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7 Smart Ways to Cut Down on Washing Dishes by Hand

Aside from scrubbing floors and cleaning clothes with a washboard, washing dishes by hand is one of the most tiring types of domestic toil there is. Just look to any Disney princess story for proof. It’s all slog and drudgery. Part of the stress is physical, with the cloudy water and back-and-forth scouring. But just as much is psychological, as a cluttered kitchen muddles your mind with visions of baked-on crusts that refuse to yield to any dish cloth or scour pad.

Is it any wonder we eat out so often?

If the thought of washing dishes by hand is enough to kick your procrastination systems into high gear, take these next three minutes to review the basics. We’ve gathered seven strategies to help you cope with Canada’s soapiest chore.

Dirty dishes piled in kitchen sink, close-up

Gone Entirely

For when you absolutely don’t want to wash dishes at all, but you’d prefer a little more dignity than snacking straight from the sauce pan or pizza box.

  1. Paper Plates and Cups

You might not want to rely on disposable plates and cups for every meal – the cost and waste would add up quickly – but these special occasion helpers can be lifesavers when you don’t have the time or patience to clean up. Look to paper plates and cups for your next big hosting event or on moving week. Remember: Choose paper or plastic over Styrofoam, which cannot be domestically recycled in some markets and takes longer to decompose.

  1. Paper Towel

Not every meal needs a proper plate. For snacking on the couch, the odd pizza slice or any other dry foods, a sheet of paper towel can do in a pinch. And afterwards you’re even left with a napkin and something to wipe down the counter with.


Coping Strategies

Sometimes it’s not washing dishes itself that is the real chore per se, but rather it’s dealing with the stress that comes from contemplating the mountain of dishes piling in your sink and the extra aggravating items in particular. We’ve got some tactics for tackling the worst offenders so what remains is easy as possible.

  1. Pan Liners

Maybe you’re fine with washing dishes, but it’s the burnt-on crust you can’t stand the thought of. Rather than leaving pots and pans soaking overnight to haunt your dreams, keep the majority of the mess at bay by using a pan liner.

Pan liners and baking mats specifically designed to withstand high heat can keep your oven accessories crust free and your crock pots clean. Drop one in and pull it back out when you’re done, leaving the cooking vessel ready for reuse. Even a sheet or two of aluminum foil in a broiling pan or cookie sheet can save your fingertips from dish washing frustration. Parchment paper works, too.

  1. One Cup per Day

A mug of coffee. A glass of juice. A bottle of water. At the end of the day, it’s amazing there’s still anything left in your glassware cabinet. Rather than fill your sink with used cups and glasses, consider limiting yourself to using just one per day. Rinse your glass after use and let it laze in the drying rack until the next time you’re thirsty.

A glass which can either be seen as half full or half empty.

  1. Own Fewer Dishes

Maybe we’re onto something here. Having fewer utensils, cups and plates gives you fewer opportunities to put off doing dishes before your backlog reaches that stressful, critical mass. The less you have to wash, the less time you will also spend per wash.

  1. Wash as You Go

Not every fork, frying pan or fondue pot needs the full soap ‘n’ scrub treatment. Many of the dishes piling up by your sink can be rinsed and ready for recirculation right after use. (Think the measuring cups used for scooping dry ingredients.) Plenty more would require little more than 20 seconds of a sterilizing scrub from a soapy kitchen brush.

Sometimes the worst part about cooking a big meal is the cleanup that comes after. But if you take a few seconds to rinse and dry the knives, measuring cups and other meal accessories you no longer need, that pile of dishes waiting for you will be much less daunting. Even giving your dishes a quick rinse before stuck-on messes and crusty residue can form will go a long way to making the dishes a less stressful affair.


Game Changers

And when you want to take this stressful chore to its logical outcome…

  1. Dishwashers

For someone used to washing dishes by hand, a dishwasher can become the kind of daydream fantasy usually reserved for dream vacations and luxury sports cars. That’s because a half-hour of hard work once spent scrubbing at the sink instantly transforms into a nap on the couch or time with a good book. A dishwasher not only takes care of finger-wrinkling labour, but it keeps the stressful sights and smells of dirty dishes away from view and out of mind.

Even if you don’t have the ability to install a dishwasher in your current residence, you’re not out of luck. A portable dishwasher puts this handy appliance on wheels and operates through your kitchen tap, so you can get your regular fix of warm, dry dishes while keeping your kitchen and countertops uncluttered.


We hope some of these tips have given you new resolve in tackling your dish debt. Where you can, cut it out. When you can’t, cut it down. When you just can’t even, cut a cheque (or today’s digital equivalent). Just don’t let dirty dishes get you down.

Now don’t just sit there and scroll through handy household tips. You’ve got chores to do!



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