They used to do a pizza. There was a semi fine dining restaurant on site. I worked there between semesters at university. It's where I learnt to wash dishes - I became initiated into the Dishpigs Union.

How to wash the dishes

Washing dishes shouldn't be done as badly as they regularly are. People are really bad at doing the dishes. Not this mug. I've spent time as a dish pig, in busy restaurants. Here, I will explain how to do the damn dishes properly.

Like all good instructions, these are specific, and most likely really wrong for your current needs. The best way to get better at doing the dishes is to really get into the zen. Make it part of your meditation routine. Your brain should be on the alpha waves, slowly cycling through the day's todo list, like that half sleep time after you just wake up. Doing the dishes will become an extension of your body - eventually there will be no need to think, it will come naturally.

In particular, I am looking at a share house arrangement where there are dishes from at least two meals, most likely a dinner/breakfast combo - there's some oily skillets, there's some stodgy pans, there's a pile of plates and cutlery, sharp knives, glass tumblers, a colander and some take out containers from yesterday's lunch.

It's worth noting that with a particularly big pile, including all set up, this is usually a little less than thirty minutes work. I understand that half an hour is longer than five minutes, but the payoff is that the dishes will actually be clean. Not just wet. Remember - we want no dirt, not clean dirt.

The Setup

  • Get the music or podcast going. I personally am a podcast guy these days. A good Dan Carlin, Marc Maron or Greg Proops is appropriate, mostly nattering, occasional insight or laugh, runs a little long but doesn't run short. Do not want to have to touch phone with wet, soapy hands.
  • You'll need at least one tea towel, maybe two. Three if you are going to run out of space on the rack and sink. We will put dishes on a spread out tea towel for drying if we need to.
  • The water needs to be hot. Really hot. Slightly uncomfortably hot at the beginning.
  • The water needs to be clean. Really clean. If the sink is filthy, you are washing dishes in filthy water. Clean the sink before you fill it.
  • Empty the dish rack. We want an empty dish rack before we start on the dishes. Protip: get a professional dishpig's cutlery drainer from any good cook ware store. It's the bombshit.
  • You need to use a liberal amount of detergent. Do not stinge on the detergent unless you are doing a light load.
  • We do not use gloves. They are for the weak. Actually, more than that, they disrupt the zen. Lose the gloves.
  • Proper sponges or scrubbers. You are allowed to let your clothes fall apart on your body because you don't ask other people to eat off them. These are the dishes, they deserve respect. Get new sponges or scrubbers relatively frequently. Also, we are rinsing those things in clean water regularly - no mould on the sponge. No slime on the sponge. Imagine you are eating off the sponge. Hereafter the "sponge and scrubbers" will be just "sponge".
  • Clean the dish rack sometimes. It's worth it.
  • Clean the space under the dish rack sometimes. It's worth it.
  • Do the house lap. Grab that mug on your desk, grab that bowl next to your flatmate's bed. Pick up the silverware that is in the bathroom. Leave a small note asking why there is silverware in the bathroom.
  • Prepare and stack the dishes! Have the dishes in an orderly arrangement for ease of reach and lack of zen. Sometimes I spend as much time preparing the dishes to be washed as I spend washing the dishes. It's not that hard and it's worth the efficiency dividend. We are scraping excess food into the bin before washing, instead of scooping it out of the plug hole after. We are even lightly rinsing plates and bowls if required. We are putting the plates in a biggest on bottom -> smallest in middle -> bowls on top formation. We are putting all our sharp knives in a neat pile. It should look like this:

heavy duty pans/chopping boards-> misc -> stacked plates -> sharp knives -> TOC -> glass tumblers -> colander -> sink -> rack       

Most important point

  • You will have bubbles now, and not be able to see the water. Soon, you will have brown, green, milky, grey water or some combo thereof.




