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How to Survive Without a Dishwasher

I’ve heard people say: “Save your marriage. Buy a dishwasher”.

But what if we don’t have the space or the cash? Are we destined to a life of messy kitchens and strained relationships?

Today Megan from The Homemade Cook is sharing a few tips to help you keep your dishes under control and avoid gross smells and salmonella without hating your life.


  • Do the dishes together


Most unpleasant tasks are magically made less unpleasant and less tempting to avoid when someone else does them with you. Even if it means both of you are a little miserable, at least you have company! Use it as an opportunity to catch up on your day, or put on some great music and dance together.


  • Do the dishes before going to bed


Imagine padding through to your pretty clean kitchen on a Sunday morning and whipping up a batch of choc chip pancakes still in your pjs. Way better than waking up to last night’s dishes and scummy noodles in the sink!

I certainly don’t get the dishes done every night, but when I make the effort my mornings are way happier. Fresh start and all that.


  • Loosen with water


I’m certain that by splashing a little bit of water into the pasta sauce pot/mixing bowl/serving dish as soon as they are empty I cut my dishwashing time at least in half. That time between finishing prepping the meal and when I actually wash the dishes does the hard work for me, allowing the water to loosen up the dirt rather than that time allowing the gunk to dry hard onto the dish. Then all I have to do is wipe with a little soapy water rather than scrubbing and scrubbing.

The best is to do it as soon as I serve the meal (before we eat!), even while the pot is still hot. But be careful here! Immersing a hot pot into cold water or pouring a lot of cold water into a pot can cause the pot to warp from the sudden change in temperature. I get around that by using some warm water from the kettle or by using only a small amount of cold water. Just splash a little in and leave it on the cold stove.


  • Drip dry


I’m a big fan of leaving my dishes to drip dry. If I have the washing water hot and rinse off the particularly soapy dishes then I don’t have the problem of them drying with marks. And if they do, a quick wipe when I’m putting them away the next day is FAR more pleasant than standing there drying, drying, drying.

The only times I don’t drip dry are when I have company when I’m washing, or when I have a massive load to do and need the space (and even then I only cloth-dry the urgent ones!). Drip drying is the way to go.


  • Wipe the sink clean when you’re finished


Doing this makes it more likely that you’ll give your next dirty plate a quick rinse and place it on the drying rack, rather than letting it clutter up your lovely clean sink by lying there dirty.


  • Make it a dinner party tradition


Make it a tradition that dinner party guests help you do the dishes before they leave. This makes dinner parties a joy rather than a chore (see Sunday morning above).

Some of my happiest dinner party memories are of the laughing, chatting and singing that happens while washing the dishes afterwards. And it’s always more fun to wash a friend’s dishes than it is to wash your own!

Feeling awkward? Here’s how I do it:

I just happily say “In our house it’s a tradition that we wash the dishes together before you guys leave. So you can’t leave until they’re done” *cue bright, winning smile*. The important thing is to say this BEFORE guests are ready to leave. Otherwise you’ll have unhappy slave labour! But if you time it after coffee/dessert, in a lull in conversation, then it can feel like a pleasant, natural transition to a different phase of the evening. Quite often we end up sitting back down again for another cup of coffee (or, in my case, Rooibos Earl Grey) before the guests actually leave.


  • Hand-washer’s best friends


You don’t need any fancy kitchen equipment for dish washing. All I have is a scrubby sponge, a long handled brush (for scrubbing away the very icky stuff before I get in there with my sponge), and metal scourers (for when you burn a pot so badly that the loosening-with-water trick doesn’t cut it!). Just make sure to never use metal scourers (or anything metal) on non-stick pots or pans.

Sunlight liquid is my favourite. There are special cleaning products for very dirty pots; all I use is dishwasher powder (!) – sprinkled into the pot the grains somehow help with scrubbing.

If saving space is a concern, I suggest you use a dish drying mat (like this). I use it instead of a drying rack; it hangs away nicely when I’m finished.

If you have any hand-washing tools you love, please let me know in the comments below!

My Mom has a sign in her kitchen which reads: “Thank God for dirty dishes, they have a tale to tell – while others may be going hungry, we’re eating very well!” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could approach our dirty dishes with gratitude? (Hard as that may seem sometimes!) I really hope that these suggestions help you keep your kitchen a happy, clean space that you can enjoy!

You can’t cook? We can take you from takeaways and convenience meals to “I can do this!” Megan has created The Homemade Cook, online cooking courses for South African non-cooks. Visit the Facebook page for more details. Fill in the form below to request a free trial – valid only until Monday 30 January 2017.