Whether you revel in doing the dishes yourself or only hand-wash those items that can’t go in a dishwasher, it’s crucial to have efficient and hygienic dishwashing etiquette.
From bacteria-strewn tea towels to tackling baking trays with tough, baked-on stains, dishwashing is full of pitfalls. Read on for our tips on how to avoid them so you can perfect the art of hand-washing dishes.
1. Get ready
First, if you’re not sure which items should be washed by hand, check our list of the 16 things you thought could go in the dishwasher but actually can’t.
Get your dirty items ready next to the sink and put on some rubber gloves if you have broken or sensitive skin.
Give the kitchen and other living areas a quick scan for any stray mugs or plates. It’s always a little annoying to wash the dishes and wipe down the sink and surfaces, only to discover soon after that you’ve missed a couple of mugs on a shelf or behind the kettle.
Scrape the plates free of food into a compost bin and wipe any excess grease from plates, pans or baking trays with paper towels and put them in the bin.
Never rinse grease down the drain, as it can contribute to massive fatbergs in the sewage system and cause clogged drains.
If you’ve got some tough-looking items with baked-on bits, get them soaking right away to help loosen up the stubborn stains.
Next, fill the basin with hot water and add the washing-up liquid.
Pick the best washing-up liquid to clean your dishes
2. Use the right tools
If you’re washing your plates by hand, the chances are you’re using a sponge. But you probably shouldn’t be.
Sponges are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. They never really get a chance to dry out, and the porous surface provides a perfect home for small bits of food residue to nest in. They’re also not very environmentally friendly.
A brush is a more sanitary option, as they tend to stay drier between uses and it’s easier to rinse away food residue from between the bristles.
What’s more, the market is full of non-plastic washing-up brushes, so you’ll have plenty more sustainable options to pick from than sponges.
You can find wooden brush handles with plant-based bristles made from materials such as coir (coconut fibre). Some of them even have replaceable heads, so you won’t have to discard the whole brush once the bristles are at the end of their working life.
Want to find an eco-friendly washing-up liquid too? We asked leading washing-up liquid manufacturers to tell us about their products’ recyclability, sustainability and more. Read our guide to eco-friendly washing-up liquid to see what they said.
3. Wash in the right order
This is the classic first lesson of washing up, but it’s worth reiterating briefly.
Get the cutlery in first, as it can soak at the bottom of the sink or basin without interfering with other objects in the sink.
Glassware next, while the water is still freshest. Glasses will probably be only lightly soiled so won’t require much work.
Cups and saucers can be set upon after, as these too are unlikely to require much scrubbing. Then you can turn your attention to plates, bowls and serving dishes.
You’re likely to get better results if you scrub items under the surface, bringing them out of the water to check for missed spots.
Next up is the pots and pans, or anything with tough or greasy stains. The items you pre-soaked when you were prepping should be a bit easier to clean now.
Finally, make sure to give your cutlery the attention it deserves. After all, these items go directly in the mouth. Take the time to give each piece a quick scrub. Gathering them in a bunch under the water and shaking vigorously doesn’t cut it.
Rinse off the suds and any residue with clean hot water.
If you have a double sink, you could use the second one for rinsing. Alternatively, hold them under a running tap or pour water over them when they’re on the rack.
Make sure to rinse inside cups, glasses and bowls.
5. Stack the rack correctly
If you’re getting rid of your sponge, you might also want to consider ditching your tea towel as well.
These can be loaded with bacteria, especially if you tend to use it to wipe your hands as you’re cooking or wipe up small spills from the kitchen counter.
Washing them regularly and changing them every few days can help reduce the risk of harmful bacteria making their way onto your dishes after they’ve been cleaned. But if you have the space and the time to wait, you’re better off leaving your rinsed dishes to air-dry on the rack.
Stack logically as you go, especially if you have a big load of items.
Running out of space and balancing items precariously on top of others, or being forced to place items off the draining board, is likely to end in disaster.
6. Tackle tough grease
Some items will need a little extra attention to get them properly clean and grease-free, but the best washing-up liquids can help cut out some of the hard work.
To help you find the washing-up liquid best suited to the tricky jobs, we include a test to see how well each liquid tackles tough grease stains.
With others you’ll need to put in a lot more effort before you get rid of tough stains.
Compare all of the washing-up liquids from our tests in one easy-to-read table of washing-up liquid test results.