9 Tips to Make Washing Dishes Easier

Dirty dishes being washed by orange gloves in kitchen sink

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Even if you have a dishwasher or an affinity for paper plates, there will come a time when some types of glasses or dishes will need to be washed by hand while you stand at the sink. While it's not a job that most people enjoy, it is necessary and important to the health of your household to properly clean bacteria-laden surfaces.

So, to help you tackle the task and get it done faster with the least amount of effort, here are nine tips to get you out of the kitchen.

Buy Several Dishpans

A couple of inexpensive plastic dishpans will change the way you do dishes and save you lots of time. 

  • Use one dishpan as a spot to put dirty dishes as they accumulate. If you put them in the sink, you'll have to unload the sink first before you can start washing.
  • Using a dishpan saves water (and money) over using a big sink to wash just a few items.
  • If you don't have a double sink, a dishpan can be used for rinsing dishes, a quick disinfectant dip or soaking stuck-on food.
  • Even if you have a large or double sink, using dishpans will protect your dishes from chips that can come when they hit the harder surfaces of stainless steel, stone or porcelain.

Take Time to Scrape Off Food Residue

If you don't plan to wash the dishes right away after a meal or snack, take a second to scrape off any bits left on the plates, pots or pans putting the waste into the garbage can. Use a rubber spatula to prevent scratching, and don't leave the sink drain or garbage disposal clogged. Leaving grease in the disposal will clog the pipes when the grease gets cold and congeals.

Food scraped off plate in kitchen sink

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Get a Good Dishwashing Liquid and Use It the Right Way

Why work harder than you have to? Using the right dishwashing liquid can make cleaning dishes so much easier. Choose one with a high concentration of surfactants—alkyl ether sulfates—that lift food from the dish surfaces and suspend them in the dishwater, solvents like alcohols that break down grease, and anti-bacterial ingredients like lactic acids. These detergents usually have a higher purchase price, but most are also concentrated without as much water as bargain brands so you don't have to use as much to get through all your dishes.

A perfect example for using a good detergent the right way is Dawn Powerwash Spray that requires no water (except for rinsing) to clean dirty dishes. Always take a moment to read the label!

Use the Best Tools for the Job

Get a sponge that has some type of scrubbing surface like net or nylon bristles in addition to the softer side. You'll need it. And whatever brand you choose, clean it often with a disinfecting solution and replace it frequently. Sponges are bacteria breeding grounds.

Dishwashing gloves may look old school, but they will both help you keep a good grip on slippery dishes and protect your hands. You will be able to use hotter water if you're wearing gloves, which will help clean the dishes too. If the gloves smell a little funky inside, sprinkle in some baking soda between uses.

Learn to Relax and Soak

Letting dishes soak for days probably isn't the best look, but letting them soak for a few minutes in the dishwashing liquid and water solution is right on-trend. This gives the surfactants and solvents time to begin loosening the soil and makes your job easier.

Dishes soaked in kitchen sink with soapy water

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

The One Time You Don't Want Hot Water

Dishes should be washed and rinsed in the hottest water you can stand to use. The one exception is dishes that are coated in dairy products or starchy foods. For these, start with a cold water rinse to remove the food particles. The heat can make them even stickier.

Wash in the Right Order

Always start washing dishes with the least dirty and greasiest pieces first, usually glassware. Then do eating utensils, plates, and serving dishes, and save the pots and pans for last. You may need to add a bit more dishwashing liquid and hot water to complete the job.

So, You Burned the Sauce

It happens. Burned-on food or baked-on grease are the biggest problems at the dishwashing sink. If the food is really stuck, fill the dirty pot with hot water and powdered dishwasher detergent. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove the pot from the heating element and allow it to soak for at least one hour.

For a casserole dish with baked-on food, sprinkle the dry dishwashing powder into the dish. Add boiling water to the casserole dish and let it soak. After soaking, scrape the sides and bottom with a rubber spatula to remove loosened particles and then wash as usual.

If traces of burned marks remain on nonstick coatings like ceramic cookware, fill the pan with cold water and three tablespoons of salt. Let the pan soak overnight and then slowly bring the solution to a boil. Wash the pan as usual.

Perfect Your Clean Dishes Drying

Use a dish drainer to hold your clean, wet dishes in place. You can either let them air-dry or finish up by drying with a lint-free microfiber cloth. To keep your counters water-free, place the drainer on an absorbent towel, rubber mat or baking sheet with edges.


As an alternative to a dish drainer, use a wool dish drying mat like the one from Sonoma Wool Company. Wool mats absorb up to 30-percent of their own weight, are naturally resistant to mold and mildew, eco-friendly, and easy to store when not in use. Of course, the mat will need to be hung to air-dry thoroughly after each use.

Clean dishes stacked in drying rack

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Article Sources
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  1. The Surprising Structural Reason Your Kitchen Sponge is Disgusting. Duke University Pratt School of Engineering.