Photo of hands washing a dish in the sink

10 dishwashing hacks to effectively & sustainably wash dishes.

Last Updated: May 21, 2021

It’s something we all do, but something we could probably all do better: washing the dishes. Check out our thorough guide on making washing dishes more sustainable, the Grove way.

Let’s face it, for something we all do multiple times a week, we don’t talk much about washing the dishes. I mean, washing dishes is pretty simple, right?

While it may seem simple, there are certainly techniques that make washing dishes faster, easier, more hygenic, and more sustainable.

We’re here to go back to basics and review the right and eco-friendly way to wash dishes.

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What are the most common ways to wash dishes?

There are three prevailing methods most people use when washing dishes:

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Method 1: Wash dishes in a sink bath

This method treats the sink like a bubble bath. Add a squirt of dishwashing liquid to a sink filled with hot water. Submerge the dishes in the sudsy water, pull them out one by one to wash with a simple sponge or dish-brush, then rinse with hot water to remove any bacteria, and drain.

This method is by far the most eco-friendly, saving water consumption and allowing you to take your time to get every dish clean.

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Method 2: Wash one dish at a time

When you only need to clean a dish or two, this is the method to use. Simply turn on the hot water, apply dish soap directly to a dish sponge, and clean, rinse, and drain the individual dish.

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Method 3: Load up the dishwasher

If you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher, simply load your dishes, add dishwashing detergent, and let the machine do the dirty work for you. This won’t work for all types of dishes (looking at you, cast iron), but it will certainly save you time on most of your dishes.

Grove’s hacks for washing dishes by hand

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Hack 1: How to get off stuck-on food

Use a spoon or rubber spatula to scrape off stuck-on food scraps from plates into the compost, garbage disposal, or trash.

Hack 2: How to fill the sink bath

Place a stopper in your sink drain, and stack your dishes in the sink — put large pans on the bottom and smaller dishes and utensils on the top.

Fill your sink with warm water. Add a few squirts of dish soap to the mix, and you’ve got a sudsy bath for washing dishes.

Hack 3: Wash from lightly to heavily used

Using a clean dish sponge, wash from least dirty to most dirty, starting from the top with lightly used dishes like glasses, cups, and silverware, moving all the way down to heavier plates and pots.

If you have enough space, keep the dishes underwater while scrubbing for a better clean.

Don’t forget this often-overlooked spot: the rim and edges of glasses, cups, and pot lids. Give these spots a good clean.


Wash the knives first!

As the bubbly water of the sink becomes harder to see through, knives and other sharp objects can hide away underneath the sudsy water. So always handwash your sharps before you start loading up the sink to avoid any accidents!

We tend to focus on the food-part of silverware, but the handle-part is probably pretty gross, too. Don’t forget to wash knife handles (as well as other silverware and pots and pans).

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Hack 4: Rinse off the soap

Rinse off any leftover suds or soap from your dish by placing it under a fresh flow of hot water. Hot water will kill any leftover bacteria for a sparkling dish.

If you only have one sink (instead of a double sink), you may need to drain some water from the filled sink to avoid an overflow. Then air dry on a dish rack or clean towel.

Despite the fact that we are putting clean dishes on the dish rack, it gets gross, so give the rack a good cleaning once in a while too with dish soap and a good dish brush.

Hack 5: How to wash your sink

If you want to keep your sink looking spic and span for the next set of dishes, give it a good rinse and scrub with hot water and a dish sponge to help prevent grime buildup.

Every few loads of dishes, clean your drain to prevent mold and odors — and disinfect your sponge in your microwave (Yup, you read that right!) every couple of days.

After a big load of dishes, the strainer or stopper in your sink is probably a little grimey too. Give it a good scrub with some dish soap and a dish sponge.


Grease goes in the garbage, not down the drain!

If any of your dishes, including pots and pans, have grease in or on them, don’t pour the grease down the drain! Grease can do a number on your drains, causing stubborn clogs and serious damage.

Grove’s hacks for washing dishes in the dishwasher

Hack 1: How to get off stuck-on food

Use a spoon or rubber spatula to scrape off any food scraps, disposing of them in the trash, compost, or garbage disposal. If you're dealing with older, stuck-on food bits, you may need to do a hot water rinse to clean them off.

Getting rid of stuck-on food on your plates before putting them in the dishwasher means all your dishes will get clean in each load which will save water and energy.

Hack 2: How to fill the top shelf

The top shelf is the spot for glasses, cups, plastics, dishwasher-safe tupperwares, bowls, and the like. Avoid stacking them on top of each other.

Hack 3: How to fill the bottom rack

The bottom rack is home to larger, flatter items like plates, skillets, and pans. Fill your bottom rack with these dishes, but don’t stack them on top of each other.

Place pots and pans upside down so they won’t fill with water. If there is some dishes or pans that still have caked on food, place them face down by the spray arm underneath for a concentrated clean.

Hack 4: How to fill the silverware compartment

Fill this compartment — but not too full! For long tools like spatulas, you’re probably better off laying them the long way on the top shelf.

Put fork tines up and handles down to get them nice and clean.

Hack 5: How to fill the detergent compartment

Don’t overfill the dishwasher with detergent! More is not better in this situation. Too much detergent can actually make your dishes dirtier after a dishwasher run because there will still be soap residue. Or the extra soap could cause clogs in your dishwasher drain. Yikes!

Fill the powder detergent receptacle with the amount of detergent recommended by the product or the manufacturer.

Hack 6: Which dishwasher setting is best?

For most dishes and dishwasher loads, a regular or “normal” cycle is fine.

The express or shorter 1 hour cycles are actually less eco-friendly and efficient, they tend to use more water and more electricity to get the job done.

For a more thorough look at the dishwasher cycles, read this Grist deep dive.

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Things to avoid putting in the dishwasher

While the dishwasher can handle most dishes in our kitchens, there are a few items you should never put in the dishwasher, but rather wash by hand instead, such as:

  • Large knives
  • Most wooden utensils
  • Items made of pewter
  • Anything cast iron
  • Crystal
  • Silver
  • Fine china

Want to know the best ways to clean your silver? We’ve got you covered there too.


Clean the machine

Periodically, it’s important to clean your dishwasher so it doesn’t grow mold, get gunked up with food particles and mineral buildup, and become odoriferous. Cleaning the dishwasher is easy, and it’ll keep your dishes sparkling.

Follow these steps for a naturally clean dishwasher.

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Ready to tackle the dirtiest spots in your home? Grove Collaborative has you covered with Clean Team. Each week, we’ll do a deep dive into how to clean a different place or item in your home. No spot is too small — and we’ll tell you how to conquer them all, naturally.