My Super-Efficient Method of Hand Washing Dishes

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Hello! We are still working on The Green House (the floors are being laid this week and Caveman is working hard to paint the walls after work each evening). So I’m mulling over pieces of life in the Shoebox before we say goodbye to this place for good… today let’s talk about hand wash. πŸ™‚

We’ve exclusively hand washed our dishes for over four years now, as the Shoebox doesn’t have a dish washing machine. It actually hasn’t been that bad; I’ve always enjoyed hand washing. The roughest part was keeping up with the dishes we accumulate as a family of five and also since I cook most of our meals at home.

Over the years I’ve developed a method for hand washing dishes and lying out to dry that is super efficient for getting the maximum number done at one time. The method seems so basic and “duh” to me that for years I’ve thought it wasn’t worth a post. However Caveman uses his own separate system, so perhaps my method bears mentioning as it is so different from the way he approaches cleaning dishes.

Caveman focuses on quality versus quantity. He focuses on the big items first and eventually gets down to smaller stuff. Because he spends more time scrubbing, he doesn’t clean as many dishes as I do in the same amount of time.Β  I value quantity over quality. I might not get the dishes as clean as Caveman does, but I get more of the job done. The good news is that between the two of us continually taking turns washing dishes, every item gets super-super clean at least once every couple of days and much of the time the dishes we need are clean when we need them. πŸ™‚ We truly are a great team.

I briefly outlined my method of hand washing dishes in this post on tips for living without a dishwasher years ago, but today I’ll share a little more detail about how to get the most dishes done and drying in the least amount of time.

1) Sort and Organize

It might sound like a non-step, but I swear that it is worth the time to sort and organize the dirty dishes on the sink or counter. Take a minute to scrape off food bits in the trash. See which dishes need a pre-soak. Pour out yucky water that has been sitting for a day or so. Group like items. If you can’t get to the dishes right away, stacking plates or cups will allow for more dishes in the sink and also make the area at least look tidy. Keeping the sink organized and food/sitting water free also helps to reduce smells, especially during summer.

2) Wash First-Priority Dishes

When you’re sorting, keep an eye out for items you need cleaned right away. Is there a pan at the bottom of the sink that you need for dinner? Forks to use LIKERIGHTNOW? Coffee mugs for company in an hour? Wash First Priority items right away, no matter what they are. (They should be easy to find, since you already took the time to evaluate and group the congregation in the sink.) Hallelujah. I also like to wash large flat items in this first round, such as cutting boards or stove top griddles to get them out of the way.

3) Wash Small/ Flat Items

After the immediate needs are washed and stacked on the drying rack or counter as closely as possible, locate allΒ  silverware and small items. Really you’re looking for anything that can have something easily stacked on top of it. I like to lay all silverware out on the counter. Then I’ll do a spatula or two if I have room. Vegetable peelers, knives, and other various tools should also be washed in this step if they’re small enough to have other dishes angled on top of them.

4) Wash Plates/ Bowls (anything the nests nicely)

Next wash anything that can angle and nest together nicely as they dry. You’re looking for high-use items that, if stacked correctly, won’t take up a lot of space: plates, bowls, serving bowls, etc.

5) Wash One or Two Large Items

This step is really to clear out the sink. By now I usually have maybe a foot or so left near the end of the counter. Use that space to put the awkward large pieces, like the crock pot bowl, 9×13 pans, or stock pots if they weren’t already taken care of in step 2.

6) Wash Serving/Cooking Utensils

Your counter or drying rack should be pretty full. Now, wash any serving or cooking utensils that you didn’t wash in step 3. It is at this point that I wash whisks, serving spoons, potato mashers, spatulas, etc. To dry, carefully find places to stick them upright in between dishes already on the counter.

7) Wash Baggies

If you’re a baggie-washer like me, now is your time to try to stay on top of them. (Normally a pile the size of the Colorado Sand Dunes stacks up behind the faucet before I get around to washing bags, but if I can do one or two every day, then I have a hope of keeping up.) Wash a few plastic or reusable sandwich or freezer bags, then place them upside down on the ends of the upright utensils for swift drying.

