Tips for Pleasant Dish-Washing

Look familiar?

Cooking real food means dirtying a lot of dishes. Even on a simple meal kind of day (which is most days lately) we still dirty plenty of dishes. No microwave hot pockets or canned soup for us.

Unfortunately, I really dislike washing dishes. And this dislike plus a busy life causes me to put it off. And then they pile up, I get frustrated, I melt down, I plead with the hubby to help even though he's super busy with school...etc. Add to this the fact that our dishwasher is not functional as more than a dish-drying rack, and it is not going to be replaced until we move out. Not happy.

Obviously the best thing to do is to wash dishes right away, several times a day. That is always my goal. But when that doesn't happen, which is most of the time, and both sides of the sink and the counter are covered in dirty dishes, and you're pregnant and dishes repulse you, and your husband is at the library frantically finishing a paper, what's a girl to do?

Here are my tips for making dish washing a pleasant experience, especially when it's going to be a long haul.

How to Survive Washing a Ton of Nasty Dishes

1. Get some tunes goin'. We've got a handy set-up in our kitchen that involves cheap speakers on top of the cabinets and an 8th inch cable threaded between the wall and the cabinets. That means I can plug in the iPod to accompany my dish-washing marathon with whatever music will lift my spirits. Which of course lately is Christmas music. Always. I prefer something peaceful, since dishes stress me out, like George Winston's December album. My husband, on the other hand, prefers to listen to the ugliest music imaginable when he's on dish duty. Like The Dirty Projectors. Yuck.

2. Get yummy smelling natural dish soap, and/or put a drop of essential oil on your (clean) dish rag. I keep some lavender oil in a cabinet near the sink so it's always there when I need it. Oh my goodness does that make me happy. Nothing like the smell of lavender to relieve stress and brighten one's day. And as for the yummiest smelling soap, you MUST try Almond Dishmate, made by Earth Friendly Products.

3. Light a candle. Lately I've been lighting an apple-spice scented soy candle. (I don't like soy, except in candles. It burns cleaner and lasts longer than regular wax.) If my candle isn't especially scent-ey, I put a drop of essential oil in there, too.

4. Brew yourself a cup of something yummy. (Can you tell that these tips are all about pleasing your senses?) My choice on the day I took these pictures was Organic Earl Grey that I got from my friend Sarah, who works for Sterling Tea, a small Texas-based tea blender that makes exquisite black, green, white, rooibos, and herbal teas. Best Earl Grey ever.  If you love tea, you've gotta check them out. And if you or someone you know owns a coffee shop or gift shop that might be interested in selling their tea, let me know and I'll hook you up!

Isn't that a happy picture?

While I was taking pictures and sipping tea for this post, Caedmon started asking for "hot tea" as he often does. So I hooked him up with some of his favorite "ha-po tea" (that translates as "apple tea") And he had a blast slurping it up with a spoon and making a big mess. But our carpet is already nasty so I didn't mind!

You like my bed head?


Ooooh that's good tea!
If I had a tip number 5, it would be to wash dishes A) when your children are napping, or if that fails, B) when they are engrossed in something entertaining like slurping tea or crumbling play dough all over the floor. So you can scrub away in peace, while your ears and nose and taste buds convince you that washing dishes really isn't so bad after all. 

This is part of Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, and Fight Back Friday.


  1. I love the George Winston "December" album. Have you heard the recording of "The Velveteen Rabbit" that uses that album as the background music? It's narrated by Meryl Streep. Wonderful!

  2. I had to laugh at this post because this has to be my biggest complaint/inconvenience about cooking real food from scratch! But as Pioneer Woman says: "Keeping it real - if you're gonna cook, you gotta do the dishes."

  3. I am guessing you don't have a dishwasher? Since you suggest washing several times a day. I didn't always have one and I got a great tip from an old lady in my neighborhood. She suggested that I put a dishpan under the sink to hold dishes until after the next meal. Just scrape and rinse and pop them in there. Then pull it out and fill it with hot soapy water to wash. It made my life so much easier! Just remember, a dishwasher is a discreet place to store dishes until they are washed, and so was my dishpan.

  4. I feel for you... I do a lot of dishes throughout the day and I have a dishwasher! Love your ideas to make it more enjoyable-- for me, a cup of coffee makes EVERYTHING more enjoyable! Thanks for linking up to FF!

  5. Melissa, we have a dishwasher, but it does not work, and we live in rented seminary housing, and the seminary has chosen to not replace dishwashers at this time because they can't afford it. I like to think that most of our dish-troubles are due to not having one, but they were almost as bad back when we did! I just need to get better at doing them right away. Can't wait til I have kids old enough to help! :)

  6. I cannot count the number of times I have begged Brett to dig me out of a dish disaster. He is, too often, my domestic hero.

    I adore this idea of turning dishes into a tea party/spa day. I recently ordered some Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day - Lemon Verbena dish soap. YAY for smelly good stuff! I'm also considering getting some audio books for my iPod and only allowing myself to listen while doing housework.

    Thank you for your (always) brilliant tips! : )

    1. Mmm that dishsoap sounds divine.

      Audio books are a great idea.

      And way to go Brett! What would we do without our amazing husbands?

  7. These are great tips!!! Thanks for sharing this link with me on my page!!! :)