Image title reads 'Dishwashing hacks for people who hate washing dishes.' Background image shows a kitchen counter and sink overflowing with dishes

Dishwashing hacks for people who hate washing dishes

My dishwasher isn’t cleaning my dishes and I don’t know why. It really sucks because I have a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and hate washing dishes!

I’ve followed all the DIY steps to find out why my dishwasher isn’t cleaning, but everything seems to work as it should. But it isn’t. And now I have to clean the pile of dirty dishes in the sink (and on the counter and on the stove).

Image of kitchen counter covered in dirty dishes and kitchen sink full of dirty dishes and stove top covered in dirty pots and pans
My overwhelmingly dirty old farmhouse kitchen before

The reason for the pile of dirty dishes in the sink is that it has been a busy weekend. We had company for dinner yesterday and they stayed late. Despite using paper plates, I am now overwhelmed by a sink full of dirty dishes.

It’s been so long since I hand washed dishes that I had to mentally go back to my pre-dishwasher days to remember how to wash dishes without a dishwasher and deal with piles of dirty dishes all over the kitchen. 

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Pin text reads 'how to wash dishes without a dishwasher - the easy way to clean dishes by hand.' Image is an overhead photo of someone washing dishes in the sink using this guide to washing dishes step by step.

Why do we hate washing dishes?

I’m not entirely sure why I hate washing dishes, but I have a few ideas. It’s boring. You have to deal with gross food and sauces and water that splashes on you. Sometimes, it can simply feel overwhelming when you’ve let the dishes build up all over the kitchen and you don’t know where to start.

Another reason I hate doing dishes is because usually I’m not only washing the dishes I used, I’m washing everyone else’s dishes as well. I get tired of washing dishes for everyone. And a little resentful. 

And then there’s the whole pointlessness of doing the dishes. Because it seems as soon as you’ve got them all clean and put away, more magically appear in the sink. Rinse and repeat.

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the negative aspects. I’ll just get right to the business of how to wash dishes fast.

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How can I motivate myself to wash dishes?

If you’re wondering what to do when you hate washing dishes but your kitchen is a write-off, I’ll let you in on a little secret. My best dishwashing hack is to deal with it in 10 minute increments. It’s the easy way to clean dishes by hand. By breaking it down into smaller chunks you will find it’s much faster and easier to deal with the overwhelm of a messy kitchen.

Remember to take breaks too. The time required to soak and air dry dishes is perfect for built-in breaks so you don’t have to keep looking at the mess and hyperventilating from anxiety.

It also helps if you put some good music on that motivates you or listen to a podcast you’ve been waiting to hear. This helps make the process go by a little faster.

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Pin title reads "The easy way to wash the dishes by hand." Pin outlines 6 steps to cleaning dishes by hand - 1. scrape off food; 2. organize and stack; 3. Fill the sink; 4. Wash; 5. Rinse; 6: Dry

What is the correct order to wash dishes?

While there is no “one way” to do dishes, another dishwashing hack is to follow a simple pattern when doing dishes, especially if there’s lots of them. This short organizational exercise helps to wash dishes faster. Here’s my guide to washing dishes step by step.

Glasses that have been sorted before soaking and washing
Glasses that have been sorted before soaking and washing

Sort your dishes into piles

I start washing my dishes by sorting them into categories. Make sure to scrape off any remaining food particles into the trash before sorting them.

I sort plates with plates; bowls with bowls; silverware and utensils all together; and glasses and mugs together. Then I move on to the larger stuff like serving and mixing bowls and pots and pans that I gather on the stove.

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Place sorted dishes in the sink and fill it

Then put the plug into the sink and fill the sink with the smaller sized dishes first. I put the plates in first, then the small plates on top of them. Then bowls on top of those.

The silverware and utensils go in next. Then the glasses and mugs are placed over everything else.

Don’t worry if you can’t fit everything in one load. I rarely do.

Dirty dishes soaking in the sink before washing
Dishes soaking before washing

Soak the dishes

The key to washing dirty dishes quickly and efficiently is to soak them first to loosen any stuck on food and grease. 

Run hot water into the sink and add a squirt of Dawn dish soap. Let the sink fill up until everything is covered in hot, soapy water and turn off the tap. 

Then let it all soak for 10 minutes while you take a break and do something more enjoyable like sip on a coffee or, maybe, a glass of wine.

Repeat this step for each sink full of dishes.

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Wash the dishes

Once the dishes have soaked for 10 minutes or more, it’s time to start washing them. If you put them into the sink in the same order outlined above, it will be natural for your dishes to be washed in the order below. Wash your dishes with a clean dish cloth, dishwashing sponge or dish cleaning brush.

Glasses and mugs

Be sure to wash both the inside and outside surfaces of your glasses, mugs and cups and make sure to wash the rims. Use light pressure so you don’t break them.

Silverware and utensils 

These can be washed in batches, but be careful of sharp edges. Make sure you wash both ends of all silverware and utensils.


Wash both the inside and outside surfaces of bowls.


