Cleaning tips: how to wash dishes quickly and efficiently


My mom didn’t teach me how to cook, but she did teach a vital lesson behind doing the dishes: Enjoy it.

When I asked my mother how anyone could like it, she replied, “It is not about the washing. It is the satisfaction of completely completing a task.” That feels especially important now when you may not feel motivated to face that to-do list, uncertainty reigns, and the balance between work and personal life is out of balance. Also, the pile of dirty dishes is crazy.

As with the kitchen, there are some who are natural at washing dishes and others who, um, need a little help. And no, this is not a passive-aggressive message for my children, although you can send this story to yours. (My aggressive-aggressive message to my children: fold the clothes!)

I honestly like to do the dishes now. This is how I do it:

Chef Joaquim Splichal's home cooking

Whoa, elegant. You don’t need this setting to rinse dishes first. Use the tap you have.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Scrape and spray
Dishwashing will be more difficult for you later if you let the oatmeal cake enter your bowl now. Right after eating, scrape up any remaining solids in the trash, including napkins. (Yeah, annoying. You know someone has to get that napkin out of the sink, right?) If there’s still dirt on your plates, rinse them off, using a blast from the spray function if you have one.

Start soaking
During and just after cooking, spray and soak bowls, pots, and pans in hot water to make them easier to scrub after eating. Slide kitchen tools and utensils into those hot baths to prevent scabs from forming.

Sink full of dirty dishes

My nightmare.

(Hill Street Studios / Getty Images)

Smart stack
Group items of similar size, with larger plates and plates at the bottom pyramid to smaller plates and bowls at the top. Just like a Tetris game, you will lose if larger shapes are stacked on open spaces. For special delicate items, wash, dry, and store them right away, or keep them safe on the counter next to the sink.

Knives out
Wash and store them right away so you don’t accidentally stab yourself. If you want to save the knife wash for a large dish session, designate a safe space for them in the sink and make sure the blades are flat.


Oh beauty

(Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet)

Dish washing machine? Create a system
If you’re using a dishwasher, first find out how you can fit more into the machine without breaking anything. Then load by the groups already established in the sink.

Handwashing? Rub well on all sides
As you can tell now, I’m a bit of a Type A when it comes to washing dishes (and generally keeping the kitchen spotless). But it is really important to thoroughly wash every surface of the plate, including the bottoms of pots and pans and baking sheets. I know you don’t eat, cook, or bake on those sides, but you don’t want them to end up with a greasy film that makes them permanently sticky. There may be cooked blackened stains you can’t scrub and that’s fine. As long as the fat layer disappears, you’re good.

Enter the area
Instead of resentfully boiling dishes that need to be washed, take the time to enjoy the space you have to think about whatever you want, not including anything. If I’m washing dishes to prepare for a great cooking session, I mentally plan my steps or consider different seasonings and techniques. If I’m exhausted at the end of a long day, I play music and disconnect.

Start again
I used to put away all my dishes, then I started cooking, serving, and cleaning again. But in this uninterrupted life cycle in the quarantine kitchen, I told my children that unless they are going to empty the dishwasher, they must use clean dishes. That saves a now seemingly unnecessary step of saving something just to get it out again. But save everything that won’t be used again soon.

Here’s an additional tip: The best dish rack is the inexpensive and regular one. My colleague Ben Mims and I washed tons of dishes and tried flat drying mats and elegant angle or adjustable rack models. We support the standard rectangular dish rack with vertical slats, a drip tray, and an utensil cart – it’s a sturdy workhorse that has the largest capacity and costs the least.