Holiday Clean Up: Doing The Dishes Easy

Hosting a holiday gathering for friends and family can be really fun, but it also poses a tremendous challenge. Holiday meals tend to generate numerous dishes that will leave the host toiling for hours in the kitchen, long after the guests have left and gone home to sleep.

After putting forth all that hard work and expense, the host reaps the rewards of wrinkled dishpan hands. The good news is there are a few tips to minimize dish loads for your next holiday gathering.

Compostable Dishes

One way to rid yourself of having to spend hours cleaning dishes will be to use compostable plates and silverware. Many people refrain from doing this because they may want to maintain a holiday theme using their favorite Christmas patterned dishware. Another reason people may not use compostable items is because they don’t want to appear cheap, plain and simple. Fear not, there are now beautiful and stylish options available that you can feel good about serving your guests. One of our favorite lines is from bambu dinnerware.

Fewer Cooking Dishes

Another way to use reduce dish washing time is to cook with fewer pots and pans. Serving multiple side dishes can be the main culprit that leads a mountain of cookware to clean. Decrease the variety of offerings at your party, or consider cooking a greater quantity of those items that you are sure everyone favors instead. Or cook in cookware that can double as serving-ware and then as storage containers once the party is over. For example, Dutch ovens are usually made of cast iron and are used for many cooking tasks on the stovetop and in the oven. Dutch ovens are especially well-suited for long, slow cooking, such as braising or roasting meat, soups and stews, and casseroles, but can cook just about anything that can be cooked in a conventional oven. One of our go-to’s is the Le Creuset line. They are enamel coated for use on the stovetop or in the oven – the enamel exterior also eliminates the need for seasoning. And in so many shapes and colors, it will look great on your table.\Here are some of our best tips and tricks for using your dishwasher to make holiday cleanup extra easy, whether you’re hosting five people or 50.

Dishwashers can only accommodate so many dishes, which can leave you running multiple loads after holiday gatherings. However, there are a few ways you can fit more plates per cycle without overloading your dishwasher.

Adjust The Rack Height

Many people don’t realize that nearly every dishwasher has an adjustable top rack. That’s right—simply raise the height of the upper rack to give yourself more room for large plates and serving dishes on the bottom. You’ll want to check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to properly adjust your dishwasher’s rack if you’ve never done it before.

Put Pans & Platters Around The Edges

If you