For Once and For All, World: How Do You Do YOUR Dishes?


I have a love/hate affair with dishes. I hate doing them, but love them being done right. Which brings me to the question: what is YOUR definition of “right?”

The answer, of course, will be as varied as the person you are asking… but I think finding the answer starts by asking, “who TAUGHT you how to do dishes?” I’ve discussed with some friends the disparity between the genders in regards to dish cleanliness standards. A wise friend once posited that girls are better at doing the dishes because they spent more time than boys in the kitchen during their formative years watching their mother/sister/grandmother figure doing dishes. But what if that wasn’t your experience? It was mine. My earliest dish memory is watching my (13-years-older) sister doing dishes. Apparently, she did dishes so frequently  during her teenage years that she wrote a song about it. The lyric I remember is (in a driving, descending tone) “dirty dii-ii-iii-iii-shes…. are a PART OF MY LIFE. PART OF MY LIFE.” Catchy, right?

I watched my mom do the dishes. And although I remember my dad doing the dishes occasionally, it is primarily a mom memory. I watched her soak the dishes. Wash them by hand and then stick them in the dishwasher. And that is how I learned to do the dishes. But there have been moments in my life that have changed how I thought about dishwashing. There was the summer of 1996 in which I did the dishes for 250 people, 3 meals a day for a month at Rockbrook Camp for Girls in Brevard, N.C.- which, believe it or not, was an honor… no, really. There was the apartment that didn’t have a dishwasher. Any experience in food service. Who you are shapes how you do the dishes and what you consider clean.

When you are younger, doing dishes is a punishment. Now? It is still a punishment… but I see the value of doing it well as a way of taking care of your property. We have a dishwasher… and yet I still pre-rinse in the sink. Some people staunchly believe it not to be necessary. Jojo claims that there was a dishwasher he had, two apartments ago, that magically (without pre-rinsing) dissolved and cleaned caked-on gunk that had been sitting there for days. I told him that I wish we HAD that dishwasher… and I wished that we lived in that magical land where pre-rinsing isn’t necessary, but we don’t and it is. So, let me ask you world… what is YOUR dishwashing story? What is YOUR definition of clean? Take the poll and leave a comment!

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I’m dying to know! Thanks for participating! I want to make this an on-going dialogue, so stay tuned for updates!


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  1. I do rinse off (but not soak or actually wash) dishes immediately and then put them in the dishwasher, but I also leave them in there for as long as it takes for the dishwasher to get full before running it. If there is something still stuck on at the end (and there often is because my dishwasher kind of sucks, more so lately), I will scrape it off with my finger. If I can’t see where it was, that dish is done. If I can, it’s time to hand-wash.

    And … now you are afraid to eat at my house :-).

  2. After reading this post- I have another piece of insight which leads to a whole other quarry. I really only like to do dishes once a day- first thing after breakfast… So, I let supper’s dishes sit in the sink over night but then unload & load the dishwasher after breakfast… Normal?

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