Wash Dishes by Hand




First, I'd like to thank my mom for teaching me to do this. I've met a few people who grew up with dish washers, and weren't really sure how to do this when they got their first cheap apartment without one. I thought I'd write this for other people in the same boat. If nothing else, it may save a few roommate relationships.

Now take a look at the picture. This is my setup. I have the drain rack on the counter, and keep the dirty dishes on one side of the divided sink. If you need to conserve water the drain rack should really be in the sink, to allow you to rise the whole rack of dishes at once. The drain rack I have doesn't fit in this sink, so I'm doing it this way.

1. Dish Soap - Just about any brand works. You'll need to use a little more of some of the cheaper ones.
2. Drain rack - You can buy these in big box stores and hardware stores
3. Plastic net puff scrubber - These work pretty well, and dry quickly, but gunk tends to get stuck in them, especially cooked egg.
4. Dish Brush - These are good for knocking the big chunks off. They are great for pre-washing for the dish washer, or knocking things into the garbage disposal, but they don't really get the crusty bits off very well. If you want one, look for one that has a straight edge you can use to scrape with.
5. Dish cloth - This is the traditional tool. They are good for wiping down counters, and you can use them to wash dishes. They have some limitations. Because they are absorbent, germs grow on them if you aren't careful. You need to wash them out with soap after each use, and boil them, or put them in the microwave soaking wet to kill germs. DON'T MICROWAVE A DRY DISH TOWEL or SPONGE. You will start a fire. You should also hang them to dry between uses.
6. Sponge - I don't have one at the moment. These are a lot like dish cloths in use and maintenance, but they don't dry as fast.
7. Green scrubber pad - These are my favorite for dish washing. They scrub well, dry quickly, and don't get too much food stuck in them.

Step 1: Fill the Dishpan/sink

In these instructions, I'm using a double sink. If you don't have a double sink, that's not a problem. Instead of filling one side of the sink, use a plastic dish pan. If you don't have a plastic dish pan, use the biggest widest pot or bowl you have.

1. Wipe out the sink and rinse
2. Plug the drain. If you don't have a plug, go to the hardware store. This one came with the apartment. If you're buying, I'd go for the cheap flat rubber one that fits all sized drains.
3. Add some dish soap right under where the water is going to hit. About two teaspoons works with this soap and this size sink. The amount needed varies with the brand and the dish pan size. You're aiming for just enough soap to cause suds to cover the top of the water.
4. Fill the sink about 1/3 with bath temperature water. You want hot water, because hot water cuts oils.

Step 2: Clean to Dirty

You're going to be using the same tub of soap water to scrub the whole sink of dishes, so it's important to clean the cleanest things first. Generally this means glasses, dishes, pots and pans. You need to use a little common sense here. Sometimes the order will vary depending on what's been cooked. Oily dishes use the most soap power and should go last.

Step 3: Soak - Scrub - Rinse - Drain

1. Soak - Put several items into the soapy water, starting with the cleanest. Putting items into the water before you scrub them lets them soak for a bit, and makes the scrubbing easier. Don't overload the sink. you still want room to work.

2. Scrub - Pick up one thing at a time and scrub it all over. You should use two hands for this. The picture only shows one because I needed one hand for the camera. Friction is your friend.

3. Rinse - Once scrubbed, put the dish under the faucet on the dirty side if it will fit and give it a quick rinse with warm water.

4. Drain - Place it in the drain rack.

Step 4: Silverware Speed Trick

1. Put a big pot or a bowl in the middle of the sink as a place holder.
2. Put all your dirty silverware above in the water above the pot with the handles facing away from your scrubbing hand.
3. Grab about 2-3 utensils at a time by the handles, scrub them off with your other hand
4. Once scrubbed drop them back in the water below the pot facing the same way.
5. Once they are all scrubbed, grab them all by the handle and rinse them all at once.

Step 5: Special Treatment Items

There are a few things that need some special treatment

1. Non-stick Teflon coated pans - When you buy scrubbing tools, be sure they say Teflon safe on the package. If you're not sure, use a sponge, or dish cloth to avoid scratching the Teflon off.

2. Anything with a metal cutting edge - Don't ever drop these things into the soapy water. You can dunk them, but don't let go. This is so they don't rust, but also, so they don't cut your hands up.

3. Wooden cutting boards - These are prone to warping when left wet, or even on a wet surface. When they warp, they crack, or the seams come unglued. Don't soak them in water. You can wipe them off with soapy water, and put them under running water, but it's a good idea to wet both sides at once.

4. Cast Iron skillets - If it's not yours, ask the owner. People have very particular, and sometimes peculiar ideas about how to clean these. This is all related to not wanting to wear off any of the burnt on seasoning, which works as a non-stick surface. To avoid controversy I'm just going to direct you to the company that made mine. Link to Lodge cleaning instructions

5. Nice china with metal edges - Some nicer dishes have rims, or other decorations that are metallic. Use a soft dish cloth, or sponge on these, to avoid scrubbing off the metal decoration.

