I Have a Dishwasher, but I Still Prefer Washing My Dishes by Hand

published Apr 17, 2018
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

For more than five years I lived in a tiny studio apartment without a dishwasher. Every evening I’d wash the day’s dirty dishes by hand and then cram them into an overcrowded drying rack, occasionally breaking a wine glass in the process. As the skin on my hands gradually wrinkled from the water, I’d stare at the seemingly never-ending mound of dishes in my sink and dream of the day I would never have to hand-wash them again. I wanted nothing more than a dishwasher.

That day finally came when I rented another apartment. It came with a handful of features new to me — a community pool, hardwood floors — although it was the much-longed-for dishwasher that I was most thrilled about. But things didn’t go quite as planned.

When It Comes to Washing Dishes, I’m Just Better

The honeymoon phase with my dishwasher was short-lived. Not long after I moved in I started to despise the machine — more than I hated my new noisy neighbors.

The truth is that the dishwasher just never cleaned my dishes as well as I had done so by hand for all of those years. It didn’t seem to matter which detergent I used (and I tried all brands of all kinds — powder, gel, pacs, rinse aid, you name it), or how much I rinsed my plates and silverware before loading the dishwasher up, or the manner in which I arranged them in the racks. After every single wash, the dishes came out coated in spots and white residue, looking and feeling dirtier than when I had first put them in.

The dirtier-than-dirty dishes quickly became one of my biggest frustrations. I called the building’s maintenance man, who told me nothing was wrong with the dishwasher, which only made me feel more frustrated. Did I have too high of expectations? Was I just supposed to get used to drinking from glasses coated with residue? Should I continue throwing away money and keep testing different detergents until one miraculously worked?

One day, as I re-washed the “clean” contents of my just-run dishwasher, scrubbing away the chalky white residue they had accumulated, I hit my breaking point. I decided to go back to washing everything by hand again, and I never looked back.

My Love for Washing Dishes My Hand, Renewed

It’s been months since I last opened my dishwasher, and I don’t miss it one bit. For some, doing the dishes is a dreaded chore. But I’ve learned that I actually love to wash my dishes by hand. Like the routine of preparing and cooking a meal, I take pride in the results. Even after an epically horrible day riddled with failures, I can still find a bit of joy in the mundane task of washing dirty dishes.

In an unexpected way, I’ve found pleasure in hand-washing dishes. Dare I say it’s even … relaxing? There are so many distractions we encounter during the day, and hand-washing dishes forces me to step away from all of them. It’s not a task that lends itself well to multi-tasking; I can’t check my Twitter or Facebook newsfeeds, and I’m certainly not going to be typing anything on my phone while my hands are under the water.

There are so many distractions we encounter during the day, and hand-washing dishes forces me to step away from all of them.

I’ve actually found that doing the dishes by hand each night helps me be a little bit more mindful on a daily basis. I don’t listen to any music or podcasts, and make sure the TV is turned off in the other room so it’s mostly silent. I listen to the sound of the running water. I smell the citrus hints in the soap. I feel the weight of each glass, dish, and piece of silverware in my hands. I notice the warmth of the water, and try to bring my attention back to that when it wanders.

Yes, I know this sounds a little absurd, but washing my dishes by hand and then carefully arranging them to dry always helps me feel more grounded at the end of the day. Now, instead of annoying me, hand-washing my dishes brings me an odd amount of joy and satisfaction. It’s a chore I do willingly — and happily.