The Art of Dishwashing

That seemingly, never-ending pile of dirty dishes doesn’t have to be a boring task to dread.  When I see a large stack of dirty dishes my first reaction is to groan and want to put off the chore but once I start I love the almost meditative process of washing dishes.

There might be a bit of a child still inside this body who loves playing in soapy water. Lord, knows I hate when one of the grand children decide they want to take over this job.

hleping with chores

A friend taught me how to enjoy washing dishes. Step one, kick everyone else out of the room.  She would inform her family this was her alone time.  She then threatened her family by telling them if any one of them came to the kitchen or tried to talk to her while she was washing the dishes they would have to dry and put the dishes away. It worked every time and got to the point that she no longer had to warn them, if one person walked into the kitchen and saw her at the sink they would turn and leave upon warning the rest of the household not to enter the kitchen.

Until I moved into this house there were only three and a half years that I ever had a dishwasher in my kitchen, and I never bothered to turn it on and because I never used it, and because my son is very ADD, it took two years before he realized we had a dishwasher in our kitchen. 🙂

I will always enjoy that meditative process of wiping down the dishes, the feel of the hot water on my hands, even the process of drying dishes but there are times I stack the dishwasher and let it do the work for me now. It’s just not as much fun to wash a large amount of dishes from a seated position.

The problems I ran into when using the dishwasher were the cost of the detergent and the ingredients.  Most commercial brands contain bleach which my lungs can’t tolerate. To use them I need to leave the house while the dishwasher is running or have problems breathing.  Instead, I purchased a package of Mrs. Meyer’s dishwasher tabs but these are encased in plastic which I wasn’t happy about, nor did I like the price.  $15 for a small package of 20 tabs. What’s a gal to do? Well, make her own for pennies a load.

dishwasher powder

I found the recipe for this dishwasher powder on Pinterest (sorry I don’t have a link for you).  It’s a simple recipe.

1 cup of baking soda

1 cup washing powder

10-20 drops of essential oil (optional)

That’s it. Takes just minutes to measure and prepare. To use simply add approximately a tablespoon of powder in the compartment of your dishwasher and run as normal.   I store mine in a clean glass spaghetti sauce jar.  It works wonderfully, saves me money, and eliminates the guilt of having plastic enter the water system. In full disclosure,  being a vegetarian I don’t have caked on messes or greasy pots and plates so I can’t tell you how this works on them.

Do you enjoy washing dishes?




  1. Looks great (the soap) Lois. Right now I have laid in a rather large stock of dishwasher soap I got at a huge clearance price. However, when I run out, I will be looking to try this.

    I notice you have baking soda as one ingredient. If you put vinegar in the automatic rinse compartment of the dishwasher, it will give the dishes an extra shine.


  2. funny I should read this just after having finished my dishes. I usually use Dawn dish detergent, but recently acquired a container of Mrs. Meyer’s dishwashing liquid. As I washed dishes this evening, I actually realized that I was enjoying washing the few dishes that were there. I don’t have a dishwasher. and agree with you, it is not near so much fun washing dishes by hand if there are lots of dishes or greasy pans to wash.


    • I used to swear by Dawn and my boys were shocked when I switched. There is a big difference between washing holiday dishes for a large gathering and a few for one or two people, although I never minded hand washing any amount of dishes as long as I was left alone.


  3. Oh, I should add… most often, I much prefer having a companion in the room to chat with as I wash dishes. I think this goes back to washing dishes when I was growing up. With 7 children in our family plus our parents, we had lots of dishes to wash. Some of my fondest memories are washing dishes with my mother & having her full-attention.


    • I had the opposite experience. I was the oldest child so dishes were my chore but my siblings would come in and grab glasses or bowls and dirty them as I was washing so my pile kept growing and I now prefer to be alone with my dishes.


  4. I don’t love washing dishes – and I love the dishwasher! I was making my own dishwasher powder – similar to yours, but found the dishes were looking dull, needed to put a commercial powder through every now and then. Now that I can buy dishwasher powder by refilling my own container I have stopped making my own. I used to have a bin inside a specially designed drawer in my last house, to hide away all the handwashing items until I had enough to wash at once. It kept my bench tidy, and I miss it. Yes doing dishes as a child was a good time to chat to Mum.


