Dishwashing 101

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 8th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Housekeeping>Cleaning

A sink full of dishes may present an overwhelming task. In reality, it's about 10 minutes of focused work, and then one may resume their Facebook or video games.

After the meal

I am lucky to get the diners at Casa Mio (my house) to take plates, glasses, etc. to the sink or counter. Obviously, I need to train them better. And it's harder when guests are over, food remains on plates, and other hang-ups. I think indecision is perhaps the biggest culprit in keeping sinks full of dirty dishes. The best advice I can give, then, is to just pick a place and GO!

Clearing the table: What do I recycle? What do I pitch?

I always start with what I can get rid of:

I trash all paper products -- napkins, paper towels, carry-out containers made of paper. If it's more effort to clean the thing for recycling (if it's even possible to recycle) I don't bother.

Leftover food -- I have no dogs or cats to choke on bones and things, so I will usually toss scraps to the birds. FOR ME, leaving food in trash bags invites critters to tear apart my trash bags on trash day, so I just give it straight to them. This will not work for everybody, and you have to check and make sure you're not breaking any laws about feeding wildlife in your area.

Aluminum cans -- I have a can crusher over a 30 gallon can because I can sell aluminum to recyclers in my area. I also drink more from aluminum cans because I prefer the taste. If you only have the occasional can of aluminum, see if you can toss it in with general recycling or if it's better just to pitch it.

Cardboard -- pizza boxes, cereal boxes, just about any kind of box I toss in cardboard recycling.

Bottles -- I am saving gallon milk jugs for an art project, but water bottles (and the occasional soda bottle) go in bottle bins. If you don't have recycling in your area, it never hurts to ask for it, and it really cuts down on your trash pickup. I don't have recyclers come to my home, but I live close to one, so dropping it off every other week is no big deal.

Next: What is dishwasher safe? Where does it go?

The rule in my house is this: if it isn't machine washable, it is one-time use. This includes straws from souvenir cups (the cups are often dishwasher safe) and worn-out sports bottles and lids.
Beyond that, plates and silverware slide into the bottom rack of the dishwasher; glasses, microwaveable plastics, and other containers I will use for leftovers go on the top rack. Bowls will be placed wherever there is room in the dishwasher. The general idea is to stuff the dishwasher as full as possible while still getting the majority of dishes clean. You can't save water if you have to run the same load three times. But dishwashers these days can fit a lot more stuff than the same size machine from 20 years ago.

A great debate: knives blade up or blade down

Some people want the knife blades to point up because they argue that pointing the knife blade down can cut the silverware bins or cause the blades to rust.
I argue for blades down because I care more about the fingers that are unloading the dishwasher -- mine or my son's -- than I do knife blades.
My compromise -- if I have a large blade, I lay it down on the top rack, and set cups on top of it. And I bought my husband (the real cook of the house) a knife sharpener.

Which cycle do I use?

Again, I choose the cycle that runs the shortest time, uses the least water, and still gets dishes clean. If my guests help me load the dishwasher, I will run a 15 minute rinse cycle, then run a full cleaning cycle once they have gone. My husband almost always uses a cycle called "pot scrubber." I haven't noticed that it scrubs my pots any better than "quick" or "normal." I also do not use a dry cycle, preferring to set clean dishes to air dry on a rack or towel than to waste the electricity.


If you run a load of dishes each night before you go to bed, it's a good habit to unload each morning while breakfast is cooking (or you're waiting for your school-age child to put on and tie his/her shoes). An empty dishwasher can be loaded throughout the day, saving time and trouble after the dinner meal. I'm not saying this will actually happen -- certainly not in my house -- but those of you more disciplined than I with training family members might enjoy success!


Cleaning, Cycle, Dirty, Dishes, Loading, Rinsing, Unloading

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Very well done...:0)!

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Many thanks for reading, Delicia!

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