Even if your new rental unit ticked off most of your must-have boxes — great location, lots of light, budget-friendly — you might be disappointed about one thing: There’s no dishwasher in the apartment.
Not to worry! Here are some tips, tricks and shortcuts that take the drudgery out of washing dishes — and you may even end up enjoying the task.
1. Plan meals that use fewer dishes
Instead of dirtying piles of cooking utensils, try incorporating some one-pot meals into the rotation. Slow cookers, instant-pots, woks and sheet pans will all minimize the amount of mess.
When baking, measure your dry ingredients first and then reuse the same measuring cups and spoons for wet ingredients.
You can also line your pans with aluminum foil before roasting vegetables or baking lasagna to cut down on washing time afterward.
Also, read a recipe through before you start cooking to see how many dishes you will need. By thinking ahead, you’ll have less to wash when you’re done eating.
2. Clean up as you cook
As you prepare your meal, get in the habit of tossing food scraps into the compost bin or garbage can. Plan to wash what you use as you’re cooking or place dirty dishes into the sink as you go.
Before you start chopping any ingredients, fill the sink with warm soapy water and soak your dirty dishes so food doesn’t become dry and caked on. Wash your prep tools as your food cooks.
3. Get the right tools for the job
Toss that stinky kitchen dishcloth and pick up a few smart gadgets that will almost make you forget you don’t have a dishwasher in your apartment.
- A dishwashing brush can handle even the crustiest food remnants, plus it dries completely — no more damp, germ-infested sponges lying around.
- If you prefer a sponge, get a washable microfiber one that you can toss into the washing machine.
- Silicone scrubbing gloves protect your hands, plus they provide some scrubbing power.
- Using a blade brush is a safer way to clean sharp knives.
- A food scraper or dish squeegee makes dishwashing easier and keeps your sudsy water cleaner.
4. Protect your drain
The last thing you need when you have no dishwasher in your apartment is a clogged kitchen sink.
Never pour oil or grease down the drain because they can coat the pipes and cause a blockage. Use a sink strainer to catch food particles and empty it regularly while you’re cleaning up.
5. Be efficient by learning how to clean stubborn dishes
For about $10, you can upgrade your kitchen faucet with a swivel tap aerator, which helps get into the nooks and crannies for more effective dishwashing.
Wash items from least to most dirty: Glasses and silverware first, then plates and bowls. Save the largest, dirtiest things for last. Some dishes, like glassware or anything oily need extra-hot water to get clean, while others do better with cold.
For example, dairy and starch rinse off easily under cold water, which prevents the residue from getting sticky. For scorched pots and pans, head to your laundry room to grab a dryer sheet: Soaking it with the pan in warm soapy water for an hour will remove caked-on grime.
6. Use the right kind and amount of dish soap
If you don’t like wearing latex gloves to protect your hands, use a natural dish soap that will be gentler on your skin. For very greasy dishes, you might need a more advanced dish cleaner.
Don’t use too much soap, because it can leave a sticky residue on your dishes — one or two tablespoons per load is all you need.
Pouring your soap into a touchless foaming soap dispenser controls how much you use, saving you money.
7. Purchase space-saving drying racks
Why double the amount of work to hand-dry all your dishes when you can let them air-dry instead?
Since small apartment kitchens usually lack counter space, ditch the bulky dish-drying rack in favor of a more streamlined solution, such as hanging a wire shelf over the sink, or using a roll-up drying rack that stores away when not in use. Or, use a silicone dish-drying mat — it’s better than a fabric one because it prevents mold growth.
8. Treat yourself to a few luxuries
Just because there’s no dishwasher in your apartment doesn’t mean you should dread cooking great meals for yourself or your loved ones. One thing that makes the task easier is creating the right mood for the job.
Pick up some great-smelling dish soap and soft linen kitchen towels, which dry faster than cotton and are naturally anti-microbial. Set up a waterproof Bluetooth speaker or wear wireless headphones so you can listen to your favorite tunes or podcast or light a few aromatherapy candles to make washing dishes more enjoyable.
9. Invest in a countertop dishwasher
Speaking of treating yourself: Sometimes, especially if you have a family to feed three times a day, hand-washing everything is just not realistic. Apartment dwellers have another option: A countertop dishwasher.
These appliances — ranging in size from 16 to 22 inches wide — sit on your counter, hook up to the faucet and wash up to six place settings at once. These dishwashers cost about $400.
Adapt to having no dishwasher in your apartment
While living in an apartment with no dishwasher can seem challenging at first, the transition to a wash-as-you-go lifestyle is easier when you plan ahead, use the right tools and shift your mindset.