Wash both the tops and bottoms of each plate.

Serving bowls and platters

Be sure to wash all surfaces of your serving bowls and platters.

Pots and Pans

Pots and pans may need a longer soaking time if they are very dirty with baked on grease or burnt food. 

You may want to scrape them with a spatula or other utensil after soaking and before washing them to keep your cloth, sponge or brush from becoming too dirty with grime. 

Additionally, you might have to proactively replace the dirty water with clean water before the final wash if there’s a lot of gunk floating around in there.

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Rinse the dishes

If you’re lucky, you have two sinks and one can be filled with hot, fresh water for rinsing. Just place your dishes in the rinse sink as you go.

You can rinse the dishes as you go with a trickle of hot water running from the tap if you only have one sink (like me). Make sure to let some water out of the sink a little as you go to avoid flooding.

Another way to make rinsing easier with one sink is to use a plastic dish basin to soak your dishes. This will allow the rinse water to drain without overflowing the sink.

Image shows clean dishes on a towel air drying
Clean dishes air drying

Air dry your dishes

While you could use a dish towel to dry your dishes, it’s easier and more sanitary to let them air dry. This is because dish towels are used to clean hands and countertop messes, so they may have traces of bacteria on them.

I don’t have a dish drying rack anymore because I usually use my dishwasher. But if I didn’t have a dishwasher, I would be using this awesome space-saving over the sink dish drying rack. I might just get one anyway because there’s always something that can’t be washed in the dishwasher.

If you don’t have a dish drying rack, you can use a clean towel placed on the countertop to air dry your dishes. After rinsing, place the glasses, mugs and cups upside down farthest away from the sink. Then put bowls, plates and serving dishes sideways leaning against the glassware on an angle.

Silverware can just be placed on the towel closest to the sink. Turn spoons downwards to drain any remaining moisture from them.

For serving dishes, bowls and pots and pans, start with the smallest and work your way up to the largest. You can lean them vertically against each other to ensure space for air drying.

Once all your dishes are stacked up to dry, you have earned yourself another break while they dry.

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Put the dishes away

This is always the hardest part, even if it is really the easiest. It’s hard because by then you’re probably just tired of doing dishes. It’s easy because almost everyone has a place for their dishes and it’s easy to put things away when they have their place.

In any case, putting them away will give you the satisfaction of a job well done.

Clean kitchen counter with no dirty dishes
Clean kitchen with no dirty dishes

Wipe down the sink, counters and stove top

Once everything is put away, use your dish cloth or sponge to wipe down your sink, countertops and stove top. Take a look around your now clean kitchen and give yourself a pat on the back.

How do you keep dirty dishes under control?

Here are seven tips to keep dirty dishes under control:

Use paper plates for large gatherings

When you are entertaining more than just your immediate family, use paper plates that can be thrown away when done. We burn our dirty paper plates in our fire pit.

Minimize the amount of dishes you have

If you have a large family that likes to use a clean glass or dish every time they have a drink or snack, it will help if you minimize the amount of dishes that you have. This way, when the dishes run out, they’ll have to wash one to use one.

Assign dishes to each member of the household

If you really hate washing dishes, assign one dinner plate, dessert plate, bowl, glass, mug and set of silverware to each member of the household. You could use different types of dishes or different colors, but determine a way to differentiate them. This way each family member is responsible for cleaning their own dishes.

Wash the dishes as you go

If it’s just you in the household, make a point to wash the dishes you use after each meal to avoid them piling up into an overwhelming mess.

Make washing dishes part of your morning or evening routine

If it’s part of your routine to wash up the dishes on a daily basis, you will wash dishes faster and minimize the amount of dishes that pile up and become overwhelming and anxiety provoking.

Take turns doing the dishes

One person can do the dishes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other can do them on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Sunday can be takeout day or you can do them together, or Sundays could be alternated. If there’s more than two people creating dirty dishes, include them in the rotation.

Get a dishwasher

This is my favorite solution! There are even countertop dishwashers if you don’t have room. Then you only have to worry about washing dishes that can’t fit in the dishwasher or aren’t suitable for dishwashers.

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Does anyone like doing dishes?

While I’m sure there are some clean freaks out there who love doing dishes, I don’t think there’s many of them. I will admit, though, that I sometimes almost enjoy doing dishes on really cold days because it warms me up.

The fact is that dishes are part of eating and eating is part of everyday life, so we’ll always have to deal with washing the dishes. Once you have a routine for keeping your dishes clean, it won’t be such a chore to keep up with them.

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Here’s a true story about how much I hate washing dishes. When I lived alone in my twenties, my friends would all hang out at my place and, of course, they would eat. And dirty my dishes, but never clean them. 

I hated washing dishes so much that I just let them pile up for over 2 weeks, until one of my friends wanted to cook something and had to do them just to be able to cook. I called it a victory. They called it stubbornness.

Although all my dishes are now cleaned and put away, I still hate doing dishes. I’m already tired of doing dishes, so we need to get a new dishwasher soon.

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