How to Hand Wash Dishes

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How to Hand Wash Dishes 

How to Hand Wash Dishes

I recently read about a woman who was tearing her hair out because she was so overwhelmed with piles of dirty dishes. Even though she would wash them several times a day, there always seemed to be an endless pile of them from snacks and things, so she came up with a plan. She decided to pack away all of her dishes and gave one plate, one bowl and one glass to each member of the family. Then, all each person had to be responsible for the washing of that dish.

You can assign each person a certain color dish or something like that. That mom said that, the first day or two, some of the members left oatmeal in theirs and she had fun watching them trying to get the dried on oatmeal off so that their bowl was ready for the meal.

This may not be something that you want to do all the time but it might be good to try it for a couple of weeks or at least long enough to get your family to start rinsing their dirty dishes off when they are done with them. You might even get them to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher or stack them nicely in the sink.

Here’s another way to save on dishes, especially dirty glasses: I would keep a small jug of water in the fridge that my kids could drink straight out of. Each had his own special jug and would just stick it back in the fridge after drinking from it. When their jugs were empty, they would fill it themselves.

Even with all the little tricks moms will try, there still will be a certain amount of dishes to be done. Not all of them can be put in a dishwasher and at times you may have to do without one. Most important of all, washing dishes is a skill you and your children both need to know. Here are the basic steps to hand washing dishes.

By the way, Dining on a Dime isn’t just a cookbook. It includes a big section with many more good cleaning tips and ideas.



How To Hand Wash Dishes

  1. Rinse dishes and stack in piles.  Use a long handle scrub brush and clean large food particles off of dishes.
  2. Fill sink with hot soapy water. (Go easy on the soap.)
  3. Place all the silverware in the soapy water to one side. Place 4-6 plates in the water (or more if you have a large sink). Then lay in as many glasses as you can get in on top of that. Do this so the plates and silverware can soak while you are washing the glasses.
  4. Wash the things that touch your mouth and those that are the least soiled first: glasses, silverware, plates, bowls, serving dishes, pans.
  5. Keep placing more dirty dishes in the sink to soak as you have room. If the water starts getting gooky then change it.
  6. Rinse each piece with running hot water. I just turn the water on and off as I rinse each piece, so I use very little water (only about 2 gallons for a huge pile of dishes). Also, I don’t fill the sink too full of soapy water when I start. That way, as I go along, the rinse water I use keeps my soapy water hot and refreshed so by the time I get to my pans, my water is still hot.

    People often fill one sink with water to rinse dishes but, if you think about it, after the first glass or two, the rinse water has soap in it and is “recontaminating” (for lack of a better word) each subsequent piece. There is a reason why surgeons wash their hands in running water and the same principle applies to dishes.



Additional Dish Washing Tips:

  • I am not sure why but some people take a lot of time scouring their sink before they wash the dishes. I don’t believe in working any more then you have to. No wonder so many hate doing dishes – they make more work for themselves then necessary.  When you are done with the dishes each time, use the soapy water that is left in the sink and with the dishrag wash it out like it is a big bowl. Let out the water, rinse with clear water and it is done. When you are ready to wash dishes again you may have to rinse with a little clear water to get garbage out of the sink but that should be all. When you fill it with the soapy water for the dishes it will kill any germs that are in the sink the same way it kills the germs on the dishes you will be washing. Once a week when you clean the kitchen give it a good scrubbing.
  • When hand washing dishes, never put you hand inside of a glass. It could easily break. Use a long handled brush, bottle brush or, if you don’t have those, put your dish rag in the glass and use a table knife to move the rag around. (Note from Tawra: I’ve broken many glasses by putting my hand inside them and I still don’t listen to my mother!)
  • Always be sure to wash the rim of a glass.
  • When washing silverware, be sure to wash the handles of the silverware. Be sure to do this with pots and pans, too.
  • Pans: Pour hot soapy water in them and let them soak while your are eating. They should be ready to clean by the time you are done.


photo by: brooke


  1. Anonymous says

    Heehee! I did the baking soda vinegar thing just yesterday because there was a sour smell coming from my sink. I couldn’t tell if it was the water itself or the drain. Thanks for the tip on using the drain plug…I’ll remember that from now on!

  2. Shosha says

    I tried the ol’ “here’s your dishes, you take care of them” bit with my family a few years ago. It was a total failure.

    However, keeping an eye out for the one using the most dishes for a few days then telling them it’s their week to do dishes worked a LOT better.

    Now, about cleaning the drains: I put a generous handful of washing soda in the sink then pour in half a pot of hot vinegar from the coffee maker (when I clean it monthly) then I rinse it and also pour the hot rinse water down too.