Boom! Now there are fewer dishes in the sink, you’ve used the counter drying space optimally, and all the dishes you’ll need immediately are ready to go again. πŸ™‚ High five!

And that’s my seven-step, very efficient, (I think, genius), method for hand washing dishes. Do you do something similar??

Comment below and let me know how YOU conquer the pile in the sink every night…

 

 

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24 Comments
  • Jane Sasser
    March 19, 2015

    I also sort of like hand-washing dishes, but I’m also glad that you are getting a dishwasher because you need to spend your time on more important things! That said, I read recently that people who insist on TOO much cleanliness are more likely to have children with allergies. The article specifically mentioned that children who grew up in a household where the dishes were hand-washed have fewer allergies. The theory is that they are exposed to SOME germs, and their bodies learn how to fight them. πŸ™‚

    • Evelyn
      March 19, 2015

      Our hand washing dishes does take up a lot of time. I don’t mind it that much though. πŸ˜‰ I did see the article you’re referring to. I’m all for a little more germs to help build strong immune systems! πŸ˜€

  • Jane Sasser
    March 19, 2015

    Here’s my source!

    http://time.com/3717020/dishwashing-allergies/

  • Caveman
    March 19, 2015

    Priorities are all wrong! This is the Caveman way:
    1)Anything that prohibits a quick rinse…ie anything that stands above the rim of the sink near the faucet.
    2)Big items. Makes me feel like I’m making progress.
    3) Evelyn’s “First-Priority Dishes”. If company comes over and needs a mug…hand it to them wet so they know it’s clean. ;o)
    4)Serving/Cooking utensils. They’re on bigger side and take up more counter space.
    5)Plates/Bowls. Easily washed and stacked.
    6)Everything else….no room on the counter so leave it in the sink for the wife to do in the morning. It’s not like I wanted to wash silverware and baggies anyways; I hate washing them!

    • Evelyn
      March 19, 2015

      BAHAHAHAHAAHAHAH. Which is why *I* like to be the one who gets to do the dishes. πŸ˜‰

  • Jody
    March 20, 2015

    I always do glassware and cups/mugs first when the dishwater is the hotest and the cleanest. Then I do plates and cups, cooking and serving bowls, silverware, and pots/pans/baking sheets come last.

    My mother always said I would win any clean dish stacking competition. The rule in our house was that if you couldn’t drain it then you had to wipe it – I could figure out how to drain just about anything in a nice tall stack on the dish drainer or in the cleanest side of the sink!

    • Jody
      March 20, 2015

      Mom also said she had no need for a dishwasher because she had seven children = seven dishwashers.

      • Evelyn
        March 20, 2015

        Haha I know! My kids love helping with dishes, but they’re not at the age yet where the level of cleanliness is acceptable…. πŸ˜‰

    • Evelyn
      March 20, 2015

      πŸ™‚ Jody, It sounds like you have a great system down pat! Too bad we can’t hold a Dish-Wash-Off. πŸ˜€

  • Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca
    March 22, 2015

    We found hand-washing to be quicker, since we don’t own many dishes. We actually had a dishwasher in our apartment, but we only used it after we had company over, did holiday cooking, etc. For just the 3 of us, with our 3 plates, it just wasn’t worth running it so often.

    • Evelyn
      March 23, 2015

      I’m curious to see if I find the same conclusion, Bethany. πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

  • Phil Pogson
    June 17, 2015

    I hand wash in the order that it all goes away.
    It all drip-drys on a towel on the bench top
    I do cutlery early on because I HATE it.

