Monday, November 1, 2010

This is How I Wash Dishes

I have been told that I exhibit certain compulsive behaviors. I don't think this is necessarily pathological, but it does lend predictability to my dishwashing experience.

I wash dishes once per day, at the end of the day. With a family of five, this ends up being rather a lot of dishes. My husband, on the other hand, likes to wash dishes a few at a time, after each meal, so that there are never more than a few dirty dishes at any given time. I like my way, he likes his, and neither of us shirks the responsibility of washing up. We do it differently, but we both do it well.

This is how I wash dishes: I empty the dish drainer, but I do not empty the utensil holder. I hate emptying the utensil holder, and will avoid it for days until my dear husband succumbs to the temptation to do it himself.

I rinse and seal both sides of the sink, making them clean and watertight.

I scrape all the plates into the compost, and stack them in the left hand sink compartment. I stack them in reverse order of heft; that is, lightweight, small, plastic plates at the bottom and heavy, large dinner plates at the top.

I organize my remaining dishes in this order, from right to left: knives next to the sink, bowls and glass jars next, glasses and mugs after that, then pots and pans, then plastic cups, storage containers, etcetera on the far side. Finally, miscellany (cheese graters, colanders, etcetera) and beyond that, to the far left of the kitchen counter, chopping blocks, cast iron skillets, and other non-soapables.

I start the hot dishwater, squirt some dish soap on top of my plate pile, and ready my soapy scrubber. This is one of those green scrubbers, like you'd find on the back of a sponge but without the sponge part. Sponges are just gross pockets of bacterial filth.

I fit all the utensils, large and small, and all jar lids and rings, in around my plate pile so that they fall to the bottom of the soapy bath.

I begin washing the plates, heaviest first, and set them into the right half of the sink as I go.

As the left half fills up with soapy water, I run clean water into the right half of the sink for rinsing.

I wash all the plates (but none of the utensils, yet). I rinse them on the right. I place them carefully in the back of the dishdrainer. When they are in place, I wash the utensils, which are now cleverly soaked and exposed at the bottom of the left (soapy) half of the sink. I rinse them, I wedge them into the already over-full utensil holder. I wash the bowls. I leave the knives lying next to the sink, saving them for last as a safety measure. I once watched my Aunt Alice go to the emergency room over a dishwashing accident.

I wash the jars, cups, and mugs, finding room for each in the dish drainer. Air circulation is of vital importance when drying jars.

I then proceed through my stack of dirty dishes, from right to left, washing each category in turn and stacking them on top of my tidy plate/bowl/jar/mug/glass collection. The stack grows, and teeters, and grows, and totters, and I eventually cause the entire heap to rest back against the kitchen window through a delicate act of balancing.

You will note that the plastic cups and storage containers make nice toppers for the pile, being that they are easily propped, stacked, and balanced, and wedged without threat to their safety. I like putting the cheese grater on the very top, like the star on a Christmas tree, but this only works if the dish load is not too great.

When my rinse water begins to look soapy (this usually happens around the beginning of the pots and pans), I drain and refill it. I rinse the milking pail, milk filter, and milk-storage jars separately, too, running them under cold water before the soapy bath and rinsing them under hot water after the soapy bath. Raw milk + germs = almost as gross as store bought milk.

Finally, before I drain my soapy water but after I make my giant dish mountain, I wash the knives, rinse them, and dry them one at a time. Then I drain my water, wash my cutting boards and iron skillets under very hot running water (no soap!); dry them, and put them A) away or B) on the top of the dish mountain, if it is not too great and if it seems stable enough to support such an addition.

Once all this is done, I rinse out the sink, turn on the kettle, and make a cup of tea. And, I regret, another dirty dish.


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