I like to be able to get my dishes clean with just cold water, and the minimum amount of dishwashing liquid needed to get them clean. The following practices help me save water, dishwashing liquid, and labor:
– When cooking at home, I prepare vegan or vegetarian meals whenever possible. Thus the dishes are easier to clean than if I were cooking meat. I’m omnivore but usually don’t cook meat at home.
– When I do cook meat at home, I mainly use one certain pan, a large cast-iron pan. Cast-iron pans don’t need to be washed (in fact, washing them wrecks the coating of oil/fat that keeps them from rusting); you just wipe them out and maybe rinse them lightly.
– To prevent dishes piling up, I clean the dishes from each meal right after eating. This is easy when I’m by myself, because I cook one-pot meals and mainly eat with one dish and spoon. I found out a lot of other people I know do this also. (There’s a certain intersection of “green” and “bachelor/bachelorette” mind-sets at work here, I think.)
– When I have guests, and am too busy to wash everyone’s dishes after every meal, I just scrape them really really well (scrapings go into the compost bucket) and stack them in my large dishwashing tub. I do NOT put water in the tub til I am actually going to do the dishes. You might think a lot of dried food would be stuck on the dishes and be hard to wash off, but that isn’t the case. Also, by not leaving the dishes soaking in water, I avoid the problem of the water turning nasty and smelly, making the dish-washing that much harder once I do get around to it. I noticed that even if it was nice soapy water I left the dishes soaking in, it would turn nasty and smelly pretty quickly, which is a waste of dish liquid and water, as well as labor.
– I avoid using plastic dishes and utensils; they are much harder to clean, especially with cold water. I use china, stainless steel, glass.
– I use the same water glass, coffee cup, bowl, and spoon all the time. Since I’m the only one using it, just a quick rinse with water is usually enough; most of the time no dish liquid is needed. When friends of mine who are into this lifestyle come to visit, they pick out their own cup, dish, and spoon, and use it for the duration of their visit, rinsing it after each meal the same as I do.
– When I have a bunch of dishes to wash, I wash in a small tub (actually it’s a large oval-shaped enameled metal baking dish, which I bought at a thrift shop and is just the right size for washing dishes). When I’m just quick-rinsing my personal bowl or spoon, I catch the rinse-water in a smaller pot that I keep in my kitchen sink for catching water. (I try not to let water go down the drain.) The collected dishwater/rinsewater are used to water trees and shrubs in the yard.
– For those times I do need or want hot water, I boil up just the bare minimum needed (using an electric kettle or stovetop kettle), and pour it into the smallest possible container. For example, a mason jar if I’m washing silverware. I’ll squirt a bit of dish liquid into the mason jar, add the hot water and then put in the silverware and swish it around. Sometimes the hot water can be used to wash other items after washing the silverware, sometimes not, depending how dirty the silverware started out. One thing that used hot water can always be reused for is cleaning the sink and drain.
Hope you find these tips helpful. Got any to add to this list?