The Proper Way to Handwash Dishes

Now that my youngest brother is enjoying dorm life at Heriot-Watt, I felt compelled to teach him the right way to wash dishes. It may seem unimportant, but when you’re living on your own for the first time, it comes in handy and will pay dividends.

I started travelling at a young age, and I’ve observed the different ways that people in other countries clean their homes and wash dishes. And I can say with great confidence that the Filipinos still have a far superior method, even compared with Americans and Europeans (in my experience, anyway).

I observed this particular dishwashing method among people in the UK (particularly Scotland) and the US:

  • Fill sink with hot water bubbled up with dishwashing liquid
  • Put all the dirty dishes, pots and pans in and soak for a few minutes
  • Use a long-handled brush to clean the dishes
  • Drain soapy water and fill sink with plain hot water
  • Take dishes out and let them dry on a rack

This method is problematic because a.) a brush won’t clean the glasses and dishes thoroughly no matter how hard you scrub and b.) there will always be soap scum left no matter how many times you soak those soapy dishes in clean hot water.


I’m not sure what it is culturally that makes most people from First World countries icky about using bare hands to clean anything, but when it gets down to it, it’s the simplest, most practical and often most efficient way.

Here’s the best way to wash dishes as taught to me when I was six years old in Home Economics class:

  • Sort the things you’re going to wash. Stack like dishes together, put glasses together in one area, utensils, etc.
  • Scrape off any food or particles left on the dishes. Put a tiny amount of dishwashing liquid or paste on sponge
  • Using a wet sponge, soap one item at a time


  • Soap the glasses first because they are the least dirty among the things you’re going to wash. Focus on the rim of the glasses where lipstick stains stick


  • Soap the spoon, fork and utensils next. Don’t neglect the handles because they tend to have grease stains as well


  • Soap the small dishes, big dishes, cooking pots and pans last. For pots and pans, use a scouring pad to remove the sticky food particles
  • Run hot water from the faucet or fill basin with hot water to rinse the items in. Rinse one item at a time (following the order of soaping) with your own hands under running water or in the basin. Make sure it’s squeaky clean
  • Put on rack to drain excess water. Then dry with a clean dishtowel
  • To clean a rice pot or rice cooker: fill pot or cooker with water and leave until rice stuck in it comes loose. Throw the leftover rice away and soap and rinse the pot as usual
  • For non-stick, Teflon lined pans, do NOT scrub with anything rough or you’ll destroy the Teflon coating. Food won’t stick to it anyway, so rinsing it briefly with your hands or soft sponge under running water is more than enough

And unless you’re a professional beauty pagaent contestant trying to maintain a manicure or have a very bad case of ezcema, you really don’t need rubber gloves to wash dishes. Believe me, the grease and food stains on dishes won’t give you STDs. Just wash your hands with gentle moisturizing soap or handwash after doing the dishes to get rid of the greasy feel.

Of course, you can always use an automatic dishwasher. That is, if you can afford the electric bill that comes along with it.


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