Kitchen Confidence

The Only Way You Should Wash Your Dishes

By • July 17, 2012 • 67 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today: the definitive way to wash dishes.

Dirty Dishes

Dishwashing is an art form in my family -- the standards and stakes are high. Put a dish away with a drop of grease or a sticky bit and you'll hear about it, sometimes for years. I will confess that despite the following detailed guide, I'm considered the worst dishwasher in my family. 

Step 1: You want clean dishes? You need three simple things: heat, elbow grease, and organization. First, rinse off all dishes, pots, silverware with extremely hot water. The heat helps melt off any cooking fats, sweeping them down the drain. Set them to the side of the sink. If anything needs to soak, fill it with water and save it for last. 

Step 2. Sprinkle a little dish soap (I like Palmolive, which cuts grease better than any other commercial brand I've found) in the sink and using hot water and a dish cloth, wipe out and rinse the sink. You won't get clean dishes if your sink is oily. 

Soapy Sink

Step 3. Fill the sink with hot -- hot! -- soapy water. Scrub the dishes on all sides -- lots of people only scrub the tops, forgetting that the plate/dish/pot was set on top of another dirty plate/dish/pot. Use that elbow grease! Rinse with very hot water and set in a dish drainer in a position that will allow the water to stream off of it. If the water gets at all cloudy, empty the sink and start over. Dirty dishes will not get clean in dirty water.

Washing dishes

Step 4. Dry the dishes with a thin cotton dish towel. Clean your dish drainer and dry it so it doesn't get funky (some dish drainers are worse than the dishes). 

Step 5. Clean around the sink, wiping the faucet and back splash, then wash out the sink; rinse and firmly wring out the dish cloth and hang it in on a rod so it will dry. Never leave sponges or dishcloths in the sink. Who wants to have wring out a cold, wet dishcloth before using it -- gross!

Appendix: Sponges are generally a no-no; think of all the vile stuff that gets caught inside of them. Dishcloths can be washed (daily, if you live with my mom). Hand towels and dish towels should live separately. Never use gloves -- if you do, you can't feel the dishes and sense residual grease; also get in there, and embrace your work! If you want to scrub a pot, one of those scrub brushes is not going to cut it; Chore Boys are your friend.

Editors' Note: This was reprinted, verbatim, from a staff email on 6/18/2012.

Tags: kitchen confidence, dishwashing, washing dishes, cleaning, how-to & diy

Comments (67)

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about 2 hours ago carole

A few years ago I retired and moved from a large, well applianced kitchen to an apartment with a small kitchen with no dishwasher. My co-ops dishwashing, green dishwashing soap is even better when I add a tablespoon of Borax. It softens the water and helps get everything sparkling clean. My glasses, put bottom down to air dry are spotless in short order! The first time I used Borax, I couldn't believe my eyes. During the past month I have been eliminating cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals and making my own solutions based on a wealth of recipes on Pinterest.com. Vinegar, baking soda, dish soap and lemon juice are mixed in various ways to clean. Essential oils like lemon or lavender added to most solutions give me a boost as I clean ..... Lovely, really. My sponge goes into the microwave every day. Once a week I clean the microwave with lemon juice/water in a bowl for 10 minutes on high followed by a wipe down. Life is good!

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5 months ago Wilda Harrison

When I have a lot of dirty greasy dishes I add a little javel to my hot water and let my dishes soak for a few minutes before I wash and rinse them very well.

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5 months ago Heather

My roomamte never fills the sink when washing dishes but instead uses one of those sponge soap dispensers. It appears that the bottoms of plates and bowls are not washed and after being risnsed never put upside down to drain. Food is also not scraped off the dishes or cookware before washing so that the food collects in the partially covered drain.
I on the other hand put my dishes in the sink in hotter than I can usually stand for more than a second. I soak everything for a couple of minutes and wash the cutlery first rinsing as the sink fills more for the other dishes. Rinsing with very hot water also ensures the water evaprates quickly so that drying is quick and doesn't require using a dish towel.
My roommate believes her method is just fine and any suggestions otherwise have been dismissed, yet I frequently have to rewash something that I pull from the drawer or cupboard before using it.

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about 1 hour ago Heather

Oh dear. Apparently I did not proofread before posting that, as I see letters reversed, letters missing and just generally a poorly composed note. I wil blame lack of sleep. :o/

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7 months ago merilerole

Most dishwashers use water that's hotter than your bare hand could ever stand. And dries with a high heat. Less bacteria will survive that process than your fingers. Go for the high end appilances like Bosch. Your mother would be pleased.

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7 months ago sabu

You don't "ring" a dishrag or a sponge. You wring it.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

7 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Simple typos -- all fixed now.

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over 1 year ago Monika H

I like to use some sort of barrier in the SS sink to protect against glasses or dishes slipping and breaking whille washing. But using a plastic or rubber sink mat ends up attracting black mold and cleaning them is harder and more labor intensive than doing an entire load of dishes. Any other ideas?

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over 1 year ago Monika H

I like to use some sort of barrier in the SS sink to protect against glasses or dishes slipping and breaking whille washing. But using a plastic or rubber sink mat ends up attracting black mold and cleaning them is harder and more labor intensive than doing an entire load of dishes. Any other ideas?

