Home Decorating 

Do the Dishes Yourself & Dump the Dishwasher

Which is better – the dishwasher or hand washing?

I’ve read lots of debates and discussions online about this. Most people, it seems, want to justify the dishwasher. Mostly, people hate doing the dishes.

Save power, water and time

I just don’t get it. I’ve read so many arguments in favour of the dishwasher, ‘especially’ people say ‘the new energy efficient models’. I still don’t believe it.

Do the dishes yourself in five minutes

As I recall, from the dim and distant days of being a dishwasher owner, piling the pots in there and then emptying the appliance takes at least five minutes or probably much longer. Goodness knows how much electricity and water the machine uses.

Yes mum, I’m writing about doing the washing up

My mum would be amazed. In a way, I’m amazed too because it surprises me that today people don’t know how to do the dishes (especially, ahem, the 50+ year old bloke who co-inhabits this space and should do the dishes since I do the cooking).

So for him and those who want to do the dishes the green way, here we go.


1. I impress upon him that the first essential is a clean sink.

We can’t clean anything in a dirty one.

No gribbly bits of onion in the sink drainer, no empty cans (why does he do that?) and no used teabags, just a beautifully clean sink.

I also need, as you can see, a plastic bowl that takes up about half the sink area and an over-sink drainer, plus a drying mat (see below)

2. This is day’s worth of our crockery, cutlery and pans. Cereal bowls, small plates from our lunchtime sandwiches, large dinner plates, three pans used for curry for dinner and a whole bunch of silverware and utensils that now sit inside the pan.

The larger items, plates and so on, are at the bottom of the plastic bowl with smaller items above and drinking glasses right at the top.

If I have a casserole dish or oven pan, they are right at the bottom of the plastic bowl. Note that these items are not left to soak and they have been scraped of any bits of food, just as you would if they were going into the dishwasher.

3. Making sure that the sink plug is firmly in place, add cold water to the sink to just-below-pan level (about an inch in this case).

Fill the plastic bowl and the pans with warm soapy water. I use the spray attachment to fill them – it makes the bubbles go further.

At this point, I might wander off to open a bottle of wine or check my email, giving the dishes a chance to sit in the warm soapy water for a few minutes.

Notice that the small over-sink drainer has been moved to the adjacent counter top.

4. Start with the most delicate items – the glasses in this case – and work your way down the bowl.

Mostly, because the items have all been rinsed or scraped before adding to the bowl, they need little scrubbing or cleaning.

All that’s needed is a quick wipe and then rinsing in clean cold water.

Small items like the cups and the glasses can be rinsed in the cold water you added to the main part of the sink. With plates, I have to run them under the cold tap.But I’m not wasting water – the sink is firmly plugged.

5. Now that the glasses, bowls and plates are washed, I grab all the knives, forks and spoons.

Holding them all in one bunch, I swish them about in the warm soapy water for a few seconds.

Then rinse them under the running tap.I don’t want to taste dish soap next time I eat.

As I do so, I examine them to ensure that there are no bits of food still sticking to them.

The whole process so far (apart from going to open a bottle of wine and checking email) has taken no more than a couple of minutes.

6. The silverware then goes into the drainer which is sitting on the drying mat.

I use the drying mat on the top of the ceramic stove – but a counter top would be fine.

Then I deal with the spatula, wooden spoon and all those other bits and pieces.

The garlic press is usually the trickiest.They too go into the drainer.

Once they are dry – always let everything air dry – I only need to take the drainer to the cutlery drawer to put them all away.

7. Here’s an image of my drying mat in action. I prefer to use this and let the stuff air dry for two reasons.

The first is because I am too lazy to dry them by hand. I’d rather open another bottle of wine.

The second is that, no matter how hard you try to keep up with dishtowels, some slob in the household is going to use them to wipe their hands, mop up a spill or otherwise introduce some sort of bacteria.The drying mat is an essential for a small kitchen like mine.

8. Nearly done. I then use the soapy water to wipe down work surfaces and anything else that might need attention. If I felt like cleaning the oven (which is very rare) I’d use it for that.

My mum (who was a much more skilled housekeeper than me) would use it to wash the kitchen floor. She wouldn’t waste a drop. The plastic bowl would then be carried outside to be thrown over the garden to water the plants.

My final thing though it to make sure that I’m back where I started with a lovely clean sink – ready to go into service tomorrow.

9. Now this is my piece de resistance, the clever-clogs bit.

My plastic bowl is a plastic storage box. The lid, when not in use, lives down the side of my fridge where it’s out of sight.

Once I’ve finished the dishes, I add the lid. That way, any stray wine glasses or coffee cups that find their way to the sink will be hidden from view until the next evening’s washing session.

Extra tips

We do the dishes once a day. In between, we try to clean as we go.He uses one coffee cup per day and I use one teacup. We don’t use new every time we have a drink.The same goes for glasses. His morning glass of orange juice uses the same glass as his evening wine. We rinse them and use the over sink drainer.
Everything is rinsed if necessary before going into the plastic bowl. Food scraps are scraped into the garbage.Really grim pans are wiped with any old bits of paper before they go into the sink to remove any excess sauce or oil. I keep used paper bags and so on in a drawer for that purpose. If you scrunch them up, the surface becomes a pan scourer.

There are just two of us – I admit that this method of doing the dishes might not work if we had three young children 🙂

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