This 3-Part Trick Has Made Washing Dishes Feel More Like a Spa Treatment

updated Jan 10, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I’m always looking for ways to make drudgery feel decadent, and when it comes to washing dishes, all I had to do was think back to when the cows came home. My great-grandma Cookie was a dairy farmer’s wife known for her soft hands, despite how many dishes she washed keeping up with four kids and an open kitchen policy to feed farmhands. My mom said Cookie’s secret was scrubbing with sugar and butter, which she must’ve been swimming in. 

My urban hands have a fraction of the labor, but are prone to getting chapped from icy bike rides and showering with scalding-hot water. Add frequent hand-washing and harsh sanitizers, and my paws require even more coddling this season. Happily, I’ve figured out a three-part process that makes dish duty feel more like an afternoon at the spa. Here’s what I do.

1. Make a DIY hand scrub.

I copy Grandma Cookie and concoct a hand scrub using whatever is around: last pats of butter, coconut oil, or a drizzle of olive oil as a moisturizer; then, a heavy pinch of salt, sugar, cornmeal, or even breadcrumbs as an exfoliant. I rinse, then apply more moisturizer before putting on gloves to tackle a pile of dishes. The heat of the water and my hands helps my skin soak up more moisture as I clean.

2. Dip hands in a paraffin bath.

If I’ve got a lot of work ahead, I’ll remember to plug in the paraffin wax bath. This was an impulse-buy years ago, but I still use it. Dipping my hands in warm melted wax before tucking into gloves feels closer to pampering than prepping for chores.

3. Add some essential oils.

I’ve even started taking things one step further: A couple drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil in hot dishwater vaporizes those sinus-clearing scents to indulge my inner spa sensualist. Cue the music, and don’t bother me until every dish is meditatively cleaned, dried, and stored. 

I used to hate wearing dish gloves until I discovered the magic reveal of softened cuticles, supple skin, and that cool touch of air after my hands have been steaming. The gloves inevitably get a little sticky inside from the wax or moisturizer (fat), but when turned inside-out, rinsed, and left to dry, they’re as good as new by the time I have to roll up my sleeves again. Chores repeat, but now I’ll enjoy having hands, smooth like Cookie’s, well into winter.