Surviving Without A Dishwasher

May 9th
Surviving Without A Dishwasher

Despite this blog being about all things domestic, I don’t write a lot about cleaning. I have a few articles, but for the most part I hate cleaning and I kinda stink at it. (Get it? Stink?? Oh, so punny! Forgive me, I’m my mother’s daughter.) But this is a topic I have a lot of experience with and I wanted to share my tips and tricks for surviving without a dishwasher.

For most of my adult life I have survived without a dishwasher. Or rather I have been the dishwasher.


In college my four roommates and I split the duties, but often times the dishes would just pile up (’cause you know, eating and then racing to class) until one of us snapped and cleaned the whole kitchen. Sometimes it got really bad. Admittedly, we didn’t keep the cleanest of houses, but we were four artists living under one roof. Most of the time I would just have a freak out moment and clean the whole dang house. My roommates would often times just get out of the way and give me my OCD moments. (Bless you ladies who put up with my crazy. I love you and miss you!)

Surviving Without A Dishwasher

When The Hubby and I got hitched we lived in one of those “luxury” apartments. The ones with a pool, a loft, a fireplace, and a blessed dishwasher. And for two years it was glorious! But the apartment just wasn’t us. It had no charm, it was so cookie cutter and blah. Beige, beige, beige. Our new place is adorable, and we love it! However, there is no dishwasher. And now we are, yet again, surviving without a dishwasher.

After five years of surviving without a dishwasher I have learned a thing or two. So when a friend posed the question: How does one survive without a dishwasher? It got my brain churning. I have come up with a list of great tips for surviving without a dishwasher.

Surviving Without A Dishwasher

Must Haves:

Surviving Without A Dishwasher

  1. Dawn. Just pay for it. Honestly, it makes all the difference. I used to use the cheap stuff and I used way more and the dishes were not as clean as they are with Dawn. It’s so worth the little bit of extra money, and you get to support saving wildlife. I also use SOS pads for getting grime off of pots, pans, and cookie sheets; denture tabs for water bottles and travel mugs; salt for my cast iron pans; and sometimes just good old baking soda and white vinegar.
  2. Drying Rack. Of all the tips my friend got on her FB inquiry, this was the number one on everybody’s list. Get something that works, doesn’t have to be fancy.
  3. Drying Mats. Again, doesn’t have to be fancy, just functional. Something to soak up all the dripping water. I have one for under my drying rack and one that I put out when I have big pots or just more dishes than will fit on the rack.
  4. Good Scrubbies and Sponges. Again, this is something that I spend a little extra money on. I have SOS pads for my pots and pans (to get the major grime off) and regular sponges with a scrubby side for the regular dishes. Read this HGTV Mag article to learn how to best care for your sponges and avoid nasty bacteria.
  5. Bottle Brush. I have a few different speciality cleaning brushes. I have a bottle brush, its supposed to be for baby bottles, but works for cleaning anything that is hard to get into. I have tiny brushes and toothbrushes as well.

Surviving Without A Dishwasher

Nice to Haves:

  1. Good Lighting. I added a string of Christmas lights over my sink so I can see better when I’m washing my dishes after the kids go to bed.
  2. Ring Holder. I just put my ring on the shelf right above my sink, but a ring holder is nice to have. You should always remove your rings when you are doing the dishes.
  3. Pretty Soap Dispenser. I put my soap in an old (but pretty) hand soap dispenser. I think it’s easier to just pump out what I need rather than dealing with a big bottle of soap. Plus, I can buy a giant Costco bottle of soap and refill my pump dispenser as needed.
  4. Cute Dish Towels. I’m a sucker for a cute tea towel, I blame my mom for this one.
  5. Motivation. This chalk board sign from Primitives by Kathy is so cute and could make a sink full of dishes seem a little less daunting.

Surviving Without A Dishwasher

Tips and Tricks:

  1. Let It Soak. If you have having trouble with a dish let it soak in some warm, soapy water for a few minutes.
  2. Rinse It Right Away. If you don’t have time to wash the dish right away, then rinse it out and set it on the counter or leave it in the sink to soak. Especially if you have glasses of milk, smoothies, juice, or bowls of soup, cereal, chili, or pretty much anything that isn’t water, or a sandwich. Give it a quick rinse and get the gunk off then leave it for later.
  3. Use It Again. This might gross some people out, and I’m sorry if it does, but I swear I don’t get too weird about this one. Pick one glass per day and use that glass any time you need water. Then use one plate, so long as you can brush it off between meals. And if you are using a fork to stir some leftovers in a pan, use the same fork to eat with. Wash the dish at the end of the day. If you do this you will have significantly less dishes.
  4. Play Tetris. Figure out the most efficient way to stack your dishes into the drying rack and then always wash your dishes in this order. For me this means doing the plates first, then bowls, then glasses, then knives and silverware, then pots and pans.
  5. Don’t Let It Build Up. If you can, stay on top of your dish pile. Don’t let it get out of control. Best case scenario is washing a dish after you use it, but this isn’t always possible so do it as much as you can but don’t stress.
  6. Downsize. The less dishes you have in your house the less you will be washing. It’s just math.
  7. Develop a Routine. I usually wash a few dishes throughout the day whenever I can spare a minute and then I try to do the rest after the kids go to bed and in the morning I put everything away. Most of the time this works. Some of the time it doesn’t, but c’est la vie! Finding a routine is key to not going crazy.

Surviving Without A Dishwasher

Here are a few more tips from the FB world:

  • Soak any really gross dishes while you eat.
  • Get a plastic scraper
  • Put silverware in a dirty pint glass so they can soak separately.
  • Clean while you cook.
  • Tree hungers may kill me for this, but keep a pack of paper plates for those days you KNOW you won’t have the time to do dishes. (haha! I love this tip. There are plenty of compostable paper products on the market for the tree huggers.)
  • Reserve the majority of dishes for company, and use only a few for day to day.

    What are your tips for surviving without a dishwasher?

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