Task Master: How to Make Doing Dishes Easier

There are two methods: by hand or in the dishwasher. Check the notations on the bottom of a dish to see if it requires delicate care or can hang with the bulk of  ’em in the dishwasher. 

hand-washing dishes

Photo by Peter Ardito

Photo by Peter Ardito

Handwashing 101

  • Fill up half the sink with the hottest water your fingers can stand—and we mean it. Hot water is the most effective at killing germs when handwashing.
  • Get soapy. You know what to do.
  • Wash in this order: crystal (as for holiday guests), glassware, clear glass plates, other plates, flatware, serving ware, the greasiest serving dishes and cooking utensils, then pots and pans. This lineup ensures that delicate items are less likely to break under the weight of heavy ones being washed on top of them, and the dirtier dishes won’t clog up the sink before you even really begin.
  • Start washing from the non-eating/-drinking sides or surfaces before moving to the inside of the glass or front of the plate. Make sure to scrub handles and any other parts that are touched by hands.
  • Replace water when it has cooled or becomes too dirty. Duh. 

RELATED: Task Master: Tips & Tricks to Make Vacuuming Easier Than Ever

Get It Done

Put dishes, pots and pans right in the dishwasher after using. No more letting pots “soak” for days. 

Place a sign on the dishwasher that you can flip between “washed” and “unwashed” to let everyone know whether they need to empty clean dishes or get the cycle going. 

Dry handwashed dishes as you go to prevent spots. 

Dishcloth or sponge? 
A dishcloth is the best bet because it harbors less bacteria, dries quicker and can be disinfected more easily. But if you need more intense scrubbing power, a sponge with a scrubby side or steel wool helps get the job done. Brillo Estracell Sponge or a Skoy Scrub pad are favorites. Brillo Estracell Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge, Skoy Scrub, amazon.com, both $6/set of 2 

Dishwasher Dos & Don’ts


  • Mix up flatware in basket so items of the same type doesn’t stack together.
  • Place more delicate items in upper rack.
  • Start on top rack with cups, glasses and small bowls as well as dishwasher-safe plastics to keep them as far as possible from heating element of machine.
  • For baked-on crust only, soak pots and pans to loosen before loading.


  • For dishwashers bought in the last five years, do not pre-rinse dishes. Dishwashers now have a sensor that indicates how much food is on the item and how thorough the wash needs to be. Just scrape off bits of loose food.
  • Do not block water jets within the dishwasher with a pot or pan.
  • Don’t use more than the recommended amount of detergent. Overfilling the dispenser can leave a residue on dishes. 

Best in the Biz
Product picks from Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of Clean My Space.

Dishwashing Liquid
“Dawn, plain old blue, does the trick. Like it promises, it’s the best for cutting grease.” Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Original Scent, target.com, $2.50 

Dishwasher Detergent
“Cascade Platinum Actionpacs Dishwasher Detergent—I’ve tried tons of brands, including eco-friendly options, and none work as well.” amazon.com, $19/set of 62

Green Clean
If you're looking for a minimal footprint in your home and the environment, go for Seventh Generation. Their dishwashing products are biodegradable and free of synthetic fragrances, dyes and phosphates.” target.com, $3 

Pitching In
Everyone in the family should be taking care of their own dishes, with dinner dishes getting rotated through the family, no exceptions. Set this as a rule and avoid the eventual pileup before it begins. 

To Glove or Not? 
The answer is pretty much always yes; the only argument against gloves is personal preference.They protect cuts or burns from getting irritated, and prevent your hands from becoming cracked and dry (aka dishpan hands). They also offer an extra layer of protection from sharp objects in the sink. 

Tip: Keep a Lano hand cream nearby and use often to prevent cracked skin. ulta.com, from $15