    • Evelyn
      June 17, 2015

      That’s a great system, Phil! I never thought about tackling the job in the order it should be organized back. My husband hates doing silverware too. πŸ˜‰

  • Naomi Alexander
    June 17, 2015

    In the UK many of us wash dishes by hand (although dishwashers are becoming more popular now) – our houses (especially kitchens) are often too small to accommodate lots of appliances.
    I don’t have a dishwasher or tumble dryer but really don’t need either (I line-dry the laundry)
    There are only two of us and it would take days to have enough stuff to fill a dishwasher. I couldn’t bear all that grimy crockery hanging around!
    Really enjoyed reading both your ‘ways’ of washing up. Mine and hubbie’s are also different. We too take turns :o)
    http://www.slendermeans.co.uk/clothing/drying-laundry-without-tumble-dryer/

    • Evelyn
      June 17, 2015

      Hi Naomi, my hubby and I met in England and lived there for three years, so maybe that’s where we learned to appreciate hand washing dishes. πŸ™‚ Although our home now does have a dishwasher, I still find I hand wash most of the necessities throughout the day. We run the machine maybe once at night to get all the dinner prep dishes, etc. Thanks for sharing!

    • Evelyn
      June 17, 2015

      Oh…. and love your blog! πŸ™‚

  • Megan
    June 18, 2015

    Hi Evelyn,
    Wow, you know a blog post is unique AND relevant, when it keeps readers thinking about it for months! I read this three months ago, and think about it almost every night when I do the dishes. I think no matter what your system is, you just need to have one and “own it”. My husband has his way, I have my way, and as long as we have a “my way”, it makes it that much easier to do such a mundane task everyday for who knows how man years to come. Know what I mean? It gives more weight to the task, makes it seem more important, if we become experts at it. I think that’s why our grandmothers’ generation usually had a “right way” of doing things (folding towels, making pie crust, hanging laundry) – most of them had no choice in the matter and had to do the housework, so they took pride in their work and skills. I enjoy everyday tasks more if I feel like I’m doing them my way, instead of just willy nilly. Anyway, hope that made sense! I’ve been elbow deep in dishwater for months composing this thought, so hopefully it came out clear enough. πŸ™‚
    Thanks for keeping my mind occupied – I love that such a seemingly simple, common sense topic could be picked apart and analyzed so much. The extraordinary in the everyday. πŸ™‚
    Megan

    • Evelyn
      June 18, 2015

      Wow. Megan, your comment blessed/challenged/amazed me so much. I am astonished that such a simple blog post could have generated so much cerebral action on your part ;), but even more blessed that you would trek back here after three months and share your percolated thoughts! THANK YOU. What a gift. I LOVE your reply and your conclusion that previous generations took pride and pleasure in their mundane work by almost making an art of of their method. I’ve never thought about that but you’re right–when I do a task “my way” it flows better and I enjoy it more than if I’m just completing it haphazardly. Now I’m determined to go find a “my way” for other household tasks to complete the circle and to further learn to love what needs to be done. πŸ˜‰ Thanks again. You communicated your thought beautifully. πŸ™‚

  • Hannah @ Seeing the Lovely
    June 20, 2015

    Evelyn, my husband and I hand wash our dishes as well, but I’ve never thought of doing them in a particular order! I may have to try your method out, though sorting shouldn’t take long since there are only two of us. Thanks for sharing!

    • Evelyn
      June 20, 2015

      Hi Hannah! Thanks for commenting. Your blog is adorable! πŸ™‚

  • Cecile
    July 18, 2015

    Love love your blog! We moved into a smallish home with a dishwasher and I have to say that we only use this dishwasher on Sundays when we generally have a crowd over. Other than that, I don’t find the dishwasher helpful really because I would constantly be pulling dirty dishes out of there – we don’t have an overabundance of dishes πŸ™‚

    • Evelyn
      July 18, 2015

      Hi Cecile! Thanks. πŸ™‚ Yeah, me too. I get SO annoyed when I have to dig dirty forks or plates out of the dishwasher. And if I don’t hand wash them all day, then I have to do it often! It’s much better if they’re clean and just waiting for me on the counter… πŸ˜‰ Thanks for commenting!

  • Anne
    February 11, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your hand dishwashing method. I’m glad to hear a dishwasher is in the plans, and let me tell you why. It has been proven, by the University of Bonn in Germany, that dishwashers use only half the energy, one-sixth of the water, and less soap. With several small children, I would think this would represent noticeable energy savings over a year.

    • Evelyn
      February 12, 2017

      Hi Anne! Wow, what super news! We do have a dishwasher now and we are grateful for it. Thanks for the heads up on the green energy/resources usage!

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