5 Conditions That Afflict the Reluctant Dishwasher

published May 22, 2015
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(Image credit: Lucy Hewett)

When it comes to doing the dishes, I will give my husband this: he’s better than he used to be. When we first met 15 years ago, he purposely wouldn’t wash the backs of plates, claiming “they don’t get dirty,” a lazy plea that was so easily disproven he couldn’t keep it up for long. So although he thankfully now washes the entire plate, it doesn’t mean the road to thoroughly washed dishware has been easy, or that he’s somehow become a person who doesn’t hate doing dishes.

No, he’s a reluctant dishwasher for life. Perhaps you, the enthusiastic cook, live with one too? Whether it’s a partner, a relative, or a roommate — or maybe it’s you! — these five conditions will be very familiar to you.

My husband, Rob, felt it was important to also give the reluctant dishwashers a voice in this argument, so I’ve included his response to each of these conditions below.

1. Wine Glass Blindness

This is a serious but nonspecific condition in which the dishwasher is unable to see certain dirty items which are annoying to clean and/or dry, such as wine glasses, water pitchers, and kitchen tools with multiple parts. Often these items are not used on a daily basis, so the dishwasher can ostensibly be excused for not noticing them, even though they are sitting right there with the other dirty dishes.

Recommended Treatment: Come into the kitchen midway through the dish-cleaning process and place the overlooked items in or next to the sink. Depending on your mood, you can do this with a smiling, “Don’t forget this — and thanks again for doing the dishes!” or with a cold, judgmental silence. If you’re really feeling mean, make the drop-off right after the last dish is washed and dried.

The Reluctant Dishwasher’s Take: Wine glasses are often made of clear glass, which renders them almost invisible at night. Barely perceptible, like the Predator.

(Image credit: Lauren Hufnagl)

2. Cast Iron Confusion

Dishwashers suffering from this condition take advantage of the reputation certain kitchen items have for being easily ruined by improper cleaning, such as a seasoned cast iron pan. The enthusiastic cook may inadvertently worsen this condition because he really doesn’t want his good pan to be ruined, so it’s okay, he’ll just clean it himself.

Recommended Treatment: During a leisurely weekend afternoon or some other low-stress moment, show the reluctant dishwasher how to clean a cast iron skillet. Yeah, cleaning it can take a little more time, but the more consistent the cleaning technique, the easier it will be to clean in the long run. Appeal to her laziness.

The Reluctant Dishwasher’s Take: This one is unfair, since I was often specifically told, “Don’t worry about the cast iron, I’ll do it.” This is a classic case of “He said, She said,” but where She is wrong and He is totally and completely right.

3. Dishwasher Dependence

While possession of a mechanical dishwasher does much to improve the overall disposition of a reluctant dishwasher, it can lead to this condition, characterized by the throwing of every single dish, utensil, tool and pan into the dishwasher and calling it a day. Wooden spoons, chef knives, delicate glass, and really crusty pots are, at best, not thoroughly cleaned, and at worst, completely ruined.

Recommended Treatment: Make a new rule: When in doubt, hand wash. You could also try publicly crying if your favorite wood bowl cracks in half; that might get the message across. If you’re still worried, make a habit of peeking into the dishwasher before it is started and pulling out anything that shouldn’t be there. Depending on tension levels in the kitchen, you may want to just wash it yourself.

The Reluctant Dishwasher’s Take: I mean, it’s called a dishwasher.

(Image credit: jmarkow/shutterstock )

4. Persistent Soaking Syndrome

Sometimes there are dishes that could use a good, long soak overnight — in the morning, they’ll be much easier to scrub out. But some reluctant dishwashers suffer from this syndrome, which causes them to leave the majority of the pots to soak, and/or to never get around to the actual scrubbing. The enthusiastic cook ends up scrubbing the soaked pan because she needs it, but after dinner it is left in the sink to soak once again, continuing a cycle that may never end.

Recommended Treatment: Commit the reluctant dishwasher to an actual time when he will scrub items that have soaked, ideally in the morning. If he gets salty about this, nicely remind him that you don’t stop cooking dinner when it is 80% done, so it isn’t fair that the kitchen isn’t getting fully cleaned after the meal. If he’s still stubborn, try leaving the crusty, soaking pots in his workspace, such as next to his computer or on his pillow.

The Reluctant Dishwasher’s Take: I strongly recommend against the passive-aggressive move of leaving the pot next to the computer. It’s a real mood-killer. Especially if earlier that day that same pot-leaver tossed her loved one’s cell phone onto the floor because she was losing a tickle fight.

5. Putting Clean Dishes Away Phobia

The majority of reluctant dishwashers are afflicted with this phobia, which leads them to avoid putting away the clean, dry dishes in the morning. It is most likely an off-shoot of their hatred for washing dishes and their desire to avoid dishes entirely. Symptoms include creating perilously high towers of drying dishes on the dish drainer, pulling clean dishes from the dishwasher instead of the cupboards in an attempt to passively empty it over several days, and calling the putting away of clean dishes “pointless because we are just going to dirty them again.”

Recommended Treatment: I don’t know, we’re still working through this one in my household. Any ideas?

The Reluctant Dishwasher’s Take: A bit of a misquote here. I never said it was “pointless because we are just going to dirty them again.” What I actually said was that it was “pointless to make the bed because we are just going to sleep in it again.” Feel free to use that for the “reluctant bed-maker” piece.

Do you share your kitchen with a reluctant dishwasher? Do any of these conditions sound familiar?