As time permits, I sometimes revise early posts on this blog and modify/delete them as I see fit. One post that I’ve decided to keep but almost completely re-write was a November 2006 article on kitchen implements that I consider to be underrated.
I think the time has come for a sequel, to which end I now present the following article on my personal strategies for washing dishes.
Boring, you say? Maybe, maybe not. I find that interesting observations can be found in the most trivial of places, and that there’s much to be learned in comparing how different people go about ordinary tasks. For example, when I visited Britain almost a decade ago, I took an interest in such observations as the fact the British have a far higher proportion of electric stoves, as opposed to gas. Approached without prejudice, my reflections on dish washing may contain interesting perspectives that you’ve never before considered.
So here’s a photograph of the various accessories I use for dish washing.
At the bottom right is the scouring pad, very useful for cleaning coffee mugs and so on. To its left is the steel wool, for overcoming bits of dried food that even the scouring pad won’t remove. Many people would refer to the steel wool as a scourer, but I’ll stick to the terminology that I learned as a child.
Behind these we have the plastic container that I keep by the sink to give the scouring pad, steel wool, toothbrush (middle left), and cloths (not shown) somewhere to belong without making the place untidy. I use the toothbrush to clean those few parts of the rotary cheesegrater that the regular dish brush can’t get to.
Speaking of the dish brush, that’s it on the back right, leaning against the big bottle of detergent. Notice that the model is one in which the bristles protrude beyond the end of the brush, not just sideways as they do on many other models. Indeed, the bristles at the end are by far the ones that get the most use; I don’t know why anyone would use a brush with sideways-only bristles, as I find them terribly awkward to hold.
On the other side of the detergent (I’m saving the detergent for later) is the dish mop. Now, I was raised to wash dishes with a mop rather than a brush, but it’s the brushes that dominate the market these days and I’ve met people (including shop staff) who didn’t even know what a dish mop was! That’s one of the reasons I decided a post like this was necessary. However, I’ve since discovered that a mop and a brush used alternately work more effectively than either alone – the brush tends to remove particles of food that the mop misses, and vice versa.
The brands of detergent in the bottles do not necessarily match the labels; they get refilled with whatever brand I last bought. The tall bottle in the back is for when I’m washing a whole sinkful of dishes at once; more on that in a moment. The smaller bottle with the spraying mechanism (front left) is useful when I only want to clean one particular utensil with the intention of using it immediately. I’ve only ever seen such spray-on detergent in the shops once, but it’s a great idea and I’ve since refilled the bottle with a mixture of 50% detergent and 50% water.
I want to end this post by demonstrating how I add the detergent when washing a sinkful of dishes. I have a special technique that gets me the maximum amount of foam for the minimum amount of detergent. The secret is to wait until the turbulent running water no longer creates a circular film of high-velocity liquid at the bottom of the sink, and then to inject the detergent into the running water as shown in the picture below. Then just keep running the water.
It only takes half a second of squeezing, but generates a lot of foam. Which is nice, I think.