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Tips for Washing the Dishes By Hand

Time to do the washing up? Find out how to get your plates and saucepans sparkling clean, with these tips for washing the dishes by hand.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

how to clean dishes by hand

Maybe you don’t have a dishwasher, or perhaps delicate glasses mean you have to do the dishwashing by hand. Either way, here are some helpful tips for getting your hands dirty and the dishes perfectly clean!

Don’t forget: Always read the instructions on a cleaning product before use – you need to make sure it is suitable for the material/surface.

It might seem simple at first – and it largely is – but there are a surprising number of useful steps to washing dishes by hand.

Rinsing with water and a dash of vinegar prevents water spots from forming – great if you frequently find these marring your otherwise immaculate plates.

Before Hand Washing Dishes

As with so many things, using a few tricks before you need to hand wash the dishes can help save you time and effort.

  • If dishes are left out too long, they dry out and become harder to wash. So, if you can’t wash the dishes immediately, cover them with water to prevent this from happening.

  • If pans are heavily soiled – e.g. with burnt-on food – it may be necessary to soak them. Cover them with hot water and a couple of drops of dish soap and leave overnight. The dirt should lift off easily when you come to hand wash them.

Dish Washing Steps

  1. If you don’t have a side sink, wash your dishes in a plastic bowl.

  2. Make sure your sink or bowl is thoroughly clean before you wash your dishes. If it’s dirty, you’re only going to be moving grease around.

  3. Fill your sink or bowl most of the way up with hot water and a few drops of dish soap. The hotter the water, the easier it will be to shift dirt, and the faster everything will dry. Use gloves if necessary; this will also stop your fingers going wrinkly.

  4. You should only need a little dish soap – don’t be tempted to use more. A few drops of Sunlight, for example, will go a surprisingly long way.

ways to conserve water at home
  1. Start with the least greasy items progressing to the greasiest. First, wash glasses, continuing to cutlery, crockery, and – finally – cooking pans themselves. Make sure to change the water if it becomes too dirty.

  2. Before hand washing dishes, scrape any loose food off into the bin to reduce the amount of dirt and the risk of blockage.

  3. Submerge the items in the sink and scrub with a pad. Use a coarser pad first if necessary.

  4. Rinse with hot water and leave to dry.

The Poll

Would you be more likely to buy a Cleaning or Laundry product that had a QR code visible on the pack over a product without a QR code? 

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Tips When Hand Dishwashing

  • Cast Iron and Other Delicate Pans. Pans used for frying often need special care to prevent rust. Always hand-dry these immediately (rather than leaving them to dry) and then rub them with a dry cloth and a little cooking oil to restore their protective oily layer.

  • When the Plates Pile Up. If you have a big stack of plates or cutlery, submerge the whole lot in the sink. They’ll get a soak, and it’ll save you having to fetch them from the side one by one.

Key Steps

  • Reduce time and effort by work by preparing effectively.

  • Use the recommended amount of Sunlight dish soap.

  • Treat delicate pans appropriately.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on washing dishes

Can I use laundry detergent to wash my dishes by hand?

It is not a good idea to us laundry detergent to clean your dishes. Laundry detergent has a number of ingredients which are not good for your body and which should not come into contact with food. These ingredients - which include brighteners, fragrances, stain removers, and anti-soiling agents - may not be fully washed off your dishes, even if you rinse them thoroughly.

How do you wash oily dishes?

The best and easiest step for how to wash oily dishes is to use hot water and a good quality dish soap. Soak the dishes first then give them a good scrub, before rinsing. If this hasn’t quite done the job, try using white vinegar and a little water. Pop your diluted vinegar in a spray bottle and use it to wipe down the dirty, greasy, or oily dishes before washing up as normal.

Can you use hand soap to wash dishes?

Unlike laundry detergent, hand soap is a safe product to use to wash up your dishes. If you find yourself in a bind you can use hand soap but do bear in mind that it was not designed to clean your dirty dishes and may not do as good a job – so you should always stick to dish soap.

Are there any safety precautions to take when washing dishes?

There are a number of safety precautions in washing dishes that you should be aware of. If you are using a dishwasher, take care not to overload the washer and be careful when placing glassware isnider to avoid chipping or shattering it. Always point sharp items such as knives down in the utensil container. If washing by hand, always wash the least soiled items such as glassware or cutlery first to avoid needing to change the water as often. Take extra care when washing sharps such as scissors or knives and consider wearing gloves to protect your hands from both hot water and dish soap which can be an irritant to sensitive skin. Finally, don't soak items such as cast iron or wood, but do soak pretty much everything else to make them easier to clean.

Originally published