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Homekeeping 101 ~ How To Wash Dishes


Not sure about how to wash dishes by hand? Here is an easy primer that will get you started


  • Scrape all food from the dishes into the trash or other receptacle.
  • Rinse off excess food from the dishes
  • Stack the dishes according to kind: plates, glasses, silverware, cups, etc.
  • Make two sinks of water; one with soap at the hottest temperature you can stand on your hands the other with clear clean water for rinsing. Add a couple of teaspoons of bleach to the rinse water if desired.
  • Make a place on the counter opposite to where you have stacked the dirty dishes for stacking the clean dishes.

You will begin washing the least dirty dishes first and move to the most soiled ones. This keeps your dish water cleaner as you go.

If you have burned-on food, you may want to soak those pans or dishes while you are washing the others. Even if you don’t have an automatic dishwasher, it’s a good idea to keep a bottle of automatic dishwasher liquid on hand. Pour a little of this detergent on burned on foods and allow to soak. The burned food and carbon comes off very easily. Depending on how burned the food is, you may have to soak it for several hours, but it beats standing and scrubbing for hours.

Begin by washing plastic-ware. Wash well and rinse, sit to dry or towel dry.

Next wash the glass-ware. Use a scotch-brite pad or other small cloth to wash the dishes. Rub the outside and then the inside of the glass. Be careful not to put your hand so far down in the glass that it breaks.

Get most of the bubbles off the glass before rinsing. Rinse the glass in the rinse water by immersing it several times.

Place the glass on the prepared area and allow it to air dry if you have used bleach. Air drying allows the bleach’s disinfectant properties to kill bacteria.

If you have not used bleach, your dishes can be dried immediately. Rinsing in the hottest water possible helps the water to evaporate more quickly so the dishes will dry naturally more quickly after being rinsed in very hot water.

If you have problems with filmy glassware or hard water stains, you can add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water.   You’ll probably get better results if you allow the dishes to air dry instead of  drying them with a cloth after adding vinegar.

You may also rinse dishes in hot running water. It’s not possible to disinfect them this way, but it does do a good job of getting rid of streaks and takes away the trouble of re-filling the rinse water when it is too soapy.

Next move to the cups, saucers and silver ware. Be sure to clean between the tines of the forks well using your scotch-brite or cloth. Rinse as directed above. Be careful of inserting your hand into a hot glass that may be too small, it could break, especially while the glass is hot.

Wash the plates and serving platters next. Then move to the pans and cooking pans.

Ideally, the pots and pans you have cooked in are washed as you are cooking and moving food from them into serving platters.  “Clean as you go” is a great way to manage your kitchen. Having the pots and pans already washed before dinner also gives you a break when it’s time to wash the dishes and you are tired.

If you have cast-iron, be sure to dry them completely before storing them. I like to dry them with a clean towel and then place them on a hot burner on the stove for a few minutes. When they are dry and hot, I add rub some shortening into the inside and handle of the pan and continue to heat it for a few minutes. This gives the pan a quick seasoning between uses and keeps it non-stick longer.  Here are complete step-by-step instructions for seasoning cast iron.

If you have air-dried your dishes, you can put them away whenever they are completely dry. Don’t allow moisture to remain on the dishes though, mold and bacteria can grow. If you are going to towel dry your dishes, use a clean, absorbent, dry towel. Thoroughly dry the dishes and put them in their storage places.

Now wipe down the counter-tops and behind the faucet. Use the dish water to clean the sinks. Wash out the sinks after you let the water out, scrubbing the inside of the sink with your scotch-brite or cloth.

Wash out your cloth or scotch-brite with some bleach and water and place it in a small dish or other receptacle to dry. Dry the counter tops with your dish-drying towel and hang it to dry.


  1. carol

    I just learned a lot of things about dishes. Like adding dish washer detergent to backed on pans or baking soda as a commenter stated. I also like how you included the cast iron part. My mom always cooked on it and would season in-between and we would store in inside the oven because we used the a lot. However my husband and I had a discussion about how to do this, he said I needed to put in wax, like bees wax and I don’t think that would work- waxy food and all and I said either oil or fat. Right now we live in a one sink house and it drives me crazy, I’m constantly draining the sink.

    • Sylvia

      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment, Carol. You’re right, beeswax isn’t a good thing to use to cure cast iron. Stick with a good fat like coconut oil, lard or olive oil.

  2. Veronica Trimmer

    The Health Department Food Service advise that dishes are always drip dried and nvery towel dried and the last rinse is always is cold water to stabilize the chemicals in the dish washing liquid. Which is why I chose not to use a dishwasher as the extreme hot water kils germs, however the hot water cooks the chemicals on to the dishes. These chemicals build up in your system, can cause cancer and other health problems. It really amazes me how little we know about the health risk involved in a simple thing like dish washing.

    • Lisa Mattie

      I always run my dishes through my dishwasher another WHOLE COMPLETE cycle with just water to remove all the chemicals. Then, I let my dishes air dry in the dishwasher. You are so correct concerning this, and this issue is never addressed. Although this is time consuming and may seem as a waste to some, it is necessary unless you want to consume a bunch of chemicals. Sorry, but I do not want my family having to gulp down Cascade film and slime, while they are drinking a nice glass of iced tea:)

      • Sylvia

        You’re so right about that, Lisa! Me either!

  3. Pilar Roy

    If you have a pan or caserole w/ baked on stuff, you can put some hot water and sprinkle it w/ baking soda and let it set and it will get the baked on stuff loose. I keep baking soda in an old parmesan jar I got from my mom… it makes it easy to sprinkle in the sink for cleaning too.
    I also read you can soak the pan w/ hot water and a dryer sheet… but I don’t use those… it wastes space on the clothes line, lol.

    I just read the other day (but haven’t tried it yet) that you can spray your sponge w/ vinegar and microwave it for one minute and it will be sanitized… and VERY HOT, so be careful removing… use tongs or something.

  4. Dee

    I don’t have counter space for drying 🙁 so I rinse under running hot water (not continuously running, turned on as needed) as I go, & “stack” to dry overnight in the other sink.

  5. John C

    Thank you. This has been a good start for me. Just moved into my own place and I’ve been always dreading the dishes as it takes too long. Your method seems quicker. I’ll try it and let you know! 🙂 Thanks..


    • Sylvia

      I hope it works well for you, John!