    • I wonder if my dishes aren’t getting dull because I only use the dishwasher a time or two a month. In my grandparents home they stored the dishpan under the sink and stored the dishes there until they had enough to do a full pan of dishes. Just like you found it made the kitchen feel neater and was more relaxing to hang out there than if there had been stacked dishes on the counter or in the sink.


      • I meant to say, my bonding time with my boys was over other work. If I sensed one of my boys needed to talk I would start to sand down a piece of furniture or work on the car. They always opened up during those moments.


  5. Well… I’ve been around and around on this topic, and my conclusion is that where environmentalism is concerned, dishes are the ultimate damned if you do, damned if you don’t predicament.

    There was a time in my adult life when I hardly ever used my dishwasher. This was back in the era when I only had one healthy cat, before I had food allergies (meaning when I still ate a lot of pre-packaged food) and when I could still manage as a vegetarian (fewer germs to worry about.) But these days I’d be lost without my dishwasher. Seriously, people say that for most households the laundry machine is the single biggest power suck – which never makes any sense to me because I do one load of laundry every 2-3 weeks. Dishes, on the other hand – I fill that sucker to the brim at least 5 times per week – lots of pots and pans to wash!

    And as I discovered when I bought my super efficient Bosch dishwasher, there’s a trade off with highly efficient models. They use so much less water that you can’t use homemade detergents (I tried) or even the standard dish powders, because they deposit debris back on the dishes – then you have to wash them again. Or you can pre-rinse them to the point that you’re essentially washing them twice, and then only use about a quarter teaspoon of detergent – but at that point you might as well just wash them by hand. The only way to get the sucker to clean the dishes well is to use dishwasher tabs – and it does a pretty amazing job that way.

    And if I try to do the dishes by hand, I have no choice but to use gloves because otherwise my skin literally turns red and flakes off – not to mention the horrible things it does to my nails. And, of course, I can’t use natural latex gloves because of allergies – so it’s back to plastic. Plus, they say that unless you use the dunk to rinse method of hand washing, it actually uses less energy to use the dishwasher because it consumes so much less water (I think mine uses 4 gallons for a load.)

    At any rate, since I’ve concluded that environmentally speaking, there is no winning in this equation, I’ve decided to take the path of least resistance and just use the dishwasher with the detergent tabs. Sigh.


    • How horrible, Cat, to have to deal with your allergies and skin issues if hand washing dishes. I can’t stand to work with gloves, although I did put gloves on when cleaning up a surprise found in the kitchen last week. I get the whole environmental thing around dish washing but it would take days to properly fill a dishwasher unless I had company. If I tried to use the dishwasher exclusively, I’d have to pull things out to wash to use them before the load was full. That’s not to say I don’t use it when it makes sense.

      Do your dishwasher tabs have the plastic casing on them? I couldn’t find any that didn’t.


  6. Years ago, the subject of dishwashing would have made me frown. It was something I disliked doing and avoided as much as possible, glad that for much of the time growing up, we had a dishwasher and wasn’t something I was often required to do except on holiday, when it had something of a novelty value. I was delighted when I moved to the first place of my own that had a dishwasher – without one, my kitchen was always a big mess and I couldn’t keep on top of it at all, I really had to learn about housekeeping. However, in our holiday home at the sea, there is none. It became a tradition that our daughters and their friends were responsible for the dishwashing, and though they may not have enjoyed it much, they did enjoy the time spent mostly singing as they dealt with their chore! These days, I have to do my own washing up there when there are no kids to do it (visitors’ kids are forewarned!) and really quite enjoy keeping everything clear and clean and I don’t leave it to pile up any more, either, which may be the elemental part… My daughters eventually learned to keep on top of things, too, and their kitchens are more than respectable these days 😉 And at home, I have a dishwasher, however, it doesn’t stress me to wash things up by hand occasionally or if the DW is out of order, which happens occasionally. Possibly because I also now have less “stuff”!!
    One thing I remember reading as a girl and marvelling at, at the time, was in one of the Sue Barton nursing stories where it says she loved the rainbows in the bubbles; that stuck with me and I learned to appreciate that and other parts of dishwashing, eventually!


