Frugal Dishwashing Tips

Updated on September 25, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

Save Water Each Time You Wash Dishes

There are many reasons to be frugal with water when washing dishes. Maybe you're an RVer with limited tank space for wastewater. Maybe you live in a drought area. For others, it is the concern for the environment or a desire to save on their water bill.

Here are tips that you can adapt to your own situation. Wash your dishes in a minimum amount of water with the ideas you'll find here. You may not need to make major changes, just small adjustments to your dish washing routine.

The ideas below are for hand washing dishes, not for washing them in a dishwashing machine.

Scrape, Wipe Out, or Soak the Greasy, Dirtiest Items

You can buy a special utensil for scraping out the food residue before washing or just use a spatula. One person said she used a defunct credit card for this.

You can also use the paper napkins from dinner to wipe out the oily residue or save a lightly used paper towel for wiping out the pots.

I'm pretty thrifty with water when we are in our RV. I put dish detergent and water in a cup or bowl and then wash the rest of the dishes in that. Have the sink stopper in and as you rinse each item, gradually you end up with about 2 inches of water in the sink. (only 2 of us, so not that many dishes)

Hot Water Works Best

Don't run the water down the drain while waiting for it to get hot. Here are frugal ways to make use of that:

  • Capture the cold water in a pitcher, tea kettle, plant watering pot, or pet's drinking bowl. Once the water is hot, direct it into your basin or container where you are washing.
  • An alternate way is to run a little water into your washing container, then place that into the microwave for a few minutes to heat. (don't do this with a metal container, of course)

Don't Fill the Sink with Water When You Start

I use a mixing bowl or a cooking pot as my dish pan and put just an inch or two of water when I start.
I use a mixing bowl or a cooking pot as my dish pan and put just an inch or two of water when I start. | Source

Start with a Small Bowl or Basin and a Bit of Detergent

The amount of detergent to use depends on the number of dishes being washed and how greasy they are.
The amount of detergent to use depends on the number of dishes being washed and how greasy they are. | Source

Put in the Sink Stopper to Catch the Overflow as You Wash and Rinse

Start with the small items as the bowl begins to fill. I get about an inch of water, turn off the water, wash a few small things, then turn the water back on to rinse them. Doing that will gradually fill the bowl. I do this off and on again pattern numerous times.

As the bowl fills and overflows, capture the water in the sink. Repeat the wiping of the dishes with the dishcloth and the rinsing in an off.

Slowly, the depth of my water grows as I wash more and bigger items. This way my rinse water isn't wasted down the drain as it serves a dual purpose of rinsing and then becomes wash water for the larger mixing bowls, cassarole dishes, and cooking pots.

Run the Hot Water into Your Container

You don't want too many suds as that makes it harder to rinse the dishes once they are clean.
You don't want too many suds as that makes it harder to rinse the dishes once they are clean. | Source

Wash the Cleanest Items First, Then the Dirtiest Ones Last

This is the best order to use (from the cleanest to the dirtiest)

  • Drinking glasses
  • Silverware
  • Plates
  • Casserole Dishes and Dirty Pots

(If you aren't going to wash the dishes right away, at least scrape and rinse them so they will be easier to clean later)

Make a Game Out of Saving Water

After you finish cleaning the dishes, you can use the water to wash the counters or floors, for flushing toilets, or toss outside on the grass. My grandmother always used her wash water for the flower beds in drought-stricken Kansas.
After you finish cleaning the dishes, you can use the water to wash the counters or floors, for flushing toilets, or toss outside on the grass. My grandmother always used her wash water for the flower beds in drought-stricken Kansas. | Source

Comments and Tips from My Frugal Friends

  • I live off the grid and carry water, so I handwash in one pan and rinse in another..not a lot of waste, there, and I only heat what I will use.
  • I've done that for a long time. Australia is an arid continent and water is precious (and expensive). After our 13 year drought, I'm always nervy turning on a tap.
  • The leftover gray water can be used to wash off shoes, picnic benches, and other RV site stuff too so that you're not bringing more grunge inside.
  • If I'm not washing them right away, I rinse them off, so will be easier later.

The Dishes Are All Done and I Used a Minimal Amount of Water

I feel good that I saved water and did not fill up the wastewater storage tank on our RV.
I feel good that I saved water and did not fill up the wastewater storage tank on our RV. | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Virginia Allain

    Share Your Ideas for Thrifty Water Use in the Kitchen or Other Areas of the Home

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