How To: Wash the Dishes

How To: Wash the Dishes

As people who revel in elevating the necessary rituals of the miraculous mundane, we have lots of thoughts about washing dishes.

We even know each other's particular favorite tools for the job off the top of our heads (Anna: Swedish Tampico, Lillian: Curved Horsehair, Heather: Washing Up Whisk, One Winding, Will: bottle brush, Susannah: all of the above + glass brush + the 5pc german wire brush set because she is an insane brush maximalist).

When this simple, lovely little volume—"How To Wash The Dishes" by Peter Miller—arrived we certainly weren't expecting it to make such a splash. We sort of thought we had "washing the dishes" well and covered in this neck of the woods. 

But this book is a slowing down, a consideration, a step-by-step meditation in how Peter washes the dishes. Now. We 100% agree with Peter on many/most things and his sweet and thoughtful musings have made us consider the how's and why's of how and why WE do the dishes like we do. 

And, when we got to talking about it and it turns out that WE ALL DO THE DISHES DIFFERENTLY and QUITE PARTICULARLY! As anyone who has stayed at a vacation cottage with one's own mother and attempted to align on the value and/or correct treatment of yellow rubber gloves, the fact that we all have our own distinct methodology should surprise exactly nobody, but also what an incredible joy of discovery!

Naturally, we spent the next hour or so meticulously going through exactly how each of us do it and why. We all had a few eureka moments thanks to Peter (and each other) so we figured we'd share here. 

I have a two sided sink and I'm always mindful of water. I fill up one side of the sink with hot water and one or two pumps of soap depending on how serious the dishes are. I add the dishes to the hot soapy water side, stacking the plates on the bottom, heavy mugs, glassware, and little delicates on top and let them soak. On bottom of the other side, I put down one of the little charcoal cleaning cloth towels. Those are naturally cleanly and sort of floofy and keep things from falling over and chipping when I set them down in the dry sink.

I fill up an enamel square ramekin on the edge of the sink with a little hot water and add a little dish soap for suds. I turn off the water and use the tampico dishbrush dipped into the ramekin to scrub scrub scrub everything in the hot water side, moving it to the charcoal cloth on the dry side. Then when I've filled the second sink with as many things as I can possibly fit into, then then I turn on the faucet to spray, but as low as it will possibly go so it's a delicate fairy breath of spray. And I fairy breath rinse all of my clean soaped dishes and lay each one on a big linen kitchen cloth on the side of my sink. Set everything out to dry and repeat as needed! I will often save the dirtiest things on the stove—pots and stuff—and do those last so they don't make the water super dirty to start.

Lillian: I'm a squirt onto the dishbrush and plug the drain and as I'm doing them kind of gal. The sink is filling up and then I rinse into it. I'm pretty wussy so I use warm water. My partner Dan goes ALL the way to the hot side. Phew! If there's a pot that needs soaking (and there always is), I'll place it so the water fills into that first and then let the soapy water from whatever else I'm cleaning drop down into the pot to help it soak. I don't wear gloves. When you're using a dishbrush, your hands aren't really in the water. And let's be honest, with all the gardening I do, washing the dishes is, like, the least gnarly thing I do with my hands. I have a dishwasher but I use it so infrequently I still have the same box of pods I bought when I first moved into a place with a dishwasher in 2014. It does the trick for my mixing bowls and the burner covers on my stove, though. My number #1 go to for handwashing is the curved horsehair brush and the 2 winding scrubbing whisk for the big guns. Dan prefers the tampico brush.


Heather: I am more of a steady small stream of water scrubby-scrubby after a pre-soak if needed. I'll put a bunch of silverware in a glass or something that won't tip over and fill it with water. Then I'll gather like things together to make it easier to stack, sort, and maximize the soak. I hate it when there's, like, a pot with a plate on it, and a glass teetering. Silverware together, glasses together, plates together, Boom. I get water between the plates and then it's soap directly on the brush. I am very much about the tampico. I have the single wound whisk, if I do need it to be intensely scrubby, I grab it on one side, but then it can open back up I can clean get any bits out, and I like having two sides available. Fairly hot water, kind of a rinse and go. Usually there's a pan catching the water so I can reuse it. I like having water available so I can be like GO GO GO. I don't have a dishwasher and we have a super small kitchen (we use a pan lid organizer for a dishrack) so I always have a bunch of German cleaning cloths around to lay out and dry whenever we do a big cooking or baking project. They dry so fast so the turnaround time means it's rarely like "plates everywhere!" for very long.


Susannah: I'm similar to how Anna does the soap, in a little side dish, but I soap and rinse. I learned this method when my best friend and her husband, Stephen, ended up living with us for a few months a few years ago. A Greek Cypriot by way of Australia, Stephen's love language/life calling is doing the dishes. He has done so much washing up at, like, our 40 person Thanksgiving that people call him "Saint Stephen of The Dishes". His method is how his mother used to do it (and apparently this is very common abroad): so you have little dish that lives at the sinkside always with a few fingers of water in it and a pump of dish soap. Then, when it's time to wash, you dip your dishbrush in the soap-water. It's more than enough soap to get a few things at a time sudsed up, uses less, and doesn't wash off the brush so fast as the pump-and-scrub method. You can dip and re-dip to your heart's content and when the the water is tired, just pour the dregs into a pot that needs to soak and freshen the whole thing up. I use a Hasami mug (with one of the tiny plates that stacks as a lid on top when dish soap isn't in use/holds my rings and my tiny hog hair nailbrush) for my soap-water and it's a game changer. I also have a dishwasher—and I LOVE it—but some things do just gotta be handwashed. For extreme dirties or large parties where I broke out the silver I'll fill the largest pot I used or fill the sink itself and soak overnight. Tampico is my main squeeze, but I also use the glass brush everyday for old coffee rings and the German Wire brushes for cleaning things that confound me like my hummingbird feeder. I mainly just use salt and a dedicated rag to clean my cast irons but after this discussion I'm going to get a washing up whisk. One winding or Two!?


Stephanie: As soon as I'm done cooking, I tend to rinse dishes right away all at once so things don't get stuck on and I'm using as little water as possible. When everything's rinsed, I lather up my hand scrubber and scrub them all with the water turned off. Then I turn the water back on low and rinse everything in one sitting. Rinse 'em. Scrub 'em. Rinse 'em clean. Air dry 'em.

Will: I have a double sink, so when I'm doing dishes I work Left to Right. I fill up left hand basin with soapy water, doesn't need to be warm, and fill the other one with cold rinsing water. I dunk the suckers in the soapy water, scrub if necessary, then dip them in the rinse water, and put them in the rack to dry. You gotta have two different brushes: gotta have a stiff bristle, I like the tampico, and you also have to have a long round tip brush for glasses and vases.

Now, if you have a bunch of dishes, like if you had a party and the washing water gets too dirty, you have to change directions. Put a little soap in your former rinse water, drain and refill the washing side with clean fresh rinsing, and then go Right to Left!

Another dishwashing tip? Don't make so many dishes and wash your plate as soon as you're done.


So, dear reader, how do YOU do it!? Inquiring minds MUST know!


And if you want to take your dishwashing up a notch we can't recommend this sweet "How To Wash the Dishes" book (and some fresh soap or a new brush) enough.



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