Washing Dishes - an alternative

Can we save money when washing dishes? Perhaps. Mostly I think we can save water. And, whether you are on a metered source or you pump it out of your own well, saving water means saving money.

Dish washing isn't my favorite thing, especially when it comes to using a dishwasher. Didn't anyone ever tell the manufacturers of these products that a dishwasher is supposed to clean the dishes and glasses, not just move bits of food from one item to another and then "bake" them in place?

Anyway, I refuse to rinse the dishes and then put them into the dishwasher and run a full cycle, just so that appliance can get the job done right. I know people who do just that, and it makes no sense to me.

My philosophy used to be either wash the dishes by hand, or make the dishwasher do what it's supposed to do. I've softened on that a bit. There is one angle to washing dishes and using a dishwasher that is beginning to make more sense to me.

I'll tell you how it works, but first let me lay out the problems before I lay out the solution.

The Problem

First, the problem simply stated is dishwashers seldom do a good job of washing dishes. This is the main problem.

Dishwashers clean dishes by repeatedly showering them with soapy water. This isn't adequate in many cases because cleaning some soiled areas requires a mechanical action, and the water spray just isn't up to it - it needs to be rubbed.

The dishwasher is efficient because it recycles a small amount of water, whether for washing or rinsing, but it just isn't effective. Efficient is part of frugal living, but if you aren't effective, it isn't frugal at all because you've thrown resources at a problem, and the problem still remains.

To make the situation worse, I know people that clean off and "rinse" dishes before they put them into the machine. They wind up doing such a good job, that the dishes are just a little shy of perfectly clean when they go into the dishwasher.

Then they run a full cycle and this wastes soap, water and electricity on top of the soap and water they already used in washing the dishes before they put them into the machine that's supposed to do the job for them.

Second, if you're washing dishes by hand, you're wasting lots of water rinsing the dishes, much more than the dishwasher uses for multiple wash and rinse cycles.

My friend Dan reminded me of how his family used to wash dishes when he was a kid - turn on the hot water full blast while you wash off the dishes in the sink. I have another friend that runs water in the sink while she clears the table and wipes up the counters. Clearly both approaches are water and energy wasteful.

Third, the counter top drying rack only holds a small number of dishes. Therefore, you have to wash, rinse and dry before you can clean more dishes. The drying rack takes up room on the counter as well.

Although I generally don't like the way a dishwasher "cleans" the dishes, I do like the fact that it's out of the way and you can walk away from it - you don't have to immediately attend to drying and putting away dishes. It also has a generous capacity for holding dishes.

An Alternate Approach

Now, this approach to washing dishes won't work for everyone, but it works well for me, so I'm sharing. My approach is to combine both hand washing and use of the dishwasher. My aim is to make the best use of the strengths that both methods have to offer.

Here is how it works:

  • Scrap off and wash your dishes, using just enough water and soap to get the job done well, then load them into the dishwasher. Don't rinse them before you put them in.
  • Set the dishwasher on rinse and let it go through it's rinse cycle. Make certain your "rinse cycle" is at least two rinses.

This approach results in clean dishes, because I hand washed them - the most effective method for getting them clean. And, I rinsed them using the dishwasher - the most efficient use of water for rinsing.

When washing, just keep your sponge wet, and run a little water as needed on dishes for soaking. Rinse only the dishes that are heavily soiled with grease so you're not putting a source of grease into your dishwasher.

Not only does this approach get the dishes clean, but it uses very little water, very little soap, and it's convenient. The cost is the price of electricity, which is minor for just the rinse cycle.

It's easy to do a full load of dishes in one step because the dishwasher has two large racks that hold at least twice the number of dishes that the counter top drying rack will hold. Plus, the dishes are out of the way until the rinse cycle is finished.

Note: run the rinse cycle immediately after you have the dishwasher full. Don't let soap dry on the dishes. If you notice the soap starting to dry before you get the dishwasher full, just start the rinse cycle and let it run for 30 seconds to keep the soap from dying on the dishes.

I know this approach to washing dishes isn't for everyone, but it's an idea that you might try. I'm happy with the results, and I suppose that's what matters most.

If you're the type that essentially ends up washing dishes before putting them into the dishwasher, this might be a step in the right direction because it will only take a little more effort.

Another benefit is that you're doing only one thing - washing dishes. You're not stopping to rinse in between washing each dish, nor are you "batch rinsing" dishes on the drying rack with a sprayer.

I think it's an efficient use of time and resources.


If you try this approach, then make certain the amount of soap you use is minimal. Regular dish washing soap in the dishwasher will foam up too much and inhibit rinsing, so keep it to a minimum.

Also, I've found that a small amount of bleach in the dishwasher helps cut the soap bubbles from the liquid dish soap, and it eliminates the film that sometimes is left on the dishes. If you're big on a dishwasher as a sanitizer, then adding a little bleach ought to suit you just fine.

Good luck with your next adventure in washing dishes.

Done with Washing Dishes, take me back to Frugal Living Tips

There certainly is a broad scope of topics here at Frugal Living Freedom. When you think about it, money permeates so very many activities in our lives, therefore, being frugal encompasses a wide range of interests, from being employed to taking a vacation, and just about everything in between. Enjoy the variety, pick up some new ideas, and start making frugality a part of your signature.

I'm a big proponent of being debt-free, and I mean entirely debt-free - no mortgage payment. It's not essential for financial freedom, but you'll love the feeling once you get there. If you didn't have a rent or mortgage payment, how much more could you do for yourself with your current level of income? I suspect plenty.

If you ever hope to see an abundance of wealth, you need to plug the hole in your boat. The wealthy don't necessarily make lots of money, instead, they know how to hang onto what they make, and make it work for them.