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I don't know how to wash dishes correctly

I've had my own place for seven years, and I've never owned a dishwasher, but it's gradually dawning on me that my dishes look horrible I wash them and let them dry. Particularly on stainless steel and glass items, there's always film and spots and cloudy, streaky residue no matter how much (or how little?) I wash and rinse. I wish they would just look shiny and clean.

I only have one basin, so I can't use separate sinks for washing and rinsing, if that makes a diference. Help! I need remedial dishwashing tips.

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  1. Do you dry your dishes after washing them or do you simply let them air dry? Using dish towels or paper towels to dry your dishes after washing should prevent the spots.

    1 Reply
    1. re: doraji

      Flour sack dish towels. Paper towels don't work as well, and contribute to the landfill.

    2. Since you have only one basin for washing and rinsing, I have an idea for some of your smaller items--it won't help much with big pots and pans, though. I have a big, super-wide metal salad bowl which I fill with hot soapy water. I use that to wash the dishes and use the sink to rinse everything really well.

      My roomie has the same problem you do with the streaky/filmy/spotty dishes, and I notice that he does not scrub the dishes completely with a brush. I use a really good, stiff vegetable brush that I get at the grocery store and make sure that I brush the dishes all over, then rinse really well. Doraji is also right--drying them after rinsing may help.

      1. 1) Rinse food from dishes, silverware, and glasses under running water before you put them in the dishwater. 2) Wash items in a plastic dishpan using liquid dishwashing detergent (Joy, Palmolive, Dawn etc) and water as hot as your hands can stand. 3) Then hold each item under RUNNING water to rinse it---get all traces of detergent off each piece. 4) Place items in a draining rack to air-dry. You shouldn't get any streaking. 5) Soaking pieces in the dishwater for a minute or two while you do something else (put away food, fill salt shaker) will help clean them. 6) Do your pots and pans last. If the water gets greasy, replace it. 7) Be sure that any sponge, dishcloth, or dishtowel is CLEAN.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Querencia

          Querencia, Yago doesn't own a dishwasher. That's part of the problem.

          Yago, buy the largest plastic dishpan you can. First, scrape all food residue from your dishes into the trash with a paper towel and stack them. Don't use that cheap-o supermarket pink or yellow opague dish-soap. Use Ajax, Joy, Palmolive and keep a bottle of Dawn to use on the really greasy stuff. A little of the good brands goes a long way and you will spend more money on more bottles of that cheap crap that you will on the quality stuff, although that pink stuff is GREAT for hand-washing unmentionables :).

          Ok, next step: Use the hottest water you can stand and get a pair of rubber gloves if you need to. Put your silverware into soak and stack your scraped, dirty plates and glasses to the side and one by one wash (glasses first) with an abrasive sponge or brush and then place the pieces into the sink. When done washing, rinse-rinse-rinse-rinse with hot water and then stack in your dish rack. You may or may not find that you need to dry with towels.

          I remember that from college days when my roommates and I lived in an old house without a dishwasher, central air or heat. Now I am the proud owner of a Kitchenaid DW with the most freakishly long wash cycle that I have ever come across.

          1. re: MysticYoYo

            No mention of a dishwasher in Querencia's post.

            Querencia also hit on the key thing, I think, "water as hot as you can stand it." It's the key to getting things clean and having them dry with fewer spots (also more quickly).

          2. re: Querencia

            ITA with Querencia's method and sequence--buy a cheap plastic dishpan and use that for washing, then rinse under running water. HOT HOT water is the secret, and I definitely endorse Dawn for the detergent. If you use a sponge (I strongly prefer a dishcloth), don't use it more than one day without washing in bleach.

            I've heard you can nuke sponges to kill the germs, but it's easier for me to thrown them in with the other whites in the laundry. After a few washings, pitch them.

            I also prefer air drying, it is supposed to be more sanitary, but if you use a towel to dry, get some plain white linen/cotton, not terrycloth, towels. They can be bleached and they don't leave lint.

            1. re: Querencia

              Querencia- This is not a responsible use of resources.
              If you can't get dishes clean IN a dishwasher without first pre-rinsing, that dishwasher needs to be replaced!
              I wonder if the OP is using too much detergent and it is leaving a film on the dishes?

              1. re: Goomba

                I believe you confused the word "dishwaTer" in Querencia's post with "dishwaSHer." Making note of the difference should clear up any confusion.

            2. Everyone has given you great advice (HOT water, good detergent, etc) I would like to re-iterate the most obvious that is often overlooked: scrape and rinse everything, wash glassware first followed by china and flatware. Save the pots & pans for last. If I had a single mantra it would be "wash the glasses first". I watched my sons & friends wash dishes when they were in college and it was a FIFO system that resulted in scummy, greasy plates/glasses/pots that you wouldn't use to feed your dog (assuming you like your dog). HOT water, wash the glasses first!

