Wash Your Dishes Like A Boss

I have exclusively hand-washed my dishes for the last year…by choice…(I know).

Whether you are in love with your dishwasher or not (I’m not judging), you still have to hand-wash some dishes regardless, so why not do it better?

Because after a year of hand-washing, I’ve got some tips for you.

Last year, my husband and I put our house up for sale and were planning on moving into the cutest 1938 historic district house. It was completely rundown and needed a remodel in every way. The kitchen was so tiny that when we were planning the renovation, we considered leaving out the dishwasher so we could have more storage. Unsure if we wanted to commit to a life of hand-washing, we decided that we would stop using our current dishwasher until we moved to see if we hated it. We could always change our minds. But basically I’ve never looked back. So many of my dished needed to be hand-washed anyway: baby bottles, pots and pans, hi-chair trays, that I found myself standing at the sink doing dishes four times a day anyway. Plus, even when I was putting dishes in the dishwasher, they still needed attention. They had to be rinsed well, and often times had to go through a second cycle. They always came out spotty and cloudy because of our extra hard well water.

In reality, hand-washing only took a little bit longer and I liked the benefits a lot more. You don’t need nearly as many utensils and dishes because the dishwasher isn’t hogging them. Mentally, unloading the dish rack on my counter is less of a chore than emptying the dishwasher, and my dishes only ever need to be washed once and come out sparkling.

We never ended up moving into that tiny house (read about that saga here), but I’m still so glad I did the experiment. It’s always good to try doing things a new way. You never know what you will learn.

But enough about that. Whether you love your dishwasher or not, here’s how to wash your dishes like a boss.

The Tools

1.) The Scraper


This is the most important tool in your hand-washing arsenal, and the first step in hand-washing like a boss. Nothing works better than this for scraping off caked on food. They are so cheap, everyone should have one. Or twelve.

2.) The Green Scrubby Pad


The next step in your kick-butt dishwashing routine is this bad boy. After you’ve scraped the pan (or whatever you’re washing), use this to take off the small stuck on stuff. Since you’ve already used the scraper, not a lot is going to get stuck in the scrubby pad, and you should be able to simply rinse it clean. Once it gets gunky, just toss it and use a new one.

3.) Baking Soda


If the green scrubby pad doesn’t cut it, sprinkle on some baking soda and go back at it with the scrubby pad. I like this especially for my non-stick pans, since it doesn’t wreck the non-stick-ness like BarKeepers Friend. (At least on my pans, check with the manufacturer of yours). If you’re washing something that’s really gunky or stinky (like a travel mug that’s had milky coffee left in it for three days…) than add a good splash of vinegar as well and let it soak. It works so much better than the dishwasher for getting the stink out.

4.) Good Dish Soap


This is my current favorite dish soap. It’s natural, it doesn’t dry out your hands (I personally hate wearing dish gloves, so this is a big plus for me), and your dishes get squeaky clean with minimal effort. I keep a teaspoon of this with some water and eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle as my multi-purpose cleaner.

5.) Dish Cloths

I find dish cloths to be far superior for washing dishes than a dish brush.  You can feel with your fingers through the cloth if the dishes are clean, and you can use better pressure with your hands to get the food off than you can with a brush. The food doesn’t get stuck in them (especially since you’ve already scraped them), and if they get grimy or sour smelling, just huck them in the laundry. I keep six of them at a time, and change my out every 1-3 days depending on the work load. I also use a dish rag dunked in soapy water to do my dusting, base boards, refrigerator, oven door, etc. There’s not really much of a need to keep other cleaners on hand.

6. The Little Scrubby Brush


This only gets used for things that have small parts or crevices, like the blades on my spiralizer, or parts on the juicer. I never use this for getting off stuck on food, as the food just gets stuck in the brush and is very hard to get out (and that really grosses me out).

The Tips

Have your tools handy in a little caddy that you store on your counter or just under your sink, and pull it out when you wash your dishes. Having the right tool at hand will make you much less frustrated when encountering a greasy-stuck on mess. Store them in something that has good drainage and air-flow, this will keep them from getting skanky.


Keep your dish water hot and clear. Do all of your rinsing on the garbage disposal side (pre-rinse and post rinse) and this will keep your dish water clean longer. If your dishes still feel even the tiniest bit greasy after you wash them, you need new hot, soapy water.

Always rinse and wring your dish cloth after you use it and hang or drape it where it can dry quickly. This will keep it from getting that old-sponge smell. I give my cloth a sniff before I start my dishes and if it smells off, I just get a new one going.

I like to keep a dish towel under my drying rack instead of a drainboard or foam pad. It’s much easier to throw it in the laundry and get a new one when it’s dirty. (Don’t do this on butcher block counters, you don’t want any moisture on wood).

Empty your drying rack while you’re filling up your sink. It doesn’t feel like so much of a chore when you know it will be done by the time your sink is ready. And emptying it out before you start adding new dishes with keep you from having the leaning tower of pisa in your dish rack (I never do that…..).

There you have it. My tips for hand-washing dishes like a boss.

How do you wash your dishes? Do you have any tips you want to share? I would love to hear about your hand-washing experiences.


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