Teach Your Kids To Hand Wash Dishes

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Ivy says:

Last night, there were several dishes left over after starting the dishwasher. This happens with some frequency, we use a heck of a lot of dishes in our house. Normally, I would just rinse them and set them in the sink to run the dishwasher this morning, but it occurred to me that my 7 year old daughter doesn’t know how to hand wash dishes, and it’s time to rectify that. She actually enjoyed it so much, she wants to hand wash dishes with me from now on.

I think being the dryer/putter awayer is the best place to start with learning to hand wash dishes, so that was her position, while I washed, giving a running commentary on how I hand wash dishes. I always wash my dishes from cleanest to dirtiest with the exception of silverware and knives, which I do first.

I put all the silverware in the water except sharp knives, then I wash each sharp knife and rinse. I showed her how to carefully dry the knives. Then I wash all the silverware and rinse them all collectively. Then I wash the glasses, then the plasticware. Then plates, then pots and pans.

She was shocked that there needed to be some order to how you wash dishes, but anyone who has ever tried to get plastic clean in greasy water can relate- there HAS to be an order to how you do it. It’s funny to me that technology has gotten us so far from the basics, that my daughter has reached the advanced age of seven and hasn’t learned how to hand wash dishes. We don’t own much stuff that has to be hand washed, so the act of filling up a sink and actually doing dishes is a very rare occurrence in our house.

Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about the act of hand washing dishes. On one hand, it uses less electricity and presumably less water. And there’s something satisfying about “I’ll wash, you dry” and then using that time to talk with each other. Yet, I do think dishes are more sanitary when you wash them in the dishwasher, and it’s way, way more speedy.

When it all comes down to it, I think we’ll wash dishes by hand more often.

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16 thoughts on “Teach Your Kids To Hand Wash Dishes”

  1. I don’t have a dish washer and my daughter is 2, so it’s pretty much all me. I wouldn’t even know how to use a dishwasher, my mom never had one either.
    But there is something so very relaxing about having you hands in hot soapy water and having your thoughts all to yourself.
    But I would take a dishwasher in a heartbeat!

  2. Except, my dishwasher isn’t an energy star and I doubt that it goes to any trouble to save water, either. (In my defense- the dishwasher came with the house. If we buy a new one, we’ll get one that conserves energy) So the way I look at it, it’s definitely saving electricity and possibly saving water.

    I think rinsing the silverware collectively helps save water, too, just as a side comment.

  3. I think it actually takes me longer to load the dishwasher than it does to just wash and rinse the dishes by hand (then leave them to dry in the rack). With the dishwasher, I spend so much time arranging and rearranging things to get optimal packing without compromising water flow.

  4. I have a dishwasher, and I use it, but I honestly some times wonder why. I can certainly wash, dry, and put away dishes faster by hand than waiting for the dishwasher. And I know my dishes get cleaner by hand. My dishwasher is fairly new (the apt. complex was built in 2001, I believe), so I’m not sure what the issue is.

    Last week, someone ran a blog carnival of sorts, asking people to post pictures of their loaded dishwashers, showing how much they could load and still get the dishes clean (it was a bit of a contest to see who could load the most). I was both impressed and horrified. I’ve loaded HALF as many dishes as these women were and my dishes weren’t clean! I believe I’m loading them properly, I rinse the really dirty ones, I’ve tried both powder and liquid soap, it seems to no matter.

    I should just use the stupid thing as a cupboard and do dishes by hand….would that be weird? LOL

  5. No dishwasher. It busted years ago when we were broke (some things never change) and so we tore it out and put in much needed cabinet space. Dish time is good talking time.

  6. I used to wash dishes with my Grandfather every night after dinner. Now that I’m grown and he’s gone, those are the sweet memories that I remember, and I find that I enjoy washing by hand because it still gives me that sense of accomplishment and pride that I felt as a child.

  7. One of my fondest memories is washing dishes with my then-mother-in-law after a big Sunday dinner. She’d wash, I’d dry, and we’d chat. Since no one else wanted this job, I got to have her all to myself which was rare in a huge Irish-Italian family!

    I do quite a bit of handwashing because the dishwasher is just much too hard on painted items and especially on my vintage glass & cookware! My 1960s Pyrex never sees the dishwasher! *shudder*

  8. I just got a dishwasher after not having one for 2 1/2 yrs… I need a dishwasher, I am a crabby person without one. My oldest loads it and unloads it and it washes, it is great. Having no dishes to do helps me keep the rest of my house clean. There is just something about a clean sink that makes me want a clean house.

  9. we didn’t have a dishwasher until we moved to a new place when the girls were 13 and 15 years old. You’d think that would be old enough to appreciate not having to handwash. But no, it took approximately 1 day for them to whine about having to fill, and empty the dishwasher.
    (whether or not older washers save water depends on your washing and rinsing style. If you are a rinse under running water person, your better off using a reasonably new (10 years or so) dishwasher.)

    If you need sanitized dishes, including baby bottles or preserving jars, the dishwasher and the heated drying cycle will do the trick more easily than boiling them.

  10. I enjoyed hand washing dishes as a kid. Now, not so much.

    My mom taught me a very specific order though. First, any pots and pans that weren’t washed as she cooked (the more you can wash while cooking the easier it is later!), then serving dishes and serving silverware, plates, glasses, and silverware always last. The reasoning? Start with the stiff that doesn’t touch anyone’s mouth and work towards the stuff that touches people’s mouths. I think it’s probably a leftover from the days when they used one bucket of water to do the dishes.

    These days .. I LOVE my dishwasher (:

  11. Just make it fun. My mom used it as punishment and I HATE doing anything in the kitchen. My kids like to wash by hand, since it’s faster. We will do them by hand if the dishwasher is full and running so that the kitchen is clean instead of leaving them until later. It only takes seconds and we have fun talking while we do it. I never use any cleaning chore as punishment. We clean to make our house nice for US, not company, and we do it because it makes US feel better. I want them to have a healthy attitude about a clean house not a clean because company just rang the doorbell, or because you HAVE to.

  12. In the house we just sold, we didn’t have a dishwasher, so I was forced to wash dishes. I hated it at first. But then I grew to actually enjoy it, and now that we rent and I have a super small sink, I am not able to hand wash anymore. I actually miss it! My kids were learning when we lived at our old home, and I just wish our sink was big enough for them to continue. I just do not care much for dishwashers, hand washing does a much better job.

  13. A response to AA: it sounds like you are doing the dishes in the reverse prder to what makes sense! Cleanest items first through to the dirtiest is how I was taught. I am 51 and this house I live in (18 months) is the first one that I have had a dishwasher in.

  14. An interesting way to teach children who watch television shows how to wash hands is to tell them to imagine they are surgeons who are washing their hands at the sink just before a major operation. Tell them to follow the same procedures, and once on the link in their minds are made up, washing hands will never be a problem for them.


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