6. Blenders - Screw off the bottom of the blender to wash. If you don't gunk collects in the joint.

Step 6: Clean Up

1. Pull the plug on the sink and give it a quick rinse.
2. Empty out the drain strainer.

Step 7: Dry the Dishes - and Put Away

I've stopped doing this step. I just do the dishes in 1 drain rack batches and let them air dry. If you have a large family, or throw big parties, you may need to dry them to make room. To do this, you'll need a large thin cotton dish towel. Just pick a dish, dry it off and put it away. Don't use the dish drying towel for anything else. You want to keep it clean.



    • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

      Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
    • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

      Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
    • Barbecue Challenge

      Barbecue Challenge

    23 Discussions


    1 year ago

    These are pretty good instructions for handwashing dishes. After reading these comments, I am amazed by how many people who don’t know how to hand wash dishes or do not have much experience doing so.
    I grew up in a home with no dishwasher and only had a dishwasher for some of my adult life.
    I do have one comment that might be beneficial to people who do not have double sinks. Some stores still sell plastic dish baskets (not sure what they are called anymore) that you can put in the sink to hold the dishes. So, unless you have some large items such as pots and pans, there is no need to plug the sink.


    1 year ago

    Thank you!!!!!!!!! :D


    2 years ago

    Hi everybody,

    I wonder how much of our time is spent hunched over the sink hand washing dishes. It's exhausting and never ending. It seems like dishes pile up in the sink no matter what. I think that's a problem we can fix.

    What about a small in-sink mounted, battery powered brush that helps scrub small dishes, cutlery, cutting boards and lids? Leave it in the sink if you need it and easily remove and store on the charger base when you don't. That kind of thing.

    If you send me a picture of your sink right now - showing me whatever is in your sink, that will help me figure out what kind of device to build. Let's see your dirty dishes! Please email your pictures to hwprototypes@gmail.com! Without your help I won't be able to solve it.




    2 years ago

    I taught my kids this simply because we were never in a place that had a dishwasher until about five years ago and even then it's not a great one. My youngest prefers to wash by hand. What I have found, even in my 74 year old mother (who is not known for her attention to ... cleanliness ..for lack of a better word) is that people assume rinsing is washing. Washing removes grease and other particles. Nothing is grosser than someone giving you a glass of water and you see the remnants of lipstick from the last user or years of gunked up junk on the outside. Wash the outside and rims of things, too. This is so great for those who weren't able to have this given to them for whatever reasons. We don't think about it in todays world, we assume "everyone knows this".


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great post, however, I simply cannot relate to someone not knowing how to wash dishes by hand. LOL

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Just take a look in a student home, often you'll see the sad remains of human ignorance of hygiene in al colours !


    2 years ago

    The silverware trick was not explained very clearly at all

    1 reply

    3 years ago

    Hot hot hot water


    3 years ago

    i think this helps me i think this was useful because it gives me the steps and it tells me when to wash dishes by hand and with a sink. thank you and i really like the instuctions :D


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Exactly how I was taught!!! GOOD JOB!!!! GREAT INSTRUCTIOS!!! I like how you specified on keeping your self safe!! and Germ Free!! :)))


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice Instructable, but the link in step 5 point 4 to Lodge cleaning instructions leads to an non existing page !


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Ooooooooo I like this tip. I used to rinse utensils one at a time. Duh @ me.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    What I like to do to conserve water is have a tub in each sink. One is the detergent tub, one is the rinse tub. The water remaining in either after the dishes are done can be used to water you plants or your compost bin as long as the detergent isn't antimicrobial (this kills the beneficial bacteria that break down the carbon, nitrogen, etc.). The detergent tub is the dirtiest, and may need to be dumped more than once, but nonetheless, the water is getting a dual purpose and the food waste is being reused as well.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I have another method of washing dishes, since I think this method is dirty (since you submerge dirty dishes in the same water that's suppose to clean it). Since, I would imagine, people dump dirty dishes in the sink anyway, presoak it; that is, have the habit of filling the dirty dishes with water right after having used it. Pile them ontop of each other so water is not wasted (dishes below gets a thin layer of water). Wear gloves if you want, but wipe down the dishes without soap, the gunk should come off relatively easy. Once that's done, they're practically clean, just wet a sponge with dishwasher soap and clean them. Only rinse when everything is soaped up. I don't fill the sink with water, instead I use a spray head on the faucet and run the water low. If you wash fast enough, you waste less water this way.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great job. Sadly, this is a much needed iBle. It's hard to believe that so few people remember how to properly wash by hand!

    Beautiful! Your mother would be so proud, and I'm proud of your generation (I'm assuming you're under 30) for recovering so many lost arts on Instructables. My grandmother taught me to wash dishes in exactly this manner, and to this day, I follow her rules. I like how you stated it: "cleanest dishes first." For 40 years I've watched people wash dishes willynilly and was sad for them that they never knew they could be practising an art. Bravo!