Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

The Best Way to Hand Wash Your Dishes: Tips from the Experts

The best way to handwash dishes custom graphic

Dishes are one of the most loathed chores in most homes. So much so, in fact, that almost every modern home today has a dishwasher, whether it be a portable model or an installed appliance. Of course, there are a lot of things that you shouldn’t be washing in the dishwasher. It might not even be the best choice for getting pesky dishes clean.

Dishwashers are great for everyday cleaning, but everyone should know how to properly hand wash dishes to spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying their kitchen.

Don’t Put That in There: Your Dishwasher Don’t Guide

Open dishwasher

The biggest thing that you need to recognize and understand when it comes to hand washing dishes is that there are some things that just demand it, no matter what.

Some items may damage the appliance, while others risk being damaged themselves by either the powerful force of the water or the extreme heat of the dishwasher. Delicate items, high-end glassware, and every pot and pan in your kitchen should always be hand-washed.

Pots and pans are usually dirtier than a dishwasher can handle. Not only that, but many have special coatings that are not designed to withstand the high heat of a dishwasher. Regardless of the material of your cookware or whether or not it claims to be “dishwasher safe”, you should always wash your pots and pans by hand for the best results and the longest lifespan. Cast iron, including dishes and pans alike, should always be washed by hand.

Pre-Clean for Best Results

Smiling woman white jeans turquoise with dishwasher interior kichen set

If you can, get in the habit of rinsing pots and pans, as well as other stubborn dishes, as soon as you’re done using them. In the event that you forget, there are some pre-cleaning steps that you can employ to ensure that the actual washing experience is as easy as possible.

  1. If the surface is scratch-resistant, you can use a spatula or even a steel wool scrubber to remove excess debris and food waste that isn’t coming right off the pan. Do this before it even hits the water if there is crusted on stuff that will be easier to get off dry than once it is wet.
  2. Hot water is a must. Soaking and rinsing dishes in hot water will usually get rid of 99% of the dirt and food debris, leaving you very little actual “washing” to do. A quick swipe with a soapy rag or sponge, and you’ll be done. If you have a sprayer nozzle on your sink, take advantage of that for rinsing, too. The combination of high pressure and hot water will get a lot of stuck-on foods and dried liquids off quicker than you think.
  3. If you’re stuck with a stubborn dish or pan, grab the baking soda. Mix it with a few drops of water to make a paste, and use it to scrub the pan with a dishcloth or sponge. The baking soda should remove most of the food debris and stains, and works especially well to remove grease and stubborn baked-on messes.
  4. For even better results, rinsing clean dishes with filtered water will ensure that your dishes are that much cleaner once the process has finished.

These three simple tasks will take just a few minutes of your time and will cut down drastically on the effort that you invest in actually washing the dishes by hand.

Choose Your Soap and Sponge Carefully

Sponges to clean in the foreground and detergent.

Although it seems like something as simple as soap and sponges wouldn’t take a lot of thought, there is actually something to be said for the materials that you use to hand wash your dishes. If you use a cheap sponge, it could fall to shreds on the first stubborn pan.

If you use a soap that is ineffective, you’re going to invest more elbow grease than necessary. Choose leading brands, and look for standard dish detergents that focus on cleaning power, rather than things like scents or lotions that may be added.

You'll also want to keep your sponges fresh. Not only do sponges hold germs and tend to smell over time, but they aren’t going to work as well after three months as they did when they were brand new. In fact, you should probably swap out your sponge every month or so, or more frequently depending on how often you hand wash dishes.

When it comes to everyday washing, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about the deep-cleaning power of the sponge or dishcloth that you use. It will typically only be handling the remnants of your various food waste and if you have prepared and rinsed everything well, you aren’t going to need a lot of scrubbing power.

Did We Mention Hot Water?

Woman washes tea cup

It might sound obvious to some, but there are plenty of people that attempt to wash dishes with cold or lukewarm water. This is not only ineffective at getting the debris off the dishes, but it also doesn’t have the same sanitizing effects of the hottest water that you can get in your kitchen sink. There's a reason that restaurants use scalding-hot water to hose dishes and then a powerful steam dishwasher to sanitize them for a final clean. Hot water is the not-so-secret weapon of successful hand washing.

The Bottom Line

Mother assisting daughter washing plate kitchen

Everyone seems to have their own remedies, ideas, and solutions for how to best hand wash dishes. The best thing that you can do is to take information like the tips in this guide and use it to decide which way you want to handle your hand washing. You should feel free to try a few things out and see what you like best before you settle on a single method, too. What works for one person might not work for another.

As long as you’re paying attention to the most important rule of pre-cleaning and rinsing dishes as they’re used, you’ll be way ahead of the game when handling your own handwashing. Dishes aren’t fun, but they definitely don’t have to be as big of a chore if you know how to approach them with the right tools and methods you’ll go a long way to keeping your kitchen and home, clean and organised.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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