13 Tips to Make Hand Washing Dishes Enjoyable

I’ve talked quite a lot about how it helps us to be consistent with routines. How establishing a habit of washing dishes regularly makes ours lives easier.
But I have a dishwasher. And so I’ve gotten comments on my YouTube videos on how it must take me less time and it’s “easier” for me because I have a dishwasher.
In truth, it is. But the dishwasher only cuts a few minutes off the time it takes me to clean up, not a few hours.
When I’ve timed myself putting the dishes in the dishwasher, it averages about 4 minutes of time. When I handwash them it averages 10 minutes.
So yes, having a dishwasher does save us time in the cleanup process. But not enough time to say that people who have dishwashers save HOURS of work.
Now there are things that help me spend so much less time washing dishes and the 2 most dramatic changes you can make to make your dishwashing days easier:

  1. Have fewer dishes
  2. Wash immediately after every meal

That is really all you have to do to make your life easier.
I remember reading a book once, and the writer said “We say we hate waking up, it’s our least favorite thing to do. But then we hit the snooze button 5 times before getting out of bed. If it’s our least favorite thing to do, why do we make ourselves do it 5 times a day??”
This is the same with dishes.
We say “Dishes are my least favorite chore. I hate them.”
So why do we let them pile up for days, with stuck-on food, making the actual task of washing dishes so much more laborsome and time-consuming?
We love going on vacation, and we save up our vacation time so we can use it in one big chunk and those two weeks are such a blast!
We save up projects for ourselves and plan out a weekend to do our woodworking project and we look forward to it.
We save Christmas presents for Christmas day because that makes it so fun to open all the presents at once!
… And we save the dishes for when we run out of clean plates and we’re forced to spend a good chunk of our day soaking and scrubbing??
We’re not being lazy when we save up chores, we’re being an oppressive task-master to our future selves.

  1. Have fewer dishes. This puts us in a position where we HAVE to wash the dishes. there is no chance of “saving them up for later” because we don’t have enough dishes to do that. It, therefore, forces efficiency and consistency.
  2. Be consistent with a routine. If we don’t want work to pile up, we can get it done. This is true in every aspect of life. When we were kids, it was easier to do homework every night than to spend the weekend before finals trying to complete it all. The dishes are the same. The more small, frequent loads we wash, means we don’t have to spend time or energy stressing about when we should devote time to deal with it.
  3. Remember that there is no “proper,” “correct,” or “perfect” way to do the dishes. We simply need them done. It doesn’t matter if you get soap on your sponge and wash, or fill up a sink with hot water. It doesn’t even matter if you simply rinse the dishes and reuse them. As long as YOU are comfortable with how you washed them, it’s good.
  4. Clean as you go. Some people like to fill a sink with hot soapy water and put all the dirty items in as they cook. Others rinse immediately so they know the food won’t dry and stick and they won’t need to scrub them. It also makes a huge difference to tidy up as you go: put things away, throw things away, wipe the counters off, wash a dish or two in between stirring the food, wash the knife and cutting board. This means when the meal is done cooking, most of the “cleanup” is already done as well. Then you just need to wash the plates, silverware and a few things that were on the table.
  5. Do it right away. I can’t stress this enough. If we allow the dishes to sit overnight, that’s what’s greeting us in the morning. Not the best part of waking up. Doing them immediately means nothing gets stuck on, so the process of washing is easier. And if it’s done, we can go live our lives without thinking about the sink full of dirty dishes waiting for us.
  6. Using a dish mat means you don’t have to have a big drying rack taking up space. You can hang it to dry between loads and you can wash it regularly in the washing machine.
  7. Gloves to protect your hands. Dry cracked hands are a real struggle, and we can be nice to our hands by protecting them.
  8. Make it enjoyable. This is a great time to listen to an audiobook, podcast, or set up videos to watch as you work. The task of washing dishes doesn’t take much thought, so your mind can be engaged elsewhere.
  9. If you like scents, use a scented soap you enjoy. I personally don’t care for scents, but I know people that like scents because it reminds them of “home,” family members they love or special times and places. If you are one of those people, spend some time finding a dish soap that you love the smell of.
  10. Scrapers are our friends. My scrappers all came with my pampered chef stoneware (you can get them on Amazon) and I use them on everything. No breaking fingernails – I just reach for my scrapper.
  11. Have a mug or cup full of water to keep silverware in until you wash. This can help us not have to scrub on the silverware, especially sticky things like rice and avocado can be annoying if it dries at all. So when a mug or glass gets dirty, fill it with water and instruct everyone in the home to put their dirty silverware in it.
  12. Do the dishes in order from least dirty/greasy to most dirty/greasy: glasses, mugs, silverware, plates, bowls, pots & pans. I say this because it’s something I had never considered until a friend told me, before she told me, I was always putting in more soap because the glasses weren’t coming clean, so changing the order of washing made my life easier. But remember there is no “perfect” way to do it and if you do it in a different order, don’t stress it. It’s done and that’s what matters.
  13. Air-drying – it’s more sanitary and makes life easier and why not?? If there is no “perfect” why not just do what works?? It is helpful to put them away, rather than leaving clean dishes in the drainer all the time. But again, we don’t have to hold ourselves to a standard of perfection. We do need clean dishes to use, so that’s the important part.

Lastly, if you have others living with you, figure out a system. If someone likes to cook, the other one can clean. Or maybe rotate through who does things on whatever days work.
It’s frustrating being the one to cook and clean up all the time, so even if there is someone doing it with us, it makes it easier and more fun.
For our family, we don’t have assigned chores, instead, I just say what needs to be done and someone normally volunteers, and if they don’t, I will then tell them what to do. I don’t view it as nagging, but instead, I view it as: I’m training my kids to pay attention to what needs to be done and deal with it right away. So many times I have to walk them through that.
Many times I have to walk them through that process because they haven’t mastered it yet.
If you would like to use a chart set like I did to become consistent with your daily resets, I created the Home Reset Checklists. These PDFs are completely editable so you can customize them to fit your home and your situation. Click here to learn more.
Remember that there is no "proper," "correct," or "perfect" way to do the dishes. We simply need them done.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Melinda J Mitchell on 11/05/2021 at 6:42 pm

    I hate using the Dw! I’m tall, so bending down to put it, then down to take them out is just too much for my aching back. So I’m a hand washer as well. But due to our physical restrictions, daughter and I just use paper, and plastic now. Like you said, we have to do what we have to do.

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