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If you’ve never spent a large chunk of your life washing dishes by hand, it’s hard to understand just how mind-numbingly boring (and frustrating) it can be. You’ve spent all day working, have just finished standing over a hot stove to cook dinner, and you finally get a chance to relax at the end of the day. And then, you remember the dishes. Leaving them in the sink overnight isn’t appealing (no one likes waking up to dirty dishes), but sitting on the couch does sound a whole lot better than scraping wet food off of pots and pans.
But what if doing the dishes by hand didn’t have to be just so miserable? I posed this exact question on social media, hoping to discover some tips and tricks that could make dishwashing less of a frustration. Still, I expected the question to be laughed at: Hand-washing dishes is just a not-so-fun yet necessary part of life, like paying taxes. Not much will make it feel better other than just getting it done, right?
To my surprise, I received more than 100 responses. There was a lot of overlap; everyone seems to agree that wearing gloves is key and listening to podcasts helps (oh, and people love this Dawn Powerwash Dish Spray). But there were a few hacks that made me think, “Huh, that would help.” Curious about their responses? Here are 10 of the best tips.
1. Create “Hybrid Spaces”
Taryn Williford is the Lifestyle Director at Apartment Therapy, so she knows a thing or two about home and cleaning tricks. Her tip? Creating “hybrid spaces” in her kitchen for the things she washes every day; places where dishes can air-dry, but also belong in the first place.
“For example, I bought a countertop rack that rests on my kitchen counter and added some thin silicone drying mats on top,” Williford explains. “Now that’s my ‘coffee station’ where I can store AND dry the coffee cup and my pour-over coffee dripper. The still-drying dishes aren’t countertop clutter if they’re already ‘put away.’”
2. Make It A Bonding Activity
If you live with a partner or roommate, Chelsea Flynn suggests tackling the experience together.
“If you live with someone, having them dry while you wash makes for fun chats and a tidier kitchen. Always nice to have clean counters without the full drying rack,” Flynn says, noting that sturdy gloves are also key for her when washing dishes. “I personally love this for the grip on dishes. I used to just use my bare hands and I’ve had a few dishes and glasses slip from my hands because of the soap and ended up with a sink full of glass. They’re great for grip and dealing with hot water.”
3. Separate Everything Into Categories
Separating dirty dishes into different categories before cleaning them might seem like an unnecessary, timely step, but it’ll save you time in the long run, says Rosely Perez.
“Before starting I sort everything into the following categories: utensils, drinkware, plates and bowls, Tupperware/ storage containers, and big pots and pans,” Perez says. “I then make a soap and a splash of bleach dipping mixture which I will use for this wash session only. I proceed to put on gloves (never skip wearing gloves) Finally I start washing in the order I sorted. I rinse quickly & keep the water off until the entire category of dish is soapy. I rinse the entire category before moving on to the next. A bumpin’ playlist also helps.”
4. Make A Bin With Soap/Water
Similar to Perez’s tip, another hand dishwasher named Kate shared with me that filling a bowl or wash bin with a little water and soap helps the process go more quickly.
“Allow everything to sit [in the soapy water] throughout the day and wash all at once. For added streamlining, put all silverware in a cup or mason jar (also filled with water/soap) in the bin, so that they have time to soak but are easy to grab and wash,” Kate says, noting that this allows you to access the sink throughout the day.
5. Save Dish Washing Time For Your Favorite Podcasts
Many people suggested listening to a good podcast while doing dishes, but Katie Derstine shared that her tip is making sure that this is the only time of day she can listen to them. This way you always have something to look forward to during the daily habit.
“It totally motivates me to do the dishes every night,” says Derstine.
6. Deglaze Pots and Pans
“Take all your food out when you’re ready to serve, then add a cup of water to simmer and easily scrape up the bits. Just like deglazing to make a pan sauce,” Emily shares. “Saves SO much time not having to scrub if you leave it to cool and harden.”
7. Wear Gloves and Use Extra Hot Water
If you’ve been avoiding using extra hot water to save your hands the damage, it’s time to make your life easier and get a pair of gloves — even if it seems a little old fashioned.
“Wearing gloves changed everything,” Morgan from San Diego shared. “Seriously. It feels silly to even mention this but wearing rubber gloves has kept my hands so much softer without constantly exposing them to harsh dish soap (a much needed respite after this past year). I can now withstand way hotter water temperatures to really feel like my dishes are clean. Plus it’s a great feeling to peel those suckers off and know I’m done with that chore. Mom had the right idea all along. Oh, and a really good scrubber! Scrub Daddy — heinous name, best dish scrubber.”
Another dish-washing hack that probably doesn’t seem as helpful as it is in reality is to clean as you go. Monica Saba shared that there’s no other option for easy clean-up.
“As a self-taught home chef with many chef friends and having worked in the cooking school industry, you have to clean as you go (whether it’s cleaning your prep area or multi-tasking by washing dishes while those onions are sautéing),” Saba shared. “If you have the luxury of a double sink, even better — fill with hot, soapy water and soak dishes as they are used so that it’s easier to scrub and rinse as a final step.”
9. Consider Reusing Not-So-Dirty Dishes
Who among us hasn’t used a plate, gotten a crumb or two on it, and then thrown it in the sink? Considering which plates are really dirty and which can be reused is a great way to create less dishes (and use less water) throughout the day and week.
“This sounds dumb, but our dishwasher was out of commission for like 10 days, so we tried to use the same plate as many times as possible before needing to wash it. Not when it was super messy of course, but if my partner made a sandwich and just left crumbs on the plate, I’d snag it to eat a slice of pizza off,” Kathryn Saulinas shares.
This trick gave me a good chuckle, because I knew for a fact it would work on me. If you find yourself lamenting on just how much time dirty dishes will take to clean, this tip from Crystal Grover might work for you, too.
“I always assume it’s going to take forever. To trick myself, I give myself a time limit, tell Google to set an alarm and then blast music while I’m washing the dishes. It (almost) never takes as long as the timer, but this continues to trick my mind every time,” Grover says.
Genius, right? Save yourself a favorite podcast, set a timer, grab some gloves, get yourself a bin of soapy water, and throw few other tricks into the mix and odds are doing the dishes will feel better than it has in years.