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over 1 year ago Monika H

I like to use some sort of barrier in the SS sink to protect against glasses or dishes slipping and breaking whille washing. But using a plastic or rubber sink mat ends up attracting black mold and cleaning them is harder and more labor intensive than doing an entire load of dishes. Any other ideas?

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over 1 year ago phyllis

So, my dishwasher has been out of commission for a week while we wait for a part to arrive. Ron and I have been washing the dishes by hand. No thought involved, but we follow the same plan as Amanda, except we use a sponge, and I put it into the microwave everyday. I feel cleaner and less prone to lingering bacteria using my dishwasher, but the dishes, etc., are very clean and non-greasy. I'm happy we are only two at the moment.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Glad this method is working for you -- but, yes, hope the dishwasher is back in service asap!

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over 1 year ago romanticf16

For the reader having trouble finding Chore Boy products- I find them and Fels Naptha Soap Bars at my local hardware store- not at the bog box chain stores but the local one like ACE.

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you for this suggestion.

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over 1 year ago romanticf16

For the reader having trouble finding Chore Boy products- I find them and Fels Naptha Soap Bars at my local hardware store- not at the bog box chain stores but the local one like ACE.

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over 1 year ago marynn

Wow! I am/was? a Dawn junkie. Palmolive. Who knew?

Confidential to Amanda--that beautiful wedding ring (I think I have seen pearls) and your admirable dish-assembale may not be great long term...

Is there a ring stash attachment on your IKEA above board sink?

Tad_and_amanda_in_the_kitchen

over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Wow, good eye. Yes there's a pearl in there and you're totally right -- I bewildered Merrill's friend, who's a jeweler, when I showed him how the pearl had shrunk in size and was rattling around in the setting. He'd never seen a pearl that had lost layers -- clearly a result of all the dish-washing I do. I decided that rather than risk forgetting the ring somewhere, I'd just wear it all the time and replace the pearl every few years. Gave me an excuse to get a grey pearl!

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over 1 year ago jenniebgood

I'm gonna debate! I think gloves are a must as well - as I've gotten older my skin has gotten much drier, and in the winter time especially, my hands are chapped and bleeding if I don't use gloves on a regular basis.

My cure for this (I'm not sure if this tip has been mentioned): before I put on the gloves, I slather on lotion (really heavy duty stuff - like Eucerine) - the hot water melts the lotion right into my hands and when I take them off after a good washing session, My hands feel like as though they've been treated to a spa session.

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1 day ago davidwh

Great suggestion! I, too, must wear gloves to use the hottest water possible. I am thorough and have never had to rewash anything with this method. Elbow grease!

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over 1 year ago Chef CrystalLife

Amanda knows what's up!!! Old School style wins again. Elbow grease, soap and hot H20! Amanda, I am sure that you great grandmother, grandmother and mother, are very proud!

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over 1 year ago ELCookie

So glad you mentioned Chore Boys. They are the best. That is what we use in my family but they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. When I do find them I try to stock up.

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over 1 year ago saltandserenity

I am laughing about the fact that washing dishes has spurred 44 passionate comments! Of course I must get my two cents in here as well. I love to snap on my rubber gloves. It makes me feel like the surgeon my mother wanted me to be. I am a diehard Dawn (original flavour onyl please!!!) fan. I find it gets rid of the smell in plastic containers that you use for leftovers. I also have a Simple Human dish drainer and love it. The knife slots in the cutlery basket are genius.

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over 1 year ago Chantal12

I ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when hand washing! It's the only way to use the hottest water which sterilizes even better than soap. Bare hands can't take that much heat I love sponges which go in the dishwasher with every load. If not urunning the DW then I toss sponges and handiwipes in the microwave for 1 minute to sterilize them.

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over 1 year ago kimiamaz

LOVE my dishwasher and put whatever I can in it. It is a Bosch and was worth every penny. The new model has no heating element and so you put anything anywhere and no melting/catching on fire etc. It is so quiet I have to get right up to it to see if it is running!. Before that I owned an ASKO and it survived 15 years with heavy use. OK I leave out the silver, crystal and very fine porcelain. Which i tend not to use as it cannot go int he dishwasher.... Now I only buy what I think can go through the dishwasher. My AllClad is fine and if I am very ambitious will polish it once in a while with BKF. The Le Creuset has also survived, I figure stainless and enameled iron will out survive me so might as well use the dishwasher and spend more time cooking! After a dinner party for 14 I can usually get all dishes and cooking vessels done in 3 loads. First load goes in after dinner, the second before bed and the last one, usually the bar ware and not so dirty stuff, first thing in the am. I do wash the kitchen knives by hand and put them away as soon as I am done using them.

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over 1 year ago phyllis

Exactly how my grandmother taught me to wash dishes. However, I have had a dishwasher for decades. Pots and pans are done by hand and are mostly spotless and always grease-free.

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over 1 year ago roxlet

I have two sponges in use at all times. One goes into the dishwasher while the other is being used. Every time the dishwasher is run, I swap them. This keeps them clean and prevents mildew. My mother in law gave me a really good tip about rubber gloves. She said to buy ones that are bigger than you need so that your hands slip in and out of them easily. No tugging off or on, and with gloves, which encourages you to use them. With gloves, you can use really, really hot water. I have also found that there can be a residual greasy feeling when washing teflon. The only way I've been able to get them truly clean is the following: put some dishwashing liquid (and no water) in the pan and use a brush to scrub all around. When you rinse the pan, there will be no trace of grease.