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Recovering the Lost Art of Hand Dishwashing (Tips for When Your Dishwasher is Broken)

Posted By Jessica Fisher On January 19, 2010 @ 7:49 pm In Cleaning,Home Management,Homekeeping | 39 Comments


In case you hadn’t heard, our dishwasher broke three weeks ago. I didn’t realize what a vital member of the household it was until it broke. I know, a dishwasher is a luxury. Our pioneer mothers lived quite productive lives without them. Our sisters in other countries regularly experience dishpan hands. I didn’t know how good I had it.

Believe it or not, the last three weeks have not been a crisis. In fact, I’ve discovered lots of ways to thrive despite the fact that I must wash dishes at least three times a day. For all you peeps without an automatic dishwasher, hearken unto the voice of my cry:

  1. Wash as you go. Whatever you do, do not let the dishes pile up. Do not pass go; do not collect $200. If the meal is over, wash up. If the snack is over, wash up. It isn’t going to get easier. Trust me.
  2. Put them away right away. The secret of the dishwasher is that it hides your dishes, whether clean or dirty. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet. Deal with the dishes right away.
  3. Get good soap. I prefer Dawn. We’ve tried other bargain brands, truly we have. This is not an infomercial. Dawn really does cut grease out of the way.
  4. Wear gloves. This is absolutely necessary, especially in winter. I pick up several packages on sale at Walgreens, usually 3/$1, and stash them until I need a new pair.
  5. Use the racks from the dishwasher! Normally, we load the dishwasher with cups, plates, and flatware and then handwash pots and pans. We have a small countertop drying rack for this purpose. However, we quickly outgrew this drying rack once we started handwashing complete dinner sets for 8+ people. (The dishwasher broke prior to our Kansas friends coming for a visit.) What a brilliant idea to use the dishwasher racks to dry dishes. I’m hoping that when the new machine is installed tomorrow, that they’ll let me keep one of these mammoth drying racks.
  6. Limit your children to one cup per person. I told you how my children are all color coded [5]? Well, I hid all their extra cups after a few days of washing 20 cups per day. They each get one cup – ONE. And this has worked amazingly well. I already told them they’re not getting the extra cups back!
  7. Teach your kids to wash dishes. I learned to wash dishes when I was seven, but recently realized that NONE of my children knew how to handwash dishes. This has proven to be a wonderful bonding experience – a silver lining, if you will, to the stormy cloud. One night while washing and rinsing with FishBoy7, he struck up the most amazing conversation:

FB: Mama, what was your best part of the day?

Mama: Our talk during dinner tonight. I loved your answers to my questions. I could tell you were thinking about them carefully. {continues washing dishes}

FB: Aren’t you going to ask me the best part of my day?

Mama: Oh, yes, what was the best part of your day?

FB: Right now. Washing dishes with you.

Be still my heart. Handwashing with my boy certainly works for me [6], even if the dishwasher doesn’t.

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