How To Wash Dishes With As Little Water As Possible

Living in an RV with a family of 8 has had a few learning curves, to say the least. One of the biggest ones for me has been hand washing EVERYTHING. We don’t have a dishwasher, and so any dish, pot, or utensil we use requires hand washing. That’s enough work and stress on its own, but on top of that, we have limited water. We prefer “boondocking”, to staying in RV parks. This means we are camped out on national forest land and have only the water we bring with us! We have a 51 gallon freshwater tank, and that’s for toilet use, hand washing, rinsing in the shower, drinking water for the dog- and dishes. So doing dishes with as little water as possible is absolutely essential!

It’s a good habit to conserve water when washing dishes even if you don’t live in an RV. Many places are struggling with droughts, and it’s always a good idea to conserve water when possible. Instead of using gallons and gallons of water with hand washing, here are some things you can do to conserve that water!

  • Scrape food off dishes immediately. One of the biggest reasons we go through more water when washing dishes is when we have to scrape off old or burnt food. Don’t let those dishes sit for hours with dried food on them! As soon as the meal is over, scrape off the remnants with a sponge or rubber/plastic scraper.
  • Let your dishes soak. Again, rather than let the faucet run forever while you scrape at old food, allow your dishes to soak in a couple inches of water to help soften and break down the food so that it easily comes off!
  • Utilize your rinsing water. When I rinse off the soap, I plug up the other side of the sink so that as I rinse the dishes, the water starts collecting instead of just going down the drain. I then use that soapy water for rinsing the next round of dishes- so that when we put dishes in the sink, they are immediately put into water and can start soaking and getting food bits off!
  • Another way to do this is to take all the dirty dishes out of your sink, thoroughly clean your sink with vinegar, and as you use a soapy dishcloth to scrub your dishes, set them into the clean sink. Then rinse large items first, as the residual water will help rinse the soapy dishes still sitting in the sink as well. I’m not sure how I feel about this one… if you regularly clean your sink, this is a great method, but if you don’t…. I would be careful!

Some other tips to consider:

  • A good sponge makes a difference! Scraping old food off with your fingernails is nowhere near as efficient as a good green scrubbing brush!
  • Warm/hot water really will help the job get done faster! Cold water just doesn’t take the food off the same way, so you’ll spend a lot more water trying to scrape food off than if you just use warm water!
  • While you want to make sure you use enough soap, there is such a thing as too much. If you’re using way more soap than needed, you’ll also be spending more water than needed just to get all the suds off! Read the soap label, and be aware of how much soap you’re putting on your rag! One recommendation said to mix a cup of water with a tablespoon of dish soap in a small bowl and use this to get your rag soapy as you do your dishes.
  • Turn off the water when you’re not using it. This seems obvious, but I know I’m guilty sometimes of leaving the water on while grabbing another dish. But you can really save so much water by turning off the water in between each dish! It’s also helpful if you can keep the dishes close to you as well, instead of walking across the kitchen to grab more! I guess that’s an argument for staying on top of your dishes. ;)
  • Now if you really want to commit, you could use either a spray bottle mixed with your choice of soap or dish washing cloths to scrub your dishes clean before rinsing them with a spray bottle of plain water. I’m not quite to that point, but hey! It works for some people!

What are your tips for saving water when doing dishes? Share with us in the comments below!

    Camille Hoffmann
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
    Email the author!


Subscribe to Cook'n Premium and get newsletter articles like this each week!

blog comments powered by Disqus