8 Ways to Make Washing Dishes Easier – And More Fun

Dishes soaking in a sink under a sunny window with a radio, orchid and herbs on the windowsill

Harry Grout / Unsplash 

Nobody seems to like cleaning up the kitchen after a meal, but there are some ways to make it less unpleasant.

“Dishes” and “fun” are two words that you don’t see together very often. For most of us, washing up after a meal is a thankless task, an unpleasant yet necessary chore that must be finished in order for a household to run smoothly. The good news, however, is that there some ways to make doing the dishes less unpleasant. Try one or some of these ideas today, and see if it makes a difference.

1. Minimize the number of dishes to be washed.

Know what can go in the dishwasher and what can’t – and learn how to pack the dishwasher as efficiently as possible. Don’t bother washing items that really don’t need it, i.e. a cutting board that’s been used to slice bread, a bowl that held some diced vegetables, a knife used to open packaging, measuring cups, vegetable peeler. Unless something has come into contact with meat, oil, or eggs, you might be able to get away with rinsing it or wiping with a towel.

2. Use a large vessel instead of the sink.

By vessel, I mean a bowl or pot that’s dirty from cooking. Set it inside the sink and fill with hot soapy water. Wash as many dishes in it as you can until water is dirty, then use that water to clean the vessel itself. Rinse, and grab another dirty pot or bowl. That way, you use less water, without needing to refill the sink, and you clean the big, space-hogging items at the same time.

3. Use the small bowl technique.

One real water-saving approach is to fill a small bowl with warm water and soap. Dip your washcloth or sponge into the water and then use it to clean each item. Save even more water by rinsing in a pre filled sink, instead of running the tap.

4. Clean ahead of time.

The Kitchn recommends keeping a bowl of soapy water beside the sink, where you can drop utensils and flatware as soon as you’re done cooking with them. That way, they won’t clog up the bottom of the sink. Also, in preparation for quicker dishes, be sure to empty the dishwasher ahead of time and fill it as you work. Clear your drying rack or spread a clean tea towel on the counter so you have a place to put the wet dishes.

5. Be smart about the stubborn stuff.

Presoaking is a must for burnt-on food, and will save you from wasting time and energy scrubbing. Fill with some water and leave it to the end of dishwashing, if you can. Or use it as your washing vessel (see above), and everything will be softened up and easy to remove by the end.

6. Get some good cleaning supplies.

Invest in a comfy mat or rug on which to stand at the sink. Get a good stainless steel scrubber, tough washcloths, and natural dish soap. (I keep mine in a Mason jar with a squirt top sold by Ippinka, which makes it easy to dispense.) Wear gloves to keep your hands protected. Keep baking soda on hand to polish and clean your sink. Vinegar is good for occasional disinfecting, too. Empty the drain basket regularly. A clean-smelling and nice-looking sink will make the task more enjoyable.

7. Keep good company.

Music makes the time fly by. Turn up your favorite jams and dance while you work. Listen to podcasts or audiobooks. Ask a family member or friend to help you out so there’s someone to talk to.

8. Rethink your own approach.

You might not like this suggestion, but consider changing your attitude toward dishwashing. I have to admit, I've grown to enjoy it a little bit more in recent years, since I view it as a quiet time of escape from my loud, energetic children, while my husband gets them ready for bed. There can be pleasure found in the solitude, not to mention the satisfaction that comes from transforming a disastrous mess into an orderly, clean space.