11 Tips on How to Wash Dishes Efficiently

By John Cruz

Last Updated:

Learning how to wash dishes by hand efficiently is not something you think about unless you’re my 6-year-old son, who recently asked me if he could do the dishes.

We don’t have a dishwasher, so we use the old-school, manual hand-wash method to keep our dishes clean.

I think it’s excellent, and although a dishwasher would help, it’s how we do things in our household, and it works perfectly fine.

Although things can be a lot easier if we had a dishwasher, we wouldn’t be able to show you how to wash dishes by hand correctly, now would we?

So, here we are, and I want to show you exactly how to wash dishes by hand in the most efficient way possible.

How to Wash Dishes Efficiently

Although 68% of households in America have dishwashers, most aren’t using them.


For one, they don’t do a good job as your hands do, and two, they don’t have enough dishes to make a decent-sized load.

Even more alarming is that people still don’t know how to wash dishes efficiently.

They don’t know that all dishwashing starts before you even begin washing a single dish.

I know it sounds weird, but it’s true.

To wash your dishes efficiently, it needs to start with your thought about everything you use.

From the silverware to the pots and pans to the cups you use for a quick drink.

Before washing, you need to think about what you are doing.

I have broken down things within the following few points, so apply them, and you will see how washing dishes requires a lot more effort than you think.

1. Be Dish Conscious

My kids constantly grab cups, drink some water, and throw it straight into the sink.

Then again, they usually leave it lying around the house.

There needs to be some thought and action put into these cups before you start adding them to the greasy dishes inside the sink.

I’m constantly on my kids about this simple yet effective way to clean those not-so-dirty dishes.

It might sound like I’m controlling like that dad in the painting commercial, but understand that all the dishes you create are different.

It’s safe to say that all dishes aren’t created equal and shouldn’t be in the same category.

There are two different types of dishes.

There are dirty dishes, and there are greasy dishes.

Dirty dishes are the easiest to clean and should be put to the side.

On the other hand, greasy dishes need to be together and don’t need to be mixed with the rest.

What’s the point in putting a cup you used to drink water in a greasy pot?

To make things harder on yourself?

Save yourself from working extra and be aware of what dishes don’t need to be added to the greasy pile of dishes.

This leads to the next tip for washing dishes efficiently.

2. Scrape Off ALL Excess Food


You might have a food disposal feature with your sink, but it’s still best to dispose of all food in the garbage.

It’s understandable when kids throw their dishes in the sink with some leftover food, but it’s entirely unacceptable for adults to do it.

So, if you are just that lazy, remember that you are only making things harder for yourself.

Scrape that dang food off your plate and dump it in the trash.

Don’t leave a single piece behind, or you’ll have even more significant problems later.

If not, be ready to call the plumber to help you unclog that drain, which was very much preventable.

I make it a point to teach my kids how to do this as it helps with washing dishes efficiently and helps them be more conservative with the amount of food they put on their plates.

You might think about doing the same if you knew that about a pound of food is wasted every single day in the United States.

3. Wash as You Go


I am not a huge fan of dealing with a pile of dishes unless it’s from a big dinner that consists of family and friends.

We have six bodies in our house, and we can still manage our dishes without an overwhelming amount.

We don’t have a dishwasher, so our dishwashing is done by hand.

We cook all the time, and I’m sure you do too.

This cooking comes with a ton of dishes and probably some stress.

How do you deal with and manage it?

You wash those dirty dishes as you go.

At least the simple ones that don’t require any scrubbing or soaking.

I like to have a little container with a mixture of Dawn dish soap and water while cooking.

It lets me wash dishes as I go so that everything doesn’t pile up for a stressful end-of-meal session.

If I am making scrambled eggs and mix some eggs, I give that bowl and fork a quick rinse, wash, and then rinse again.

It’s on that dish rack and drying, just before I add the plates and silverware from that meal.

Wash some dishes as you go, and you will see a significant improvement in your dishwashing adventures.

3. Soak Dirty Dishes – The Right Way


Soaking your dishes is very critical for washing your dishes properly.

However, there is a right way to do things, unlike other dishwashing methods that have you soaking everything.

That is very unnecessary and a waste of time.

Not all dishes need to be soaked, and some don’t require hours of soaking.

Pots and pans with crusty caked-on rice or something like that require a good soaking before you consider washing them.

A quick soak while you wash other dishes is all you need for plates and silverware, especially if you have a nice set of dishes.

You’ll know when to soak certain dishes longer than others, but there’s no need to overthink anything.

And, while this is happening, you can always clean your house.

This leads to my next point, which will help with a better and more efficient dishwashing process.

4. Clean Your Dishes, Before Washing Your Dishes


Do you know what the best cleaning tool for your dishes is?

It’s not the latest and greatest sponge technology, and it’s not a brillo pad.

This remarkable tool is called your hand.

Yup, that same thing you use to pick your nose.

Before any sponges touch your dirty dishes, you should always use your hands to scrape off any food or grease first.

A few rubs will break down any stuck-on food, and a little dish soap will help with the grease.

Put that dish to the side and move on to the next.

Once you have done that, you should have a pile of dishes that look like they’ve already been washed.

Now, it’s time to do some actual washing.