              1. I would add little to the suggestions above (except, please, use some kind of re-usable towel to dry dishes instead of paper towels). But if these suggestions fail, it could be your water. I have lived a couple of places where the water contained something that left a cloudy or spotty film on dishes. It wiped right off with a dry towel, so no biggie.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lisa13

                  True "hard" water can affect how well soap works. Hot water is the key. Vinegar in the rinse water helps remove the hard water deposits.

                  And I have been doing this for years, each time I make up my dishpan of HOT soapy water with good detergent, I add one capful of plain old bleach. That is just enough to kill whatever germs survive the water and soap.

                2. Glassware first, china next, then silverware, then cookware, ashtrays last.

                  1. wash with hot
                    rinse with cold
                    and the magic ingredient: elbow grease

                    1. Whatever you use for drying--dish towels, clean rags, old t-shirts, whatever--make sure it's 100% cotton to guarantee streak-free results.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tubman

                        Buy a whole bunch of dishwashing gloves. These save your hands from getting beat up and enable you to tolerate MUCH hotter water than without them.

                      2. Method, and Seventh Generation dish soaps got top ratings recently in a CR or CI magazine test. Reportedly, they have better quality detergents that reduce the amount of scrubbing required to clean dishes.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Romanmk

                          I use 7th Generation, have for a long time. I don't notice it taking any less time or less scrubbing. But they are a good product.

                        2. I agree with advice given so far. I too, was not blessed with a dishwasher or even room to install one. I hadn't washed a dish since a child at the family cottage until I got to University. I don't rinse after I wash and don't seem to have to, since I use a lot of water, just enough soap, and wash my SCRAPED and RINSED dishes in the order suggested (glassware, china, flatware, cooking pans). No streaks or residue. And, we have hard water here in Toronto.
                          Washing ashtrays? Are there STILL people who smoke indoors? You've got to be kidding me....

                          1. I have a similar problem: single basin (very small), no dishwasher, and, worst of all, really hard water (drops of it leave white marks wherever they land).

                            First, make sure all food is scraped into the trash. Use your disposable dinner napkin or paper towel to wipe off the excess food.

                            Second, use one sponge or brush and a little water to loosen all the rest of the gunk, then use a second, clean brush or sponge, dipped in a bowl of soapy water, to scrub the dishes clean. I usually pile the soapy dishes next to the sink on the counter. Then rinse everything and put it in the drying rack.

                            I find that this method lets me use less water and get everything clean pretty efficiently. As others have suggested, gloves are important when your water's very hot, and drying with a dish towel prevents streaks.

                            1. Everybody's got the right idea. Glasses, then dishes, then flatware, then utensils/pots/pans. If you have storage for a dishpan, you can fill that and rinse in the sink. If not, I find a quick soak in hot water will rinse most everything off, then drain the sink, plug it up and fill with a slow stream of hot water. Squirt some soap (I use Dawn) into the sink, stick the utensils and flatware in to soak. With a soapy sponge, clean your glasses (a little baking soda will clean off lipstick) and rinse under the running hot water, put in dishrack. Turn off water as necessary. When all glasses are done, dry with a flour sack towel. Lower stacked dishes into the basin, drain off some of the water to make room, and clean the dishes with the soapy sponge, again rinsing under the slow stream. You can also wash and stack the soapy dishes and utensils until you're finished and then refill the sink and rinse all in the sink with a dash of white vinegar to cut the soap. Fill the largest pot with some soap and a little hot water, use that to clean the others and finally that one. By the time you've finished with the pots the dishes will be ready to put away. It helps to soak the pots on the stove with hot water and baking soda while you're eating, they'll clean up fast.

                              I firmly believe that you can wash and dry many dishes with less water and time than a dishwasher can, it just takes rolling up your sleeves.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: blaireso

                                If your dishes end up with a film on them but you are carefully washing and rinsing the only other thing to consider is how hard your water is. Hard water= cloudy film/water spots (limescale). Soft water=shinny results. If you have hard water give what you're washing a final nice hot rinse in a big wash basin to which you've added a couple of caps of plain vinegar. Dry the dishes/glasses/whatever when they are still warm/hot.
                                Years ago I started using real linen cloths for drying. You can pick them up dirt cheap at thrift stores etc. They are the ones with the map of Ireland on them that were never ever used. They probably will have some starch in them to stop them from wrinkling when they were hung on Granny's wall. You need to give them a good hot wash to remove the starch then you'll have excellent dish drying cloths. The older they get the better they work. Like some people. LOL

                                1. re: Puffin3

                                  So true, those linen calendars are the bomb!

                              2. Least dirty items, then dirtiest last. Thoroughly rinse. Adding baking soda and lemon juice to the dish water helps a lot. It softens it