10 Helpful Dish Washing Tips & Tricks

There are only two things in this world more monotonous than hand washing your dishes: watching grass grow, and watching paint dry.

However, for those who don’t have a dishwasher, washing dishes by hand is tedious reality, each and every day….and even if you have a dishwasher, that doesn’t preclude you from this chore.  Case in point, I have like 50 cups (thanks to my Starbucks problem) that aren’t dishwasher safe, and then there’s the gang of pots and pans that can’t go into the dishwasher either…ugh.

There are actually many things that you shouldn’t put into the dishwasher, like crystal, cast iron or non-stick pots’n’pans, any good knives you may have, and wooden cooking utensils.  Then, you’ve got the ginormous items that won’t fit into the dishwasher, like cookie sheets, broiler pans and roasting pans.

Now, I’m well aware that some people actually enjoy washing dishes – they find it meditative or a good way to achieve *Omnipresent Super-Galactic Oneness*.

I am not one of those people – and if you are not one of those people or if you’re just having a hard time washing your dishes- here are 10 helpful tips and tricks to make this stupid job a little easier..

#1 – Use Gloves

Safety first everyone.  These bright yellow gloves not only make you look super cool – they also protect the skin on your delicate digits from losing it’s natural oils and then drying out, leading to dishpan hands (prune hands, raisin hands, whatever you call it).  They also protect your hands from the super hot water and any rogue knives.

A cool bonus feature to these gloves is that they are made of rubber and are kind of tacky, meaning it’s usually easier to hold on to slippery wet dishes.  And, if you hate that rubber glove smell as much as I do, you can sprinkle in some baking soda to deodorize them before donning them to do the dishes.

#2 – Get a Dish Rack

For around $20 you can get yourself a dish rack that will hold a good amount of dishes and and glasses and cutlery and whatnot.  I bought mine for around $15 – as you can see, it’s fairly large and I saved money by not buying the little tray that goes underneath and using a simple baking sheet (or broiler pan) instead and covering it with a dish towel.

#3 – Wipe Food off your Dishes ASAP

Might sound a little simplistic, but you’d be surprised how much tougher it is to wash food that has been sitting on a dish for 12 hours. If you tackle the food as soon as possible, it’s much easier to clean off.  When dirty dishes hang around for a while, moisture evaporates from the food and creates a solid bond to the surface it is sitting on…you get the picture.

#4 – Use the Hottest Water you Can Bare

The hotter the water, the better.  It makes the food break away from surfaces easier, it helps break down grease, and it aides your glasses and cutlery to dry without spots or streaks.

#5 – Time to Soak

For really stubborn food deposits, or, for cleaning up the pots and pans (dwell) time is on your side.  If you have a really dirty pot, pan or dish, you can use a few drops of dish liquid and water or sprinkle in some dishwasher detergent with water and let those tough, baked-on food bits loosen overnight.  In the morning, you should be able to easily wipe everything away.  You can also sprinkle in some baking soda when cleaning the next morning for a little extra mild abrasion!

#6 – Invest in a Good Sponge and Other Dish Washing Tools

You can find name brand sponges at your local dollar store or big box stores,  just make sure it’s a non-scratching sponge.  The ones I like areScotch-Brite sponges. I also use a dish wand, which allows you to put dish liquid directly inside the handle and the sponge uses the dish soap during the cleaning process.  This puts the ‘fun’ in functional!  Other great tools that you can use include a dish scrub brush, which won’t cling on to bacteria as much as a sponge would and can help brush away really tough dirt, and a SKrAPr for those really, really tough jobs.  I love my SKrAPr.

#7 – Don’t Let Dishes Pile Up!

Unlike fine wine or an artisan cheese (which I miss dearly, since I’ve been off dairy for about 6 weeks now), dirty dishes, tend not to age very well.  What’s worse is that the dish pile is only going to grow bigger and bigger – and your interest level in washing them is going to get smaller and smaller.  So, don’t let your sink turn into Mount Dishmore (this place exists, in each of our minds).  Tackle the dishes every night, that way they’ll never get out of hand and become overbearing.  And remember, the cleanliness of your sink can make or break the cleanliness of your entire kitchen.

#8 – Burnt Pots’n’Pans

I made a video about this exact subject a looooong time ago.   You can check out our video on how to easily clean a very dirty pot or pan, here! 

#9 – Wash in the Right Order!

You want to wash your dishes from least greasy to most greasy, which usually looks like this:

– first wash your glassware and any drinking vessels,
– then wash your cutlery,
– then wash your plates and bowls and such,
– then wash greasy stuff like serving dishes and any really greasy items, and finally
– wash your pots and pans.

You may have to drain and re-fill the water as needed, especially if you notice it getting really greasy and grimy.

#10 – The Melissa Maker Way

This isn’t so much a tip as it is the way I choose to hand wash my dishes here at home – and it’s pretty simple so I thought I would share it with you.

If you have two sinks

Fill one with hot water and a couple of drops of dish liquid – fill the other sink with cool water and a 1/2 cup of vinegar – which will act as a rinse aid and help avoid spots and streaks on glassware.  Simply wash each dish in the hot water sink and then dip into the cool water sink to rinse, then place in the rack to dry.

If you have one sink

Start by making yourself some dish pre-treater – which is just a tablespoon of dish liquid, mixed with water, in a spray bottle.  Now, soak all your cutlery in a cup or  bowl filled with hot water and dish liquid. Then take your dish pre-treater and spray each dish and cup, pot and pan, and neatly pile them on the side of the sink. Now, each dish gets a chance to pre-soak, which breaks down the dirt and grease and will save you scrub time.  Trust me, this is brilliant.  One by one, (ideally starting with the first dish you sprayed working your way to the last one), give each item the once over with the dish wand and then rinse under s slow stream of water – we don’t want to have the water on full blast because that’s just a waste of water – just use enough to rinse each dish. Finally, let the dishes sit in the dish rack to dry.

Whether you have one sink or two – some items will require hand drying using a towel – this is where I suggest using waffle weave microfiber towel – which is super absorbant and actually dries quicker than a regular tea towel.


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