5. Separate Your Dishes

I can not stand it when people combine all the dirty dishes in the sink as if we work in some cafeteria.

Do not throw everything and the kitchen sink in the kitchen sink.

Separate your greasy dishes from cups and other not-so-greasy plates.

There’s no point in combining everything if it means making things harder on yourself.

You don’t have to separate anything; be aware of what is dirty and greasy and not make everything slippery.

6. Understand Your Sponges


But before you do any of that washing, you need to know what your sponge does and how it should be used.

Not every dish needs scrubbing with a scouring pad; only a few need it.

Plates, forks, spoons, knives, and plastics DO NOT need scrubbing if you give them a minute or two to soak.

Remember how I mentioned being dish-conscious?

There is no need to scrub a plastic cup that you used to drink water, and there is no need to scrub one of those reusable Rubbermaid containers either.

Most people take a rough dishwashing pad and dig into these things as if it needs it.

Please don’t do that.

Those yellow and green double-sided sponges?

Yeah, you don’t need those.

Or those blue ones that seem softer but can still scrub?

You don’t need those either.

Maybe for the harder-to-clean pots and pans made in the 1800s, but not for any plates or silverware.

Even then, how these pots and pans are made requires minimal cleaning effort.

Using those scrubbers will only scrape off the non-stick surface.

7. Make a Better Dish Washing Solution


Most tutorials on washing dishes will have you fill the sink with hot or warm water and add dish soap.

I don’t mind that method if you’re doing a lot of dishes.

And I mean a lot.

The type of dishes that come with 10+ people and lots of pots and pans.

For a regular old family dinner, not so much.

All you need is to follow the abovementioned tips and a small little dish with which you can dilute some soap.

8. Wash Your Cleanest Dishes First


If you want to wash dishes efficiently, you need to clean the cleaner of your dirty dishes first.

This includes cups, silverware, and other dishes that had no business touching grease in the first place.

Get through with all these not-so-dirty dishes, and you will see how much cleaner everything gets.

Dig in with the dirty stuff first, and all you’ll do is rub everything in grease, causing you to work harder.

9. Do Not Scrub Food With Your Sponge


The first thing most people do when washing dishes with their hands is very typical and annoying.

They’ll grab a sponge, soak it with dish soap, and dig into that greasy, nasty plate.

This is the worst thing you can do and will not make you wash dishes efficiently.

You now have a sponge soaked with grease and one that will “rub off” on other dishes.

You are now spreading that grease, and you can bet your dishes will not be as clean as you think.

Some might think that only a teenager would do such a thing, but some grandparents still don’t know how to wash dishes efficiently.

On top of all this grossness, you are shortening the life of your dishwashing sponge, and it will only cost you more money in the long run.

9. Wash Your Sponge After Each Use


A dishwashing sponge can last over a year in our household.

It might sound gross, but I’m sure our year-old sponge looks much better than a sponge you’ve only had for a month.

You already know you shouldn’t wash your dishes with thick grease, but you must also understand that this sponge needs cleaning.

Wash and squeeze the soap out of that sponge until you see that it doesn’t have any suds coming out.

It might take a while, but it’s ultimately worth it.

Don’t do that.

You’ll find yourself throwing that roach-smelling sponge in the trash.

10. Get Better Dish Soap


Not all dish soaps are created equal.

You’re wrong if you think that a $1 bottle of dish soap you are getting to save money is your best solution to washing dishes efficiently.

Not only do you need to use a lot of that cheap dish soap to make anything bubbly, but it probably doesn’t clean your dishes.

So, what do you do?

You grab a bottle of the absolute best dish soap on the planet.


Dawn is the absolute best dish soap you can buy and one that you should also learn to use correctly.

I’ll probably do another post on this here soon, but for now, you should at least know that getting a bottle of Dawn dish soap is a must.

Dilute a few drops of Dawn with water, and you can do a whole load of dirty dishes.

Don’t forget that Dawn saved thousands of animals after BP produced one of the worst oil spills in history.

Dawn can get the grease out.

Even a bird will tell you that.

11. Save Water


This might be the last tip on washing dishes efficiently, but it’s essential.

Some people get a dishwasher because they save them from doing the “dirty” work, but it is also said to save water efficiently.

This might be true, but it does not mean that you can’t save some money on your water bill.

I already mentioned wiping off any food particles and grease before you do any washing, which helps save you hundreds and thousands of gallons.

When you wash your dishes, remember that you don’t always have to leave the water running.

Give that plate a nice wash and move on to the next.

I recommend you clean one of your sink compartments to dump those cleaned dishes.

That way, you can rinse them all at once.

Your water pressure is a big key to saving water.

Conclusion – Wash Your Dishes Efficiently

You can go about washing your dishes how you’ve done for years, or you can take some of the tips from this post and wash them more efficiently.

You’ll always have the cleanest dishes in your family, all from simple changes.

If you have any questions or want to share tips, please do so in the comments section below.

We look forward to hearing from you, and I hope this post has helped you somehow.

And, yes, a wooden spoon does keep a pot from boiling over.

You’re welcome.

About John

Dad, trying golfer, and one heck of an improviser. When he's not trying to find his golf swing or at the mall with his kids, you can find him trying to MacGyver something in the house.

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