How to Hand Wash Dishes

Ever wonder how people without dishwashers do it? If you need to be a human dishwasher-by choice or by necessity-read on to learn how to hand wash dishes.
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Is it crazy to have a family of six and no dishwasher!? Well, my mom didn’t think so. She would say that she had four dishwashers (us four kids!) that didn’t break down so often. If your dishwasher has broken down and you need to employ a human dishwasher, read on to learn how to hand wash dishes.

As a young single, I thought I’d never have a dishwasher in my forever home. I grew up without one. Why would I want one later?

Boy, was I wrong. Sure, for the first few years of marriage I didn’t use the dishwasher in our rental except when we had company for a meal. So I still thought I’d not want one in the house we were building.

But it was a given when it came to designing our house. There was a good place for it in the kitchen. Plus, if we ever had to sell, it would make our home more marketable.

Read More: 13 Design Ideas for Your Kitchen

Ever wonder how people without dishwashers do it? If you need to be a human dishwasher-by choice or by necessity-read on to learn how to hand wash dishes.

After I had our child, I learned that I really enjoyed having a dishwasher! Washing dishes by hand is enjoyable to me, but snuggling a baby is even more so.

Even though I have a dishwasher now, I’m still grateful I know how to hand wash dishes.

I never realized this was a homemaking skill to be learned until I was babysitting one time in my early 20s. The dishwasher was broken so the kids thought they didn’t have to clean up supper dishes.

Were they in for an education that night! I probably made the top of their list for “Meanest Babysitter Ever.”

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General Tips on How to Hand Wash Dishes

Start with the hottest water you can stand.

Dishes wash easiest with fresh food before it dries on. Waiting a day or two will take longer to wash the dishes.

At the beginning, fill crusted or burnt items with water to get them soaking.

Have a metal scratchy for stainless steel and a plastic scratchy for coated pans.

Change your dish rag and tea towel every day or every other day.

How to Hand Wash Dishes

  1. Clean out the sinks.
    It’s important to begin with clean sinks. If you have a garbage disposal you can wash food particles down the drain, but if not, you’ll need to throw food particles in the trash.
  2. Plug the sinks.
    If you only have one sink basin like a farmhouse sink, you can still hand wash dishes. You’ll just have to do everything in one basin.
  3. Add dish soap and fill with water.
    Make sure to add enough dish soap to get your dishes clean. Water hardness/softness can make a difference in how much is needed. Don’t be shy with the soap! Fill with the hottest water you can stand.
  4. Fill your second sink with with hot water.
    The second sink is to rinse the soap off the dishes. Even though it doesn’t have soap in, the hotter the water the better.
  5. Dish rack or drying place.
    On the counter next to your rinsing sink, place your dish rack or towel for drying. Make sure you have a drain board or a towel under your dish rack to catch dripping water.
  6. Washing.
    Wash your dishes with a dish rag or sponge. Rinse them in your rinse water and set them to dry.
  7. Drying.
    If you want to dry and put away your dishes quickly, dry them with a tea towel. Get a clean towel for dishes. Don’t use one that has been used to dry hands or wipe counters.

The Order of How to Hand Wash Dishes

  1. Anything plastic.
    Plastic baggies you’re re-using. Plastic cups, silverware and plates. And rubber spatulas. The reason you should wash these items first is because they hold grease. It’s easiest to get all the grease off if these are the first items washed in your water.
  2. What touches the mouth.
    Next, place the silverware (No sharp knives, please!) in the bottom of the sink. While the silverware is soaking in the bottom of your sink, wash any remaining cups and coffee mugs. Then wash the silverware.
  3. Dinnerware.
    Plates and bowls are next.
  4. Dinner prep items.
    Wash up knives, cutting boards and mixing bowls next.
  5. Pots and pans.
    Because pots and pans are usually the dirtiest and greasiest, always wash them last. One of my tips from above is to fill the pots and pans right away with water so they have 20 or 30 minutes to soak while you wash the first dishes.

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How to Hand Wash Specific Dishes

Cups – Wipe your rag around the top of the mug where the mouth touches. This will remove any germs and lipstick or chapstick. Make sure to reach your hand to the inside bottom to get any dried milk or coffee.

Sippy Cups – For any children’s cups or straw cups or water bottles, make sure to use a pipe cleaner! You don’t want mold growing from left behind milk or juice.

Silverware – Let soak in the bottom of your sink and then wash each piece individually. Wiping each piece will make sure to get food, germs, lipstick and chapstick off.

Plates and Bowls – Don’t forget to wash the back sides of these dishes. They are often stacked and easily get food on their back sides.

Non-stick/coated Pots and Pans – Only use a plastic scrubber on these dishes so you don’t damage the coating. Careful to not scratch it with other metal utensils in your dish water.

Greasy Pans – To prevent clogging up your drain with grease, wipe out these pans with a paper towel before washing. NEVER pour grease or oil down your drains!

Cast Iron – Don’t wash with soap! Cast iron is porous and will absorb the taste of soap. Just use warm water and chainmail on your cast iron.


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Hand washing dishes is easier than you think! And it’s quite therapeutic. Use the time to listen to an audio book or podcast. Let your child pull up a chair next to you and rinse.

Now that you know how to hand wash dishes, a broken dishwasher won’t keep you from cooking and eating at home!

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