Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I think I was nine years old before I ever got near enough a dishwasher to touch it. *Gasp!* Yes, I do live in the 21st century. And yes, our house has no dishwasher. ...Well, Dad says we have eight dishwashers - meaning us. But we have no electric dishwasher.

You know what? I don't really miss having one. I've loaded and unloaded plenty of dishwashers at friends' houses, and it seems to me that what with rinsing, loading, unloading, and having pans too big to fit in the washer, the person with a dishwasher doesn't save themselves that much work and time. So long as dishes have to be washed, I'd just as soon do them by hand.

That doesn't mean I adore washing dishes. I would love dishes that just clear themselves off the table and stack themselves neatly in the cupboard, clean and dry. But so long as dishes have to be washed, I am thankful for the dish sink.

I was thinking last night, as I washed the supper dishes, what a good place the kitchen sink is for praying and singing. Shamed as I am to admit it, there are a lot of people on my prayer list who would never be prayed for if it weren't for the kitchen sink. I've trained my mind to associate the dish sink as a gem of a place for spiritual evaluation, praising the Lord, prayer for others, and so on.

When I was little, the dish sink was the dreaded time-thief. No one wants to spend an hour out in the kitchen cleaning up after every meal. (Yes, that's how long it took me!) There were so many other things I could be doing! I used to look at my mother and older sister and wonder how they could finish the dishes so fast. It took me forever.

First, I'd put off washing for as long as I could; talking with my family, drifting out of the kitchen, trying to escape unnoticed. That didn't work very well. Sooner or later I'd be sent back to the kitchen. Then I'd putter around as I cleared the table, looking at the growing stack of dirty dishes every so often, and groaning to whoever passed through the room.

When I finally got around to getting my hands in the sink, I'd pretend to be a slave in a castle kitchen, and I'd stir the cooling water with a dirty spoon and pretend it was soup for the other slaves. Then I'd be a woman at a well in the desert, ladling out precious water to passing camel riders. Then I'd finally wash the ladle. No wonder it took me forever to finish the dishes.

But those days are gone. Now I consider myself quite the expert on washing dishes. (*grin* Doesn't every homemaker feel this way?) I've been doing it for so many years. As I washed dishes last night, I came up with a mental list of tips I've found to be helpful in dish-washing, and I thought I'd share them here. I'll be writing these from the perspective of someone who hand-washes everything, but I think even those of you with dishwashers can find something in here that applies to you too. Hope some of this is helpful, and even if you already know all this stuff, I hope the very last tip will encourage you!

~ Always, always, always, rinse your dishes right after using them. Don't ever leave a dirty pot sitting while you go eat your meal. If you do, it can really mean a headache with certain dishes - such as broccoli - which will harden on in a matter of minutes. (Then you have all those tiny green specks stuck to your pan, and they take forever to get off...then your fingers will feel a spot you missed...) But all pots and pans and bowls and such will benefit from a quick rinse with the sprayer before you stack them in the dirty pile. Your wash water will stay cleaner later on if the dishes have already been rinsed, and your wash time will also go much faster, because you won't be scrubbing hardened food off the dishes. This tip has cut down my washing time a whole lot.

~ Don't fill your sink with soapy water before you start washing. Instead, squirt your soap in and fill the sink only a few inches - enough to wash silverware in. Then rinse the silverware directly into your wash water. The level of the water should raise enough for you to wash cups in, which you will also rinse over your wash side of the sink. Do this until your sink is full of soapy water. In this way, your rinse water isn't wasted by running right down the drain, and your wash water will stay hotter. I can usually adjust this perfectly so that by the time I get to the pots and pans, my water is nice and high, and I just rinse the pots and pans into the rinse side of the sink.

~ Always save oily pans until last. But that's just common sense.

~ Wash by category. Don't just grab whatever is closest to the sink. Collect and wash all the silverware first, then the cups, then bowls or plates, then serving dishes, then pots and pans. This will help you stack the clean dishes easier, and I believe it cuts down my washing time. You sorta get into a rhythm, ya know?

~ Don't overdo it on the soap. You really don't need as much as you think you do. The soap actually doesn't kill germs - it loosens things. Friction and heat are the two things that kill germs the best, so rely on your hot water and arm muscles to disinfect the dishes, and use the dish soap to cut through grease. And please - rinse all the soap off! I hate to think about eating dried soap - which is clear - with my food. :)

~ Finally, have a good attitude. This makes the biggest difference in how quickly you finish. I have found that when I get right at it, don't let myself leave the kitchen until after the dishes are done, work with a will, and don't stop to dawdle, but keep a good pace, the dishes are done in an amazingly short amount of time. In fact, when I work like that, and pray and sing, dish time is almost enjoyable! Ah, the blessings of a heart that is right! It can even change dishes.


Amanda said...

Wow! Great tips! :)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE washing dishes! =)

-Amy in NY

Araba DeGraft-Hanson said...

Hi Amber, I'm just a reader passing through, but your story and blog speak to me on several levels. I was home-schooled as a girl and always feel a kinship of sorts for fellow "classmates", especially when they are Christians. I'm a foodie without a blog, but I get inspiration from reading others. It's funny, because I used to stall when dish washing too, only I'd form an "O" with my hands to blow giant soap bubbles:)Now that I'm older I like the peacefulness of the act. I think I will adopt your idea and convert dish washing into prayer time as well! Well, this is really long...hehe. Thanks for your transparency. God bless!