How to Wash Dishes: Practical Tips for an Ultimate Clean

Published February 22, 2021
Man washing the dishes

Learn how to wash dishes by hand using clear, simple steps. Get tips for how to clean burnt on food, get rid of stains, and sanitize dishes. Get the steps for loading a dishwasher perfectly.

How to Wash Dishes by Hand

Does your new apartment not have a dishwasher? Is your dishwasher on the fritz? Regardless, knowing how to wash your dishes by hand is a handy tool to have in your cleaning arsenal. To start, you need to have the right supplies on the ready.

  • Liquid dish soap (Dawn recommended)

  • Dishcloth or sponge

  • Scrubby pad

  • Trash can or garbage disposal

  • Drying rack

  • Towel

  • Sink plug

  • Rubber gloves (optional)

Step 1: Scraping and Sorting Dishes

It's important to make sure you have all food and gunk off your dishes before you start to wash them.

  1. Scrape any remaining food or solids into the garbage disposal or trash can. This includes any leftover grease. You don't want that going down your drain.

Step 2: Proper Order for Washing Dishes by Hand

When it comes to washing dishes, there is a proper order for everything.

  1. Start by sorting all the silverware, cups, glasses, bowls, plates, pans, and pots. Sorting dishes is all about placing likes with likes.

  2. Have your sorted dishes off to the side and ready to go.

  3. Set out your drying rack if one is available. If not, set out an absorbant towel next to the sink used for rinsing.

Stacked dirty dishes

Step 2: Loading Your Sink and Cloth

With your dishes at the ready, it's time to prep your water and dishcloth.

  1. Run the sink until you get the desired temperature of water.

  2. Put the plug in the sink. Depending on your plug, make sure it's in there tight. If the seal breaks, all your water is going to drain out.

  3. Add a few squirts of dish soap to the water and use your hand to get it sudsy.

  4. Allow the sink fill to about half before shutting off the water. You can always add more as needed, but you don't want to have too much since the dishes make the water rise.

  5. Wet your sponge or dishcloth and work a drop of soap into it.

Step 3: Washing Dishes

When it comes to successfully washing dishes by hand, you are working from biggest to smallest.

  1. Add your silverware and cups.

  2. Work the sponge or dishcloth over the dishes until all traces of food are completely gone from all sides of the dish.

  3. As the cups and silverware are completed, add your plates and medium-sized dishes to soak in the water while you rinse.

washing dishes in kitchen

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

While it might seem like washing is the most important part of washing your dishes by hand, rinsing and drying properly is just as important. And there are two ways you can rinse your dishes.

  1. For the running water rinsing method, run the sink water to the desired heat and allow the water to run over the dish until all remnants of suds are gone. This works best for those with a single sink.

  2. To conserve water, you might also choose to plug the sink and fill the sink's rinse side with fresh, clean water. As you wash the dishes, dip them in the clean water to remove soap residue. This is optimal for those with a double sink.

    man doing the dishes
  3. After rinsing, place the dishes on the drying rack or towel to dry while you wash and rinse more dishes.

  4. Once the dishes are dry, use the towel to remove any remaining water and put away.

plates on drying board

Washing dishes by hand typically works like an assembly line. You wash a dish, rinse it, then place it on the rack to dry. You can do this one item at a time, or you can wash several dishes, then rinse them and place them on the rack to dry. Everyone has their own personal technique they develop over time.

How to Soak Dishes for Burnt on Food

As you get to washing the pans, you might notice a bit more trouble when it comes to washing dishes. Most pans for cooking have stuck on crust unless they were rinsed off immediately. To clean pans with burnt-on crust, you need to soak these dishes.

  1. Add fresh water and dish soap to the sink.

  2. Add the pan or dish with stuck-on food.

  3. Allow it to soak for anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes, depending on the level of the gunk.

  4. Some pan might even need an overnight soak.

  5. After allowing the dish to soak, add a bit of dish soap to a damp scrubbing pad.

  6. Use a bit of elbow grease to get that dish sparkling.

Soaking pot in water and soap

How to Remove Stains From Dishes

When the soaking method isn't working for stains or burnt crust, you need to add a few friends for your dishwashing adventure.

Remove Stains With Ease

With these ingredients at the ready, it's time to get cleaning.

  1. Remove the water from the sink.

  2. Cover the crusted or stained area of the dish with straight white vinegar.

  3. Allow it to soak for anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.

  4. Pour the vinegar down the drain.

  5. Add a good amount of baking soda to the area.

  6. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

  7. Scrub the dish with the baking soda until all stains or crust is gone.

  8. Enjoy your clean dishes.

Baking soda and vinegar on table

Special Considerations for Dishes

Special consideration needs to be given to some dishes when it comes to washing dishes by hand. For example:

  • Cast iron needs to be cleaned in a specific way to not remove the seasoning.

  • Teflon coatings should be cleaned with a non-scratch pad or sponge.

  • Wood cutting boards should not be submerged in water.

  • Specific devices should also not be submerged in water; follow the manufacturer's instructions for handwashing.

How to Sanitize Dishes Properly

When it comes to properly sanitizing your utensils and dishes, two ways are available to you.

  1. Boil a pot of water and place the dishes in the sink. Pour the boiling water over the dishes and allow them to sit until the water cools.

  2. Add two tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of hot water and soak your dishes for at least two minutes.

How to Wash Dishes in a Dishwasher

When it comes to washing dishes in a dishwasher, it's pretty simple.

  1. Scrape off the food excess.

  2. Rinse the dishes.

  3. Place them in their proper place within the dishwasher. (Cups and small dishes on top, plates and larger dishes on the bottom.

  4. Add your cleaner.

  5. Set your dishwasher to the recommended setting per your instruction manual for your load.

How to Wash Dishes

Washing dishes by hand or in the dishwasher isn't difficult, but there is a proper rhyme to it. Just follow these step-by-step instructions for how to wash dishes by hand to have perfectly clean dishes every time.

How to Wash Dishes: Practical Tips for an Ultimate Clean