For say a family of two parents and two children, what is the most efficient/effective way of washing up? Perhaps the answer is 'get a washing machine', but for those without one for whatever reason do people have preferred methods for washing up.

For after an evening meal to wash all dishes and cooking equipment, things to consider:

  • Amount of water used
  • Order of washing things
  • Amount / strength of washing up liquid required
  • Amount of time it takes
  • Cleanliness of the dishes when viewed once they're dry
  • You may want to read this Q/A on our sister site Seasoned Advice.
    – Stephie
    Oct 1, 2018 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


There are actually “housekeeping classes” - or were back in the days when our mothers (or grandmothers) were young. And that was way before dishwashers were ubiquitous household items.

A lot of the “rules” become easier to understand if you keep a few points in mind:

  • “Fresh” dishes will be easier to remove that caked on, dried food.
  • Hot water will help in loosening food residue faster, except for very few exceptions.
  • All dishwashing liquid will “bind” particles and this get “used up” as you keep washing the dishes. Therefore you should remove as many residues as possible before actually putting an item in the sink - either scrape it off or rinse it off.

So what was your grandma taught?

  • Scrape your dishes/pots, pour out whatever is in your glasses and cups.
  • Put some hot water in your (clean) sink, add the amount of dishwashing liquid recommended for a full sink. Read the label, depending on the brand and concentration you will probably need between 2ml and 7ml. In a pinch, use “a squirt”.
  • Add glasses, start washing. Rinse the clean glasses (just let the water run into the sink) and put them upside down to drain.
  • Continue with the plates.
  • Silverware is next.
  • Pots and pans are last, they are typically the “dirtiest” items.

You may notice that if you have a larger pile of dishes that the foam will collapse and at worst see grease spots floating on the water. Then empty the sink and continue with fresh water and soap. (If you have lots of pots and pans, you can pre-wash them in the “old” water.)

For drying,

  • Drying with a clean(!) dish towel will give you optically better results, especially if you have hard water, which can leave stains. Note that some towels can leave lint, so choose lint-free cotton or, even better, linen.
  • Air-drying is less effort, but means you’ll have the dishes stacked up at the sink for a while.

So to sum it up work from delicate to robust, from cleaner to greasier. Replace the water if necessary.


Wash the dishes immediately after use. If you are too lazy to do that, soak them washing and start with the less problematic stuff first (from glasses to saucepans).

Some people fill the tub with water, detergent and the dirty dishes, soap all the dishes with the soapy water first, then rinse them all afterwards. It sounds like it saves more time and water than doing it one dish at a time...

  • i do this all the time. easier to clean when the sticky things are no longer sticky
    – fja3omega
    Oct 2, 2018 at 0:10

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