    I also do the dishes in the order described. It only takes one sink of soapy water! I like that.
    I also find that the dish soap makers use and opening twice as big as you need, I put my dish soap in a pump. four pumps is all I need for a sink of water!
    You can use an extra pump on your dish cloth if you need it and you’re still saving soap.

  3. Dineen says

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I was going to ask how to hand wash dishes (felt almost ashamed, really). I had remembered helping as a *very* small child hand wash (I was a tiny little dry-er) dishes when visiting Grandma’s. I remembered there was there was a procedure, an order to it that started with glasses and ended with the pots and pans but a life of growing up with dish washers never got it into me. Now in my new place without a dishwasher, this is imperative, and I just hadn’t gotten it back.

  4. Crystal Hartmann says

    I worked in the Daycare industry many years ago. I wanted to address the tip on not filing up one side of the sink with water as it would recontaminate the clean dishes if you rinse this way. I checked, I use three times as much water rinsing with it running(even turning it off between each one), then I do by filing my sink less than half way with water. As well….From being in that industry, and the person who did all the food prep and cleaned, according to the health inspectors, it was safer to use a sink of water with bleach added to it to rinse the dishes off in. It’s always worked for me if I have that concern. As well, if you have a white sink like me, when you drain the water, the stains are gone!

    • says

      Crystal, there are a lot of factors which make different things work for different people. I don’t turn the water on very hard and I rarely use more then 2 gallons for a regular family dinner. I know several people who use way less water by turning it on and off and this method. But if the other way works for you that’s fine.

      Also I didn’t make myself clear in the article. What I meant by recontaminating the dishes wasn’t so much germs (I use bleach in my dish water and it does work great for my sink) but was the soap suds which get in the water. I have been to peoples home and drank some water and it will taste soapy. Rinsing in a sink of water is what can cause this. I probably notice it more because I usually drink water and you can tell it easier then if you are drinking tea, pop or something like that.

  5. Judy C says

    I’am single so I use a lot of small plastic bowls to take my lunch in, if I use the dishwasher they flip over so I have to risen them. So I wash most of my dishes by hand. I also buy large refill bottles of dish soap , hand soap and hand santizer to refill all my small bottles in bathrooms, kitchen and hand santizers (Travel size) for my lunch box and for my car . It’s alot cheaper to refill then buy new ones

    • Fay says

      I have placed my stove grates over top of plastic items to keep them from flipping over in the dishwasher. It also helps clean the grates.

  6. Marilyn says

    A while back,I was assisting a developmentally disabled client with learning how to live in the community. He is the most precious guy, even calls me “Sister” to this day. Any way, He refused to keep more than one plate and one set of stainless in his house because, he said, he didn’t need any more than that. He was way ahead of us. I just thought I would share that with everyone.

  7. Anna Van says

    I’m trying to find an article about the health effect of not rinceing the soapy water off dishes before they are dried, also the lack of safety when using a towel to dry dishes rather than letting them air dry. I remember reading articles about these concerns years ago and would like to pass these ideas on to a friend who needs to realize the ‘correct’ way to do dishes.

  8. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    My mom had five dishwasers-Susan, Dottie, Ruth, Carol and Richard. When we started we had to stand on a chair to reach the sink. It makes you cognizent of the work required to run the home, workplace, world, etc. I am amazed that people allow their children to do nothing.

  9. says

    I really hate where I live it’s a tiny one bedroom apartment. I am normally a neat freak, and organized but not this year. I have no dishwasher and I hate to do the dishes by hand. But then again, the way you gave tips on how to clean dishes “for two people” it is not so bad after all.

    • says

      In my 40 plus years of being on my own and even before I left home the house I live in now is the first one with a real dishwasher so that is why I have washing dishes down to an art and how to do them as easy and quickly as possible. Boy I wish I had had one when my kids were at home but then I guess I wouldn’t have info to write this article. :) :) Guess there is always an up side.

      The main thing though I have found for quick and easy dish washing is not to make as many dirty dishes. I was teaching some kids to bake cookies this past week and they used the mixing spoons to measure a spoon of sugar and started to toss it in the sink. There wasn’t as speck of anything on it so I said just put it up. If no one has eaten off of it and it isn’t greasy or have food on it then you shouldn’t need to wash it.

  10. Carmel says

    I have come to believe that attitude is very important in all you do, even dishes. It feels good to have the kitchen clean, so it feels good to do the dishes. It’s a simple task, quiet time, time to think, or to pray, or to plan… It was my job as a kid, and one little trick I learned was when putting dirty plates in the water to soak put a piece of silverware in between each plate to let the soapy water get in there and do the job for you. And rinse well with running hot water, get the soap off. Your dishes are only as clean as the final rinse water.

