Dish-washing and Efficiency

large old-fashioned kitchen sink
Source: School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta Greer

Dishwashing is one of those never-ending chores, but I don’t stress over it; and I have a very simple process for deciding how to do the dishes. I ask myself, “Are there a lot of dirty dishes?” If the answer is “yes,” I use the dishwasher; if it’s “no,” I wash them by hand.

A hundred-years-ago there were lots of large families – who produced lots of dirty dishes; and almost all those many dishes were washed by hand. So people were looking for ways to wash dishes more efficiently. Here is some hundred-year-old advice:
Dish-washing and Efficiency
There is almost invariably a waste of effort in both the washing and the drying of dishes. This may be due to:
(a) Poorly arranged dish-washing equipment
(b) Inadequate utensils for dish-washing
(c) Lack of forethought in preparing the dishes for washing and in washing and drying them.
Since dish-washing is one of the constant duties of housekeeping, efficiency methods, i.e., methods which accomplish satisfactory results with the fewest motions and in the least time, should be applied to it.
School and Home Cooking (1920) by Carlotta Greer

52 thoughts on “Dish-washing and Efficiency

  1. Dish-washing is one of my least favorite chores. As a single parent for 10 years I had a dishwasher so my children did not learn the joy of washing dishes. The dishwasher I have at present is named Hubby!

  2. My grandmother loved doing dishes and it was fun doing them with her in her very old-fashioned kitchen. (There was even a working water pump on one side of the sink, along with some old-fashioned faucets under the kitchen window, with a view of the bird feeders.) But now I love my dishwasher!

    1. I can see why you had fun helping your grandmother wash dishes. Your comment reminds me of a neighbor who had a water pump in yard. I used to love to go over there and pump water.

    2. Perhaps boiling water in the teapot was a good way to get hot water for sanitizing the dishes since water coming from a pump would be cold. I bet my grandparents were happy when a hot water faucet got installed.

  3. I would say that such sage advice applies to more than washing dishes! I actually have a lot of happy memories drying dishes while my father or mother, or one of my aunties, washed. Special kind of quality time in the kitchen.

  4. Carlotta Greer has much to say on this topic, doesn’t she? I’ve never liked washing the dishes, but maybe if I rearrange my kitchen up to Carlotta’s standards I’ll like it better? Or I could use the electric dishwasher!

  5. I became a professional dishwasher at age 8 in my father’s restaurant. When I was tall enough to reach the sinks, I would wash dishes after my Saturday piano lessons. I did prefer the professional setup of the restaurant compared to home. Eventually, we got dishwashers at work and home.

  6. Although my husband does most of the dishes, I never mind doing them myself. It is a great time to let the mind wander, and I alway think about how the kids really loved washing dishes when they were little because it was fun playing with the bubbles. What a perfect way of looking at it; we all need to play with bubbles.

      1. Absolutely! There was an older man in our church, a practicing Buddhist, who would always tell us “Don’t wash dishes to get the dishes clean; wash dishes to wash dishes,” his way of talking about living in the moment. We all thought it was kismet that he died while washing dishes! We know his last moments were thoroughly in the present.

    1. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I am a much more efficient and better dishwasher now than I when I was young. I’ve had lots of practice. It’s nice to hear that you liked this post.

  7. When the kids were at home we taught them that a meal was not finished until the clean up was done. When they were old enough to do their own usually they would each wash their own breakfast/lunch dishes then at dinner time they would share responsibilities. One would wash and clean counters, one dry and put away one would wipe down the table and sweep the floor. They actually had fun doing this they would turn on music and sing and dance as they worked. With all the kids gone and way less dishes I find it’s still easiest to just wash as I go. I usually let them air dry and put them away later but once in a while my husband will dry and put away as I wash.

    1. Your comment reminds me of how my mother used to describe the various tasks associated with dishwashing when she was child – and how she and her siblings used to rotate through the tasks. The most desired tasks was “reader.” They would read a book orally while washing dishes, and one person would read from the book aloud each day while the others did the dishes. It always sounded like really pleasant family time.

      1. I rented an apt in a home that was about 150 yrs old and the kitchen was very much like this one with the SUPER deep enamel sink. It also had wood floors which were much easier on the knees. Most storage was in a pantry and pots and pans were down below so I did not have to risk a bump on the head when pulling one out.

    1. I’m glad you liked it. I liked how it looked like the photo was taken in a real kitchen in an average home, rather than in an “aspirational” kitchen that few people could have afforded.

  8. I never had a dishwasher until our present home and always enjoyed the time spent washing dishes. I did always insist on a window over the sink. I wonder if modern houses still have them.

  9. Hubby and I ‘inherited’ a dishwasher when we bought this house, but have never used it! Our friends and relatives think we’re crazy, but the idea of using extra electricity and having more noise and all the palaver of another machine running just doesn’t sit well with us, so we do it by hand. I hate washing dishes (what in the UK we call ‘washing up’) but wouldn’t mind it so much if we had a sink like my parents had, which was a more modern version of the one in your post’s picture: it had one central sink, with two stainless steel draining boards on either side. And things were definitely more organised, too!

    1. This makes total sense to me. I also own a dishwasher, but seldom use it. Most of the time, it just seems easier to wash the dishes by hand. Occasionally – especially if I am cleaning up after a meal where I served lots of left-overs (and ended up with lots of dishes) – I’ll use the dishwasher.

  10. I hated doing dishes. I had to stand on a chair. At least I wasn’t alone- my sister had to rinse and dry and my youngest sister had to put them away if she could reach…

  11. Dishwashing isn’t one of my favorite jobs. I rather enjoy the hot water on a cold day but summer it can be a warm job. I used to do dishes with my brother… we even had Soap suds fights. I do have a dishwasher, and when I get company it is put to good use.

  12. My dishwashing habits have changed since I moved. I’m not sure why, but it’s working. Now, I hand wash, and then put the clean dishes in the dishwasher to drip dry. It’s a perfect solution, especially since I’ve never found a dish rack that was large enough!

    1. I love how dish washing once was a treat. I’m guessing that being allowed to help wash dishes signified that you were old enough to safely handle them.

      1. I don’t recall dropping anything. I likely took great care handling the dishes while I stood on a chair. It is interesting the flashback of memories. Likely why I greatly enjoy your posts, Sheryl.

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