11 Efficient Dishwashing Tactics to Try (from People Who Hate to Do Them)

published Sep 4, 2018
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(Image credit: Cynthia Brown)

For many of us, doing the dishes is one of the worst chores there is. But it’s often those people who can’t stand doing the dishes who are the best at avoiding them for a while and then getting them done efficiently, which is exactly why I reached out for advice to people who don’t have a dishwasher and just absolutely hate doing the dishes.

Full disclosure: I am definitely a part of the “hate to do the dishes” club (case in point: when I posed this question to my friends and followers on social media, my roommate responded, “Is this post just you trying to save our apartment from itself?”). To be honest, once I get started I find it sort of relaxing, but it’s the getting there — the “not letting them pile up” part — especially living with multiple people, that tends to be a bit challenging.

Aside from using paper plates (or wrapping dishes in foil or plastic wrap, which a few people said they did!) and ordering takeout all the time to avoid dishes altogether (which is effective in reducing dishes but not so much in helping the environment or your bank account), here are some tips you can employ.

1. Wash as you go.

“Wash dishes while you cook, or immediately afterwards. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can clean dishes if it prevents you from eating a hot meal.”

“I wash as much as I can while I cook, in the stray minutes that I’m waiting for an oven to heat up or water to boil or whatever. That way, at the end of the meal, most of my prep dishes are already done and I just have to wash the things I used to eat and the last pan or two. Only having a couple things to wash at any given moment makes the task seem much less arduous.”

“As much as I f*ckin’ hate it, while food is cooking and hands-on prep is done, I do a quick wash up.”

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

2. Cut back on how many dishes you have.

“I have open shelving now and only keep out four plates and bowls at a time and store the others — forces me to do dishes and limit the amount of things I use.”

“I donated a ton of my dishes and silverware, so that I now only have four bowls, forks, spoons, etc. This prevents buildup in the sink (which is inevitable because I know myself and know I won’t clean them after every meal) so that when I do get around to it, it’s not that bad.”

“I only own four plates, bowls, forks, and spoons on purpose so they can’t really pile up.”

3. Have a buddy system.

“I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment (unless by dishwasher, you mean my boyfriend, Steve, haha). But really, it sucks but while I’m cooking I pause between different steps to clean what I’ve used that I know I’m finished with and put it on the drying rack. That way, when I’m done Steve just has to wash the main pots, pans, eating plates and silverware, and I dry. It helps to have a buddy system, but I would do it this way and clean in stages even if I lived alone. I’m one of those obsessive Virgos that can’t have one spoon left in the sink overnight.”

4. Find a way to entertain yourself.

“I usually prop up my laptop and watch Netflix with subtitles on while I wash! Makes the time go by faster and keeps my mind off the gross crust that has accumulated on my dishes.”

“Listen to a podcast, wear an apron to avoid splashing onto clothes… I do so many dishes!”

5. Compete with yourself.

“I’m using an app called Streaks to see how many days I can go to bed with a clean sink.”

(Image credit: Diana Liang)

6. Stick to one-pot recipes.

“I also use my rice cooker to cook a variety of things at once since most have strainers. Then I only have two things to wash that are easy versus 4 or 5. Or I cook something first and reuse the pan or wok to cook something else I need at that moment. I find it’s also quicker to cook this way.”

“I also try to find recipes where I can make a whole meal in one pan, so that helps.”

“I try to combine the use of as many dishes and utensils as I can while preparing and then try and clean them all while it’s cooking/baking etc.”

“Oh, and lots of one-sheet-pan meals covered in foil so I don’t even have to wash it!”

7. Let everything soak in soapy water.

“Rinse everything immediately and put it all in the sink in a large pot or bowl filled with hot water and soap to soak. Cuts wash time significantly, eliminates most scrubbing, and no gross soggy food bits or old ketchup to deal with.”

8. Don’t leave the sink full overnight.

“Ditto on washing while I cook. I also try not to leave anything for longer than 24 hours because then it just becomes more difficult mentally.”

9. Remind yourself of the consequences.

“Ugh, I just force myself to do them. Because [I get] bugs if I don’t—the consequences of my inaction force me to act.”

“I used to have this problem, and [reminding myself about potential pests] is also how I would deal with it.”

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

10. Pull on some rubber gloves and get some nice soap.

“I also invest in a decent pair of rubber gloves — a few bucks makes it a much less depressing experience.”

“I also buy a dish soap that I love the smell of (Mrs. Meyers Lavender Dish Soap), so it’s more enjoyable to do dishes.”

“I too use a great smelling dish soap so it’s a little more enjoyable.”

11. Put it off until you have no choice.

“Oh god, uh … just wait until it piles up and I can’t handle it anymore.”

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 10 Efficient Dish-Washing Tactics to Try (from People Who Hate to Do Them)

Your turn! Are you a card-carrying member of the “hates doing dishes” club? How do you stay on top of your washing?