    • says

      I assume you are washing them in the dish washer. For the water spots you can try using a different brand of detergent or using something like the little Jet baskets which are suppose help with water spots. Also certain brands of dishwashers don’t clean as well as others and there maybe something wrong with your dishwasher causing it not to rinse properly.

      If your glasses are very cloudy you might try hand washing a couple to see if they are still cloudy after you hand wash them. If they are then there will be nothing you can do for them because they have been “etched or sandblasted” of sorts from being washed in the dish washer. It can be harsh washing things in a dishwasher even things which are dishwasher safe.

      • Kellie says

        Spotting on dishes from a dishwasher can also be caused by a dirty dishwasher. Yep, they get dirty. Many that are quiet are so because of how they are made. They don’t grind the food particles, but strain them instead. You have to physically remove the filter and clean it every few weeks depending on how much you use the washer. You might also need to run a cycle with vinegar and no dishes.

  11. Liz says

    I memorized times tables, spelling words, poems. Can even read and remember what I”m reading. While washing dishes. I find it a pleasure and do my nail care afterward, it is soft and easy. Wish I could find a way to soak my feet, on the cheap, lol!
    Water is ridiculous here, we never use over the base amount and yet we pay base plus every stinking month. I currently have 8-330 gallon totes. high on the list is to collect rain water by winter this year (texas). Want to have the collection system in place before it becomes illegal here.

    • marlene says

      you can soak your feet for cheap, AND while doing the dishes.!!!!
      I’m so glad I saw your post!!!!!
      Mix equal parts Listerine and Vinegar,(I’ve used peroxide instead of vinegar, both work well)
      and 1/2 amount of warm water.
      Then I take 2 pans,(cake pans, lasagna pans, roasting pans) lol. depending on the size of your fee and split the mixture between the 2.
      I bring them over to the sink, put one foot in each, stand there and wash the dishes.
      It makes looking at my broken dishwasher ALOT easier. heehee.
      After that use a pediegg or rub with a towel, it works GREAT!!!!
      good luck Liz.Let me know how this works for you. xoxo

  12. says

    I have recently been told that I have rotator cuff problems in both arms.
    With just 2 of us at home to cut down on dishes that require washing I have gone for paper plates and baskets.
    French fry baskets double as dishes for fruits and veg. snacks. Just line them with was paper. Toss the paper into the garbage and rinse out the basket.
    It is good for fish and chicken dinners when no sauces are on the meat. For sauces for dipping I use small bowls and they are either in the basket or on the table beside each plate.
    When bbqing I bought 3 large trays and line them with tin foil to take the raw meat out and toss the foil using the same tray to bring in the cooked meats and vegetables. Baskets and steak boards are usually used for meals from the bbq.
    Rotissery chicken vegetables and dessert adds up to 1 tray, tonges, 1 sharp knife and 2 wine glasses 2 forks and a steak knife for dishes to be washed.
    Yesterday I gave away my portable dish washer. It leaks but was told it is an easy fix and Don could do it but it takes me about 3 days to fill it to the minimum to use it. So now I have a great area for shelves to be built in the kitchen to free up counter space.
    The baskets can hold chips, popcorn or cheese and crackers for late night or mid day snacks for children and adults alike.
    Less dishes less water used and perfectly healthy when hot water is used to rinse them out.

  13. Fay says

    Thanks for this article and reminder for taking care when washing dishes. I was taught to wash dishes just you you described. I clicked on every “You may also like…” after the article and found them very helpful–especially the Dirty Dishes Cause Debt article.
    What you may want to add an article about how to dry dishes.
    This is my method. I wash all my glasses and set in the empty second sink. Once all my glasses are washed I rinse them & set them on a drain board. My dish drainer is then placed in the 2nd sink and systematically fill it as I finish washing. Once the drainer is filled (under 5 min.) I use my sprayer with hot water & rinse all those dishes at once. It uses very little water. By the time this is done I am ready to dry (clean towel) the glasses & put them away. I then move the dish drainer to the drain board & let them air dry. I wash & rinse the silverware and add to the basket in the drainer. Last are the pots. I wash them all, then rinse allowing them to air dry in the sink. At this point my drainer is full & ready to be dried & put away. Pots are dried last. Use the towel to wipe the sinks and hang over the washer agitator while waiting for the next laundry load. Every dishwashing session gets a clean towel. Works for me.

