The Best Way to Handwash Dishes | HappyCleans

clean dishes

Posted on April 27th, 2021

Even if you own a dishwasher, there are times when you may need to wash dishes by hand. Not all dishes are dishwasher safe; cast-iron and non-stick pots and pans, for example, along with insulated mugs, crystal, kitchen knives, and painted china, all require handwashing.

We also recommend handwashing leftover dishes at the end of the night, rather than leaving them until the next time you load the dishwasher. When dirty dishes sit out overnight, they serve as a magnet for pests and a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. (The amount of bacteria on dirty dishes doubles approximately once every 20 minutes at room temperature. The good news? As long as you’re using the right techniques, handwashing dishes is a quick, easy way to keep your kitchen hygienic and odor-free. Below, our professional house cleaners in Oklahoma City share their favorite strategies for getting dishes squeaky-clean in the sink:


How to Handwash Dishes in 7 Easy Steps


Prepare your dishes by removing as much food debris as possible.

dish rack

Removing stuck-on food before you wash the dishes will make them easier to clean and prevent clogged drains and unwanted odors in the kitchen. To dislodge stubborn grime and grease, use a pot scraper or plastic spatula to loosen debris, then deposit it in the trash. Lighter messes, like sauce residue, can be wiped away with a damp cloth. When you’re done, stack the dishes in piles so they will be ready to load into the sink.


Set up your washing station.

First, gather your supplies: You’ll need a stainless steel or plastic scouring pad (for pots and pans), a soft non-scratch sponge (for glass items), dishcloths and towels, rubber gloves, dishwashing liquid, and dish drying racks.

Squirt about one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid into the sink, then fill it with piping hot water. (Never use cold water to handwash dishes. Cold water can’t lift grease or kill bacteria, so cold water washes typically produce streaky, unhygienic dishes.) If you have a second sink, you can fill it with cool water for rinsing.

While the sinks are filling up, place two clean kitchen towels down on the opposite side of the sink. Then, arrange your dish drying racks over the towels.


Load the sink.

Put on your rubber gloves and place the dishes in the sink, starting with the largest dishes first and gradually working down to the smallest. Add the utensils last. If you need to clean very sharp kitchen knives, we recommend leaving them out of the sink until you’ve washed all of the other dishes. That way, you’ll be able to handle them individually, which poses less risk of injury than letting them fall to the bottom of a packed sink.


Prepare your sponge.

Wet your sponge with warm water, then wring it out and dab on a few drops of dishwashing liquid. (Don’t use more detergent than this, or you’ll risk leaving streaks of soap residue on your dishes.) Massage the soap into the sponge until you see a foamy lather appear.

Wash the dishes

drying dishes

Scrub each dish thoroughly with the sponge, stopping to rinse the sponge and reapply detergent whenever it becomes visibly dirty. Wash the utensils first, then mugs and glassware, then medium-sized items like plates and bowls. Save the largest, dirtiest dishes (like pots and pans) for last. This way, if you have difficulty removing stuck-on grease and grime, you can leave these dishes to soak. Soaking will often loosen stubborn debris after one to three hours, making pots and pans much easier to clean.

After washing the dishes, rinse them in cool water and place them on the drying rack. Be careful not to overcrowd the dishes on your drying rack if you intend on letting them air dry, as you’ll need to leave some space for air to circulate around them.

Dry the dishes with a clean towel.

If you prefer to dry the dishes and put them away immediately after washing them (rather than letting them air-dry), make sure you use a freshly-washed kitchen towel to do so. Multi-use kitchen towels are extremely susceptible to bacteria growth because we frequently use them to wipe our hands during cooking, wipe up spills, etc. According to research conducted by the University of Mauritius, kitchen towels that aren’t washed frequently can play host to a variety of dangerous bacteria, including E. coli and S. aureus. Accidentally transferring these bacteria to your freshly-washed dishes will increase your risk of contracting a food-borne illness.

Scrub your sink to keep it smelling fresh.

After you’re done washing the dishes, use a paper towel to remove any leftover food debris from your sink and sink strainer. As a final touch, you can add a fresh citrus scent to your kitchen with a baking soda and lemon scrub: Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the meat of the lemon; then, scrub the sink vigorously. The baking soda will react with the lemon juice to dissolve leftover grease and make your sink shine. When you’re done, rinse the sink with cool water and toss the lemon rind in the garbage disposal (if you have one).


Struggling to Stay On Top of Housekeeping? Call the Experts at HappyCleans

Routine cleaning tasks (like washing dishes, wiping counters, and doing the laundry) can be time-consuming, especially if you have a big family. Understandably, many people don’t have enough energy left over at the end of the week to tackle bigger cleaning jobs – and that’s where having a house cleaner can help. Our team of licensed, bonded maids in Oklahoma can take care of detail cleaning and deep cleaning for you, giving you time to relax and recharge. To learn more, check out our services page or contact us to arrange an appointment with one of our cleaners.