12 Ways to Make Washing Dishes Better, Faster, and More Fun

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Erin Wengrovius)

I’ve never met anyone who likes doing dishes. People who like doing laundry? Yes (my weirdo husband). Dishes? No, never. There’s just something about it: the back-breaking act of standing at the sink for a million minutes, the pruning of the fingertips, the boredom, the somehow not-so-soothing sound of running water. It’s just not fun.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make it all a little less terrible. Try these tips and you might actually kinda half-like dish duty.

1. Try the “one soapy sponge” trick.

Got a pile of dishes that you just can’t seem to bring yourself to tackle? Don’t think of it all as one job. Instead, try the “one soapy sponge” policy and just wash all the dishes you can get through without reloading your sponge. When you think it’s time for another squirt, it’s time for you to do something else.

2. Stock up on some fun supplies.

Not all dish soaps are created equal. (The same goes for sponges.) Arm yourself with the best tools for the job. Make sure these tools have something you like about them. You know, that way you might get excited to use them. Maybe the soap smells like your favorite holiday? Or your soap dispenser is the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen? Here’s some help finding items a little above ho-hum.

Fun Dishwashing Supplies

3. Use less soap.

Now that you have nicer soap, you don’t want to plow through it all in a few weeks. Instead of squirting it directly onto your sponge, make a bath of soapy liquid.

Start with a small bowl filled with about one cup of water. Add one tablespoon of soap and swirl it around. As you wash dishes, just dip your dish rag or sponge into the bowl. This one small amount of soap will wash one, if not two, sink’s worth of dishes (if you don’t opt for the first tip on this list, that is).

4. Have a system for the just-washed dishes.

In a perfect world, you’d have someone standing next to you to entertain you and to dry and put away dishes as you finish them. (Or maybe you’d just have a magical dishwasher that could tackle anything you put in it, including wooden spoons and knives?)

That’s not always the case, so you’ll need a decent system for dealing with your just-washed dishes. Stacking them all precariously on a dish towel next to the sink is a good way to cause an avalanche of bowls and cutting boards. Instead, get yourself a dish rack that’s functional, but not a total eyesore.

5. Know what you can and can’t put in the dishwasher.

Speaking of magical dishwashers … they don’t actually have superpowers and there are certain things that can’t go inside them. If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, you should know what needs to be washed by hand. Sure, that means more work for you at that moment in time, but you’ll enjoy not having to replace a bunch of ruined stuff.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

6. Fight the tough stuff smarter.

Ugh, that pot with the burnt-on rice? No one wants to deal with that! You could let it soak for days and tell yourself you’ll get to it eventually, or you can try one of these smart tips.

Burnt-on Food, Begone

7. Don’t feel like you have to wash everything.

Just because you used something, doesn’t mean it needs to be scrubbed with soap and water. This goes for measuring cups used to measure out, say, granola. Or a bowl used to hold some bread. Unless it touches raw meat, eggs, or oil, the item doesn’t always have to be washed with soap and water. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pass to rinse it and throw it in the dish rack.

Learn more: Hand-Washing Dishes: Is It Always Necessary to Use Soap?

8. Pull on a pair of dishwashing gloves.

We can’t say enough about the merits of dishwashing gloves. If you think they’re an unnecessary luxury, just read this case (loaded with three good reasons) about why they are a must-have in the kitchen.

9. Keep a bowl of soapy water by the sink.

“Clean as you go.” You’ve heard it a million times. It sounds great in theory, but you can’t always wash a single pot right after you’ve gotten it dirty. Instead, consider this hack and keep a bowl of soapy water by the sink.

Just grab any large container that’s already dirty, squirt in some dish soap, and run some hot water into it. Put it next to the sink (not into) and, as you work, drop dirty utensils and flatware into the bowl as you’re done with them. This keeps dirty flatware from cluttering up the bottom of the sink, and it rinses them to make the actual cleanup easier and faster.

10. Start with an empty dish rack or dishwasher.

The chore of washing dishes is certainly not going to be fun if you have to do another chore just to get started. Before you even begin cooking for the night, make sure the clean dishes have been put away so that you have plenty of space to put the new batch.

Learn more: 6 Smart Tips to Make Dishwashing Easier

11. Listen to something fun.

Don’t just stand there thinking about your insane to-do list for the week. That’s stressful! Instead, put on some music or your favorite podcast — anything to help pass the time. We even have some suggestions.

Music and Podcasts to Pass the Time

12. Or use the time the zen out.

Sometimes, the last thing we need after a busy day is more stuff. No more noise, no more thinking. Some of our readers have said they use dishwashing time to meditate and practice gratitude. Not that you need to be thankful for chores, but it’s worth noting that you had food for your family and dishes to use in the first place.