    • Carole says

      I like the fact you say each session gets a clean dish towel. I would add that each session should also get a clean dish rag. I find if I use one over again, when I do the laundry, that rag is always stiff after drying. Don’t know what makes this happen, but when I use a clean one each time, I don’t have that problem.

  14. says

    Just need some information on putting vinegar/baking soda in the drain or using it to wash dishes? Could you please repeat that. Just doing some late night reading of some of the replies.


    • says

      For the drain you just pour about 1/4 cup (I never measure I just shake some in) into the drain the pour about 1/2 cup of vinegar down after it. Again I don’t measure that exactly either. Let it set 15-30 mins. then I pour a tea kettle of boiling water down the drain after it. Usually the vinegar and soda thing works better for sluggish drains and to keep drains from getting clogged more the a drain that is already clogged.

      I wouldn’t use vinegar or soda for hand washing dishes at all. All you need is dish detergent. Some do use it in the dishwasher by running a cycle with only vinegar in it.

  15. Em says

    If I have a large bowl or pot that is relatively clean, I will put the hot soapy water in it instead of the sink to was dishes. Sticky, dried or baked on food dishes I place on the counter with enough hot soapy water to cover the area in need. I only use about 2 gallons to rinse as well-you don’t need much if your water is not super soapy. Soap basically just breaks the surface tension allowing you to remove food particles with less force if I understand correctly.

    • says

      It releases food particles but more important between the soap and rubbing it helps release germs as well. One thing I didn’t mention in the article is if I have a big bowl, pan or casserole dish that needs to soak I place it in the bottom of my sink and by the time I wash my hands, rinse some smaller pieces the big bowl, pan etc. is usually full by that time so I kill 2 birds with one stone and save quite a bit on water too.

      Also when I am running the water to get it hot I use that water for rinsing the cups, plates and things that aren’t greasy. Some people run the water until it is hot then start rinsing the food particles off. I am glad you mentioned too not to use too much soap otherwise you will be forever rinsing.

  16. Delores says

    If you have a pan or pot that has sticky or stubborn to remove food, I use a trick my mother taught me, add a little baking soda and hot water and let it soak, by the time you do the pots and pans, it will come clean easier than having to scrub it.

  17. Mary Jane says

    I have had a dishwashing machine in the past, and found out that I really didn’t mind washing dishes by hand, what I disliked was the clearing up after a meal and then stacking of dishes. For years, I have had up to three contained drain boards to put my clean and rinsed dishes out to dry on, on my countertops. This air drying worked well for me as I had a large family, and several large bowls etc. to do every day. However, as empty nesters, and after having done some minor renovations in the house, I convinced my husband to put in a much smaller dining room table and chairs. This meant no big table to use as a work surface, which meant using my little bit of counter space in my tiny kitchen, to work on. That meant saying goodbye to trays full of air drying dishes. I gained a good sized countertop, and a fair amount of peace as the previously cluttered counter is now available and clean looking. Yes, many times it takes me longer to wash, dry and put away all the dishes after supper, than it used to when I left the dishes out, but it is like I have decluttered a bit of my brain, as I see my cleared away kitchen space.

  18. Elizabeth A. says

    Okay here is a question that everyone may have a different opinion… When putting the newly rinsed silverware in the strainer, do you put the handles up or down, and why for the reasoning, please? I was always taught that you put the handles down so that the silverware drains down and the part you put in your mouth stays up in the air so that the “dirties:” run down the handle and the sharp knives are the only exception so that you do not accidentally stab yourself. Also you should NEVER put sharp knives in a sink of anything else… Thank you all! And still so happy to have found “Living On A Dime”!!!

    • says

      Elizabeth I do it exactly word for word the same way you do it. To me that makes the most logical sense. I turn everything up but the sharp knives and when I hand wash the dishes I don’t put the sharp knives in the sink with the other things either. The main debate that I have heard people holler over is just whether or not to separate the silver when you put it in the dishwasher like spoons together, forks together etc. or if you should separate as you are putting them in the drawer. They argue it saves time if you separate as you are putting in the dishwasher which makes no sense to me at all because it is the exact same about of time. Plus I don’t like to separate as I am putting them in the dishwasher because I would rather handle clean silverware more then the sticky dirty stuff I am putting in the dishwasher. The last thing too is if all the spoons are together they tend to nest together and don’t get as clean.


  1. […] How to Hand Wash Dishes – Save Money And Get Out Of Debt … – How to Hand Wash Dishes. … Less dishes less water used and perfectly healthy when hot water is used to rinse them out. Reply. Fay says. March 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm. Thanks for this article and reminder for taking care when washing dishes. I was taught to wash dishes just you you described. […]

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