Have you ever thought about washing dishes?  Okay, I know, who thinks about washing dishes? Why would we, right?  If you were raised during; or were born after the 70’s, built-in electric dishwashers are as commonplace as say … a television set.  More likely than not, your home has a dishwasher in it.   dishwashing machine

Now, let me ask you this. Has your dishwasher ever gone on the fritz?  You know kaput? Wow! Talk about an end of the world as we know it scenario!  Am I right?  “Ohhh nooooo the dishwasher is broken!!” We wail!  And doesn’t it always seem that these things happen right after a huge get-together at your house?!!  Ugh!   

So where the heck am I going with all this dishwasher stuff?  Well, I was thinking … what if that dishwasher of yours was on the fritz … forever?  As in we no longer had the power to run a dishwasher?   When was the last time you actually washed a whole boat load of dishes - by hand - in your kitchen sink?   Think about this, we eat a whole lot more fried foods and foods that leave a sort-of greasy film on plates and pans then say our great-grandparents did.  In fact, upon further research, it was almost easier back then to wash dishes by hand.   Most would take a piece of bread, corn bread, or stuffing and run it across and around the dinner plate to scoop up all the remaining food and juices  … southerners call this sopping, thus eliminating the need for scraping or soaking the dish before washing it.  Or, they used their fingers (don’t say you haven’t done it) as well as a handful of sand or dirt. I know!!  Ewwww.  They would take a handful of dirt and rub it on the dishes to absorb all the liquids and food particles.  Then, scrape it off into the fire – camp or fireplace.  You may have even done this camping.

pink glovesSo what if you became the dishwasher when the poo hits the fan?  In other words what if you had to be the dish washer? You know the one who washes dishes?  Would you know the best way to wash dishes by hand?  Would you know what to use as alternatives to dish detergent if you ran out?  Well let me share what I have learned from my experiences as a homesteader when I became a dish washer.  There is definitely an art to it … that is, if you want clean dishes, utensils and pots and pans – its gonna take some work.

First of all, I would highly suggest you get a pair of dishwashing gloves as a start. Trust me; your hands will thank you later.  Gloves are easier to wash in hot water, and helps you hold on to the dishes easer and you can avoid getting that icky slimy stuff on your hands from the dishes.  There are some really neat gloves out on the market, in fact, I have the kind that has a cuff at the elbow so that when I go to wipe my sweaty brow (yes it gets a little sauna-like sometimes leaning over the hot water in the sink), or when I go to move my bangs out of my eyes, the water doesn’t roll down my arm and into my arm pit (What? It happens!)  

Now, a good washing begins with a good scraping.  Scraping the dishes should start right after the meals ends by not letting “anything” dry on the dishes or, pots and pans that would otherwise necessitate a blow torch to remove it when dried.  So, again, I encourage “sopping”, or at the very least, using your fingers or hand … just kidding!   Scrape the plates, pots and pans with whatever method that will ultimately get rid of as much food particles and food juice as possible.  The reason we wash dishes after all, is to remove the sugars, salt, oils, proteins and fats in the food partials that can become a breeding ground for bacteria - which brings me to water.  Use the hottest possible water that you can stand without melting your gloves and burning your hands off.  Boiling water disinfects any viruses, bacteria or other pathogens - so the hotter the better.  Understand, I am not saying for you to put your hands down in the boiling water, what I am saying is the water needs to be hot to kill the germs – so plan accordingly. sopping

You also need a good drying rack. Anything that will allow air to flow under and around the dishes and drink ware is fine. In a pinch it could be a bbq gril, a fan cover, a cookie rack, an oven rack, the broiler rack … again think air flow.  I like a big drying space because I don’t towel dry anything I cook with, eat with or have liquid in after I wash it.  I let everything air dry. Towels retain germs, something I don’t care to put back on the dishes I have just washed.

Now, to the main event - the dish washing part, there is actually a suggested order to dish washing that will help to keep the water clean-er.  Less dirty to most dirty.  Oh, and I don’t use a tub in my sink, but I have a couple just in case one day I find I don’t have access to a sink.  Okay, back to washing.  When the water is hot, I add a little bit of dish soap to the water, but not so much that there is a ton of bubbles (save that for bath time) – remember you don’t want soap film left on your dishes.  I fill the other side of the sink with cold water with a little vinegar for rinsing. 

I start with the drink ware first. Once washed and rinsed, I then put the utensils in the water and let them soak while I wash the dishes that are really not “dirty” like, bowls and plates that may have been used to lie something on or in, like say the piece of bread you would later use to sop your plate with?  Then, I wash the utensils; rinse them and then move on to the rest of the dishes.  The last to go in the water are the greasy things and the pots and pans.  If you happen to have some MacDaddy greasy things, add a little baking soda to them before hand while you are washing the other dishes to help break down the grease and make it a little easier to clean.  Have a spray bottle filled with water and a little bit of dish detergent and spray the dishes to start working on degreasing is a big help too. Or, not like I have done this before, but if a pot receives a severe burn to its little bottom (ouch), put some baking soda in the pot with some hot water and make a paste and scrub it.  It takes a little elbow grease sometimes but the burnt stuff will come off and it will be as good as new – kinda.

burnt panOh, and along with using the blow torch, as additional arsenal, you will want some sponges, steel-wool pads, scrub brushes, dishcloths, a bottle scrubber and anything else you can think of to help remove the grime that should have been removed by sopping with your bread.

I’m not gonna lie, washing dishes by hand is, as I once saw someone written, a “tedious reality”.  But now you know how to do it so if the poo ever hits the fan you can focus on just on disaster instead of two!

Or you could always just have the dog lick your plates clean and forget the washing all together!

 Just sayin’.

- Survivor Jane





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