Yippeee!!! Yahooo!!! It is time to wash the dishes!!!! How exciting!
Okay – yes, I know. Washing dishes is not THAT exciting and certainly does not deserve that much hype, right?! I hope that by the end of this article that you will have changed your mind. I pray that you will have a new found joy and excitement in this mundane task that never seems to be finished.
Let’s first look at how dishes need to be washed. Over the 30 or so years that we have had gatherings in our home, I have been blessed to see many folks helping with dishes.
It is almost a study in human nature to see the progression of sisters in the kitchen when a meal is done. Some will immediately head for the sink and start water running, soap squirting and cloths whisking away. When there are a couple of “dishwashers” in the group I get tickled to see them almost waiting in line for their turn. They will step up the minute something has been washed and rinse, or they grab a towel and start to dry and then there is yet another putting away. It is fun to see if the dishwasher can keep up with the dish rinser and dish “putter away”. One of my favorite aspects is the chatter that goes on in a kitchen full of women cleaning up. There is a steady hum, with giggles and chuckles and sometimes even a song will rise through the activity. I LOVE IT!! I would have get-togethers just to enjoy the clean up time.
Of course, then there are some who are not dishwashers. I get tickled with them too. They so want to be a part of the events but they can’t stand to wash dishes, so they will head to the potty or some other far off place until all the washers, rinsers and putters away are in position. It isn’t that they don’t want to help. They just haven’t realized yet that every pair of hands is needed and more importantly wanted.
I wonder sometimes if these were the children whose parents perhaps shooed them out of the kitchen because they were “under foot”. Now I will say – we shoo children out of the kitchen when we are cleaning up after a big event, but when it is just our family, we put the children to work. Our girls were washing dishes when they were 6 and 7 and they were drying and putting away not long after. We always made sure to let them practice on the plastic items or the forks and spoons first. This is so they can have an accident with no breaking. It is up to every mother to train their children to care for a household. We must teach them proper procedure in each aspect of kitchen work from cooking to sweeping to cleaning out the ‘fridge.
I want to share with you some important things I have learned over the years in washing dishes. First step, and I learned this from my Daddy, you must begin with HOT water – As hot as your hands can stand. There is no way to clean off food particles properly and completely with cold water. I would venture to say that you could even do without soap if you had to as long as you had plenty of hot water. We fill the wash pan with hot water and then add a bit of soap. You don’t have to squirt soap in an endless stream – that is wasteful. Just a small amount is enough to do the job. Then there is an order to the items being washed. We always start with the drinking glasses. Of course, if there is something thick – like V8 or chocolate milk or a milkshake in the glass you will need to rinse that out first before putting it into your water. I fill the sink with several glasses or cups so that the others can soak while I wash each one.
Then comes the rinsing. Again HOT water! My father retired from the Birmingham Fire Department after 25 years and he was a stickler on washing and rinsing with HOT water. The reason was that as the men took turns washing dishes some of them would not be so diligent and then they would end up in the bathroom with diarrhea from soap being left on the dishes. Not a good thing when you are a fireman or anyone else! One of our daughters had a problem with remembering to rinse in hot water and after a month of periodic diarrhea running through the family – I thought it was a virus – I finally realized that it happened whenever she was doing the dishwashing. This was quickly taken care of and we haven’t had any problem with it since.
After we wash the drinking glasses then we do the silverware. I think that anything that touches your mouth should be the first thing to be washed. It is usually the least dirty of the dishes and you want to have the least dirty water to wash in. Be sure to examine the silverware to make sure that all food particles are cleaned – especially the spaces between the tines of the forks. Mononucleosis is one disease that can be caught by eating from dirty silverware. YUCK!! Another area that seems to be missed is knives that have wooden handles. Check the edge of the wooden handle where it attaches to the metal of the knife. This is a really nasty spot. Wood cannot be sterilized so you need to make sure that you have scrubbed this and poured hot water on it to get it clean.
Next we do the dishes. It is important to scrap the plates (give the scraps to the chickens, dogs or hogs) and then rinse them if they are very dirty, before you put them in the dish water. Again, put them all in the water so that they can soak a bit while you are washing each one. It makes for a much easier scrubbing when you get to the next one. Children are really bad to miss washing the back of the dish. They will do a great job on the front and then the rinser finds mashed potatoes stuck to the bottom. Double check.
After the drinking glasses, silverware and plates are done, then you can progress to the serving dishes and then the cookware. If you have had a large meal it is not unusual to have to redo the dish water with fresh. This is one good reason to use a washpan instead of filling the sink. You can get plastic washpans from the dollar store. Use the waste water to water plants. Just don’t allow the food particles in the bottom of the washpan to pour out. When washing serving pieces and cookware, sometimes you will need something more than elbow grease. We use a plastic scrub bud and if that is not enough we will use an SOS pad. You must keep in mind that SOS pads will rust if allowed to sit in water. They just need a minimum amount of water to work and they will scratch china and enamel so only use them on heavy metal items that have a no scratch surface.
Just a note here on cast iron. Once you have seasoned your cast iron you really shouldn’t use soap on it. Generally you can wash them out with a damp cloth or even a paper towel. If you do use water, be sure to dry them thoroughly and re-grease them. Sit cast iron items upside down in the oven and turn it on 250 degrees. Once it reaches that temp cut the oven off and you will keep your cast iron seasoned well.
Okay, I think we have covered it all. Oh, one more thing. If you use a lot of plastic – a tip is to rinse it in vinegar to get greasy residue off. It works really well. Now, what about all that joy and excitement I mentioned. Here it is. Have you really considered what those dirty dishes and messy kitchen mean? So many people in our nation have been incredibly blessed in their lifetime to never know what hunger is. Some have been in a bind and weren’t able to get pizza sometimes or perhaps they couldn’t go out to eat after church on Sunday every week, but they really have never known what it was like to miss a meal because there was no food. Or be a parent and know that the next meal was no where to be seen. I have been there – on both sides of this – child and parent. Hunger is a terrible, lonely thing. It renders a person to a state of helplessness and hopelessness that many in this country cannot even understand. When I see the mound of dirty dishes in my kitchen and the stack of cookware to be scrubbed – it brings a swelling joy to my heart that I cannot find words to explain. Those dishes, those pots, pans and spoons all mean one thing – my family is not hungry. There is food for them and for me. My babies are not in bed crying because their tummies are empty. Praise God forever because today – TODAY – I know that we are taken care of. HALLELUJAH!!!! My God Reigns!
The next time you are facing a sink full of dirtiness, lift up your head and thank God because that work is there as a sign of blessing!