My Mom’s 40-Year-Old Trick for Washing Dishes That I Do Every Day (It’s So Efficient!)

published Jul 1, 2024
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Bottles of hand and dish soap on the side of a kitchen sink, sitting on a ceramic holder
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

I have vivid memories of sitting on the floor of my childhood home watching my mom wash dishes by hand. (To this day, my parents still don’t own a dishwasher.) I never knew how she did it; my mom juggled two rowdy kids and a full-time job as an overnight nurse. How did she have the energy to not just cook dinner, but also clean a mountain of dishes every single night? That was until recently, when it finally clicked. 

As I was washing some dishes by hand after dinner one night, I looked down into my sink. In it, just like my mom’s sink, was a bowl of ready-to-go, warm soapy water, complete with a sponge. Because it’s already sudsy, all you need to do is scrub your dish, then dip the sponge back in the bowl before washing your next item (you can either keep the water running or turn it on only when it’s time to rinse). My mom’s clever trick — which she’s been doing for over 40 years! — makes washing dishes so much faster and easier. You don’t need to constantly keep putting soap on a sponge or to fill up an entire sink with soapy water. 

Nowadays I have a dishwasher, yet I still do the same because, between the two kids, two cats, and a full-time job, the dishwasher is often overloaded — and every little bit helps when you’re just trying to get through the day. 

How It Works

  1. Pick your soapy water bowl. I keep a dedicated small bowl in my sink just for this. While mine is a white ceramic cereal bowl, you could use any bowl as long as whatever vessel you use is not too large (it shouldn’t take up too much space; you could also keep it next to the sink) and is on the heavier side (so it won’t tip over in there). 
  2. Fill it with soap and water. Squirt some dish soap in there and fill it 3/4 full with warm water.
  3. Add a sponge. There are many options out there, but our all-time favorites are Scotch-Brite sponges
  4. Refresh often and as needed. Don’t be precious about only refilling the bowl only when it’s low. Washing dishes gets dirty! Refresh the water anytime it gets gross, and don’t hesitate to add more soap.