (unless I’m just being careless and/or cooking with too high a heat).

      Hope this helped :)

      Gramma Lu
      T’Rivers, WI

  • I am not that fussy when washing dishes but have my particulars when rinsing. My Wonderful husband helps out and it makes me cringe when he fills the second sink (only wiping it a little with a damp rag) with water and dips the dishes before hitting the drainer. Before long the “rinse” water is grayish and has some bubbles… He also uses a drying towel and wipes the dishes and puts lids back on anything that looks like it should have a lid. I have actually found a blender container with damp pieces of food sealed in it a week later… Is it just me or does anyone else want to redo the dishes??? I have looked all over for a website on instructions on how to do a great job washing dishes and WHY. I don’t think it exists. For now I refuse help in the kitchen.

  • This just makes me laugh and laugh. I’ve lived 40 years and been washing dishes 35 of those and only used a dishwasher for 4 days while on holiday. My tip – just get it done. All these 15 minute breaks are just so funny to me.

    • I questioned the breaks, too. Wash as you cook and get ’em done as quickly as possible. There are times I’d like a dishwasher but not enough to spend the money on one.

    • I do this as well so I’m a little offended. The 15 minute breaks are for the detergents and hot water to do their job and kill any bacteria like ecoli, salmonela, liseria, colds, flu etc. I usually run and switch the wash or find some other chore to do so each sink full is soaking for several minutes.

      • Hot water and soap do kill bacteria. Way back in the days of the plague, many people that washed their hands managed to avoid the illness, this antibacterial things is a “ned” and dangerous fad. Those soaps kill off the good bacteria we need in our bodies…it doesn’t discriminate

    • I completely agree. All those 15 minute breaks lol – anyone would think washing dishes is hard work. I can wash a big load of dishes completely in 15 minutes. Why would I want to have to keep coming back to it when I can just get it over with quickly?

    • I’d like to say that the article helped me, even the info about breaks, but also the drying steps. I also learned the sequence mentionned above, beginning with glasses. But, growing up, large quantities of dishes involved lots of aunts, cousins, youth group team, etc. I now live far away in another culture, and have repeatedly faced a kitchen full of dirty dishes, alone. I feel homesick, and resentful, and the breaks are important to keep me on even keel. Plus, the tips on when to dry means that at the end I will have clean counters, instead of counters full of dishes dripping on towels.

      Thanks, ‘Anonymous’. Thanks, Jillie, for putting this in, and I sure hope your day got better!!!

  • I wash as I use when I’m cooking or baking. And as dishes are used at mealtime, into the hot soapy water they go. I let pots dry on a thick towel on the counter.

    • I agree with this. I wash all pots, pans, cooking utensils, etc., as I cook. They are not left to crust and harden, just to soak later. Right now I’m in S. America where we don’t have hot water in the kitchen sink, so we heat water to wash and then have to rinse in cold water! I hate it, but it is what it is. Dishes come out just fine. Also, if you wash immediately after a meal, there is no need to let dishes soak. I actually love getting my hands in hot soapy water and frequently hand wash the dishes even when I have a dishwasher. Amazing there are so many opinions about washing dishes!

  • Especially when fixing big meals for family gatherings, as soon as the food is placed in serving dishes, I immediately put the pots and pans, cooking utensils, etc. into soapy hot water. Then, after the meal is over, these are washed, dried and put away. Cleans off the counter tops to put the plates, glasses, etc. that needs to be washed and avoids the need to scrub.

  • I’m blessed with a (working) dishwasher at the moment but we have moved a lot where I have not been so “fortunate” or just plain ol preferred my own job over some “dishwasher” (lol). I still handwash my children’s plates/utensils, pots and pans and things like the potato peeler; but our family is growing (I’m pregnant) and my children are all under the age of 5, so dishes pile and “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Anyways, this is my method: I basically have a bunch of different brushes (sorry, but I see sponges as a big absorbent square of bacteria) that I routinely replace and can run through the dishwasher from time to time until its time to replace them. I use one sink to pile the dirty dishes, or I have in the past when I had a deep sink, which at the moment I do not, so if dishes haven’t been a priority that day, they go on the counter, sorted like the mystery reader does. Each brush is designated for different jobs. I have one brush that scrubs the food off the dirty dishes ( I try to do this to keep up on dishes and find that I can avoid the soaking step if I keep up on it), once the food is off, then it goes into the tub of soapy hot water with a fresh hand towel and a brush for extra scrubbing if need be. Even though my children are young, I do have a bottle brush, but it is used for glasses and sippy cups that I cannot fully reach into with just the towel, and that is only used on dishes that have already been cleaned of food. Once the dishes have been soaped up its time for a rinse! :)

    • Sorry I was interrupted while commenting so my train of thought went out the window; didn’t want to sound rude or like my method was better, I’m all about finding what works for you and your family! Thank you for posting this, not many people post on hand washing dishes and it’s something that has always been a part of my life and will be, so I definitely appreciate this posting!

    • Back in the Fifties, before we got a dishwasher, my sainted grandmother taught us how to do the dishes by hand. The basic principle is wash the cleanest things first. So, before the actual washing, pour out all dregs from glasses/cups and scrape off as much as you can from plates, bowls and cookware. Then put nothing into the soapy water but glassware to start. When these are washed, rinsed and set into the drainer, add the cutlery and let it soak while doing the plates and bowls. Then cutlery and finally the pots and pans.
      As an American who moved to London 40 years ago, I remain astonished and disgusted at the British custom of putting washed items directly into the drainer WITHOUT RINSING!! Words fail me …

      • Janet-This is exactly the way I was taught by my Mother and also in home ec (anyone remember that class-LOL!). The thought of putting glasses and cups in with the rest of the dishes repulses me! We were taught to do them first. All the “breaks” mentioned in the post make me tired. I want to get the dishes done, not drag it out. If the food particles remaining are cleaned from the dishes much as you would before placing in a dishwasher if you have one, let the pots soak with hot, soapy water in them while the rest of the dishes are being washed, why take breaks and prolong a job not many people enjoy doing?! Get ‘er done! I must say though, starting as a young woman with a family, growing to my late 50’s now, I found out early that hand washing dishes can be a “religious” experience! I would hear little voices yelling “where’s Mom?” only to hear another whisper reverently, “She’s doing the dishes!” I think I could have washed the same glass for an hour and no one would bother me!

      • Thanks for posting this method. It saved me the time. I was raised that Glassware should be washed first, and everything else in the order you listed. “Old school”.

    • Bleach is caustic. I don’t even have any in the house. I sure don’t want to eat off dishes washed in bleach. I realize that many people do use bleach though.

      • It’s true bleach is caustic, but if you eat from dishes washed in a dishwasher, you’ve eaten from dishes washed with bleach. And, if you’ve eaten in a restaurant that serves food on dishes, by law they must use bleach in the dishwashing process.

      • Susan is correct. Health dept requires you to wash, rinse and sanitize, thus the reason for the 3 bowl sink. I am a restaurant owner in a rural area and therefore do not have city water. We use well water which must be tested for bacteria. In that process if the bacteria level is too high, we must treat our wells with bleach in either liquid form or tablet form. Per our health inspector and our well service, if too much bleach is added it causes the bacteria to go dormant, then once the levels decrease the bacteria re-activates.

        My point is this; by adding 1/2 cup to a sink of water you will not kill the bacteria. You only need a cap full to be effective. I didn’t believe this so I tested it myself in my 3 bowl sink which is very deep and holds about 30 gals of water. Using only 1 cap full, it tested on the lower end, but it would still be acceptable. I have test strips required by the health dept because we do not have an automatic commercial dishwasher.

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