The Execution

Part 1

  • Right. So we've set up. I usually start with the cutlery in the water (NO SHARP KNIVES!) so they have some time to soak. We don't wash them first though. The first things we wash are, in this order: colander, glass tumblers, take out containers (TOC) and tupperware.
  • Colander: if you wash it in dirty water, it never get's clean. It is designed to strain things out of water - it keeps on picking up gunk from the earlier dishes if done later. It's much simpler to do it first.
  • Glass Tumblers: Look. When I get a glass from the cupboard, I want it to be clean. No grot. No grease. No hard manky bits. The easiest way to do this is to do them early while the water is still relatively clean. Since we have only done the colander thus far, they should come out shiny shiny. The still ragingly hot water will mean they dry quickly, without streaks. They are placed on the rack where they can drip dry. We do not put them flush with the sink or bench top. They will develop a gross circle of lukewarm ex-dishwater on their lip if they are flush, which doesn't dry in a timely manner. It is also where you put your mouth when you are kissing the glass. Do you want to kiss dishwater?
  • Take out containers: it can be hard to get the oil off the TOC. If you start on them while the water is hot hot hot and the detergent is plentiful, it makes it a lot easier to get the greasy off. So when you next use them, they feel new, not like...well, some rancid fatty greasy thing. Wash them early and vigorously.
  • Ok, we have the most important bits out of the way. Cutlery is next. Make sure every piece gets touched by the sponge at least once and they get a good second dip. Keep an eye on the gap between the fork's tines.
  • Now is a good time to do the SHARP KNIVES. One at a time. Leave the rest on the bench as you do each one. As you finish washing each knife, put it immediately on the rack. Notice how we now have a pile of clean, sharp knives but no blood? This is because we were smart about our knives. Be smart around knives.

Part 2

  • It's been easy up until now. The water is relatively clean still, and relatively warm. Our elbow hasn't had a real work out as yet. That's about to change. Get them plates.
  • Because we are logical and rational people, we are stacking the rack in a manner which allows for maximum capacity of all dishes, proper opportunity for each dish to air or drip dry on it's own, but also for people to find the dish they need and extract it without smashing everything. It's easier than you think.
  • Since we are doing this rationally, we start with the smallest bowl, and we put it in the lead position on the rack. All other bowls and plates will be leaning on this little baby, so pick your spot well. As the bowls get larger, they will fit comfortably on the back of the previous bowl - spooning it, if you will. If your bowls do not stack easily in this manner, you hae discovered an inefficiency that is easily rectified by getting new bowls. Do it for your own sanity. Bowls that stack well in a rack are bowls that love well in a rack.
  • Plates behind bowls, obviously. Let's make sure we are doing this right, too. We may well need to use some force to remove that hardened sauce from the night before. Of course you have soaked or rinsed off the porridge or cereal from the breakfast bowls, right? Don't let that stand overnight, it will be rock hard the next day.
  • As this is happening it's a good time to reorder the rack as necessary. I find the easiest solution is to move the TOC and tupperware on top - since they are light and plastic, they sit easily on top of the bowls and glasses. Worst case scenario if they fall is you need to rewash them, no shattered shards.
  • Now is a good time to do the remainder of the implements - the ladles, the tongs, the spatulas and slotted spoons. We give our arm a small rest, we fill those otherwise empty, awkward spots in the dish rack.
  • Ok, pots and pans. We are almost there. These bastards. I don't know. You just gotta suck it up and promise yourself to cook an easier meal next time. We are using our eyes a lot now, we want the pots and pans to be squeaky clean if we can. Not looking after your pans is a bad scene - they soon become unusable, or they get stained, slowly over time. Remember though - you don't cook on the outside of the pot. It's good that it's clean, but we don't need to get it all. Baking trays will get stains. This happens - oil in a pan with heat for extended periods of time. Clean as best you can - put in a little more effort than you feel is necessary - that's the best measure of how much effort to put in - slightly more than is necessary. The baking trays will never be perfect.
  • The pile should be pretty small now, the rack pretty piled. There will be water and suds everywhere if you are doing this right. It's ok to get loose at this point. Start air kicking when a good tune comes on, sudsy high fives with the cat, that type of thing.
  • Done. We are done. Fuck, look at that pile of dishes. It's magnificent. Those bastards better see and appreciate what I've done here today. (Note: They wont. They will not notice, they will not appreciate, they will not imitate.) You will need to stand strong. Call them out on their poor technique. Remember, lecturing flatmates on dishwashing techniques isn't patronising, it's for their own good, it's for the communal good, it's for the good of their future relationships. This is an important one.

Dishes. They do not wash themselves. You need to do it. And you need to do it well.











Once you feel you have mastered this, you should apply to join the Dishpigs Union, an institutional member of Unseen Art.