In my house, it feels like the dirty dishes regenerate every time I empty the sink. Turn around to put away the cereal and -- POW! -- more dishes. Where do they come from? I didn't even know we still had those bowls.
There are a few ways you can streamline your dishwashing routine for quicker and more effective clean-up. Here are some top tips for getting dishes clean without doing quite as much work.
This feels counterintuitive, but if you're running the dishwasher a lot, don't fret. It may seem like hand-washing dishes after meals and snacks is the easier, faster and more water-conserving way to go, but you'd be surprised.
According to the EPA and a 2016 study by the Water Research Foundation, the average dishwasher uses about 6 gallons per load, while older models can use up to 10 gallons. An Energy Star-certified dishwasher can use as few as 3 gallons per load, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Pair that with the fact that your kitchen faucet probably uses around 2 gallons per minute and, unless you can get your dishes washed in 5 minutes or less, a dishwasher just makes sense as the most efficient way to clean dishes. Of course, not every home has a dishwasher. If you're washing dishes by hand, keep reading. There are other ways you can make life easier after meals.
Let really dirty dishes soak
Gross, but effective. After loading the dishwasher, you can let your hand-wash items soak rather than spend minutes (and gallons of water) washing them over and over under the running faucet. You can soak them one at a time, or fill the sink a little and let them marinate. You don't need a full sink to soak dishes effectively.
The best way to do this is to lather all your dishes at once. Then, plug the sink and run some hot water over all of them. Turn the faucet back on only when you're ready to rinse everything. Your dishes do need clean water to be sanitary, but soaking them all together in a few centimeters of dishwater isn't a health risk as long as you soap and rinse well at the end.
Organize your sink
If you are going to soak dishes, there should be a method to your madness. It might sound odd, but stacking and nesting dishes inside one another is one way to save water. You'll soak everything without filling each bowl up with its own water.
While you won't want a stack of dishes to sit in your sink for days on end, nesting them is a good way to make the work go faster -- and use less water, too.
For example, the hot soap and water surrounding the forks and small dishes sitting inside a larger bowl will begin dissolving bits of stuck-on food, which will make them that much easier to clean.
Ditch the disposal
In-sink garbage disposals are an easy way to get rid of gunk, but they also require running water in order to operate safely. Try this instead: Scrape your food into the trash or a compost receptacle rather than the garbage disposal.
It's faster, and you avoid forgetting which food items should never be put down a disposal, like bones and fruit pits. Scraping food into the trash will keep you from unintentionally harming your sink's disposal system or clogging your drain.
It's a cheap, handy piece of plastic that can tackle stuck-on food and keep you from needing to soak a dirty, burnt lasagna dish in water for hours on end. The pot scraper's hard (often silicone) edge and angled surfaces give you more leverage when it comes to getting crud off those pans.
You can also use it as a generalized scraper after meals. Just scrape food off each plate before you put it under the faucet. Do this before the food has a chance to dry on the plate. The more work you get done before you need to lather and rinse, the better.
Here Are 23 Ways to Save On Your Electric Bills Right Now
It might not be as fun as it sounds, but this method of washing your dishes could save you some serious cleaning time. Simply add soap and hot water to any containers you're washing, snap on the lids and shake them periodically. Think of it as a handmade dishwasher.
You'll only put water in the containers once, and agitating the soap every so often will get every inch clean -- or at least cleaner than you otherwise would. After getting out most of the peanut butter or oil, stick it in the real dishwasher as you normally would. This only works with items that have a lid, so don't go spinning suds around your kitchen from an empty bowl.