    • I never read a Sue Barton story but yes, I do look for the rainbows in the bubbles. 🙂

      Swiss Rose, we have one thing in common, if I let the dishes pile up I will try to procrastinate getting started as I feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of dishes. But it never fails to become a soothing chore once I start. I think how we view dish washing has a lot to do with how we saw them being done, or did them growing up. My one daughter-in-law grew up in a home with two dishwashers and two microwaves in her kitchen. Her mother didn’t like to cook and did almost all her cooking in a microwave. She had two microwaves to prepare multiple dishes at the same time. Similarly, with the dishwashers, she didn’t like putting dishes away so one held the clean dishes and one was for dirty dishes. The pulled dishes out of the clean one to use rather than getting them out of the cabinets. My daughter-in-law hates washing dishes as a result. In her first two homes with my son there wasn’t a dishwasher and I often wandered into her kitchen to do the dishes for her knowing how much she hated the task.


  7. These last few months are the first time I’ve ever had a dishwasher and I’m not impressed. If you don’t almost completely wash all the dishes before putting them in, they smell before it’s time to run the washer when it’s full (every 1 1/2 days or so). The pots and pans almost never go in there because I will need them a couple times a day. So … what’s the point? Besides, the glasses are now a streaky mess from the hard water and my old real silverware tarnishes in a couple weeks of being washed in the dishwasher.
    I grew up doing dishes with my mom and sister and it was a social time to talk about all sorts of things, sing songs, etc, and I continued that tradition with my chIldren. I still enjoy washing them by hand but I have one requirement — there must be a window above the sink to gaze out of!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly!! Cynthia you and I have the same problems with using the dishwasher on a regular basis. I don’t have cabinets full of pots and pans or any thing else for that matter so if it’s just me and I need to wait to fill the dishwasher I’ll be pulling items out to wash by hand before that. My dishwasher is used when I have company and enough dishes to run a full load on that same day. It’s really funny to me which parts of the country haven’t adopted the dishwasher as a required appliance in homes. Living in California and Arizona I couldn’t find a home without a dishwasher, here in Pennsylvania rentals rarely have one unless the rental is in a upper priced apartment complex. Most homes sold today though tend to sit on the market longer if they don’t have one so the views are changing on what people want in their kitchens.

      Oh and yes, there needs to be a window. That’s the only thing I miss here. I had planned to cut an opening and install a window over the sink here, did it once before in a house, until I realized the window would look into the bathroom any time a person walked up the ramp to visit. 😦


  8. Because of the monotony of the task, I use this time as “thinking” time for my writing, the time when I can untangle a plot or expand/build a character. In my days when I was still lecturing I would use this valuable time for memorizing facts and lectures. After a long, busy day I however prefer to put in my earphones, turn on soothing music and use the slow, repetitive movements to bring calm to an overstimulated body. Cleaning up the kitchen helps me finish off the energies for the day.


    • Michelle, I never thought about using the time specifically for one task but working out your plots is a very good use of your time at the sink. I tend to let my mind work on anything it deems necessary at the moment. If I have a lot of dishes to do, or a lot of any indoor cleaning music will always be a part of the chores.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Love it Christy! That’s one way to ensure the hubby and son contribute to after meal tidying. 🙂 When my grandchildren offer to do the dishes I almost prefer they would just stack the dishwasher because they love playing in the bubbles and warm water so much it takes for ever just to wash a handful of items while I try to wait patiently.


  9. You know my stand on dish washing. I like to do it by hand for the same reason, to be alone. I don’t want help, I want to be alone in my meditation. I use the dishwasher maybe once a month if I have enough company. It’s mostly the drainboard to dry the dishes. On occasion, I’ve washed them all by hand and put them in the dishwasher on a rinse cycle. Cleans the inside of the dishwasher and keeps the seals lubricated with a bit less water to rinse with . I don’t like waiting for a full load with just the 2 of us making dishes and usually need something before the load is full I’m not sure what you mean by washing detergent in the recipe. I don’t care for dish washing detergent. I can’t put good dishes or pots and pans in the dishwasher anyway. Now I’d better get to it and wash those dishes. 😉


    • You know I never thought of using the dishwasher as my drainboard. Duh! That would eliminate having one half of my sink taken up by the drainboard. Thanks so much for giving me the idea. Can you tell a dishwasher is nearly a new experience for me. 🙂 The washing detergent is Washing soda by Arm and Hammer. It’s just a chemical variation on baking soda which works much like borax without the environmental concerns.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, I learned something new today too. I don’t know how clean that would get my pots and pans. I don’t put them in the dishwasher either. To harsh and I don’t pit good dishes in there either. Mostly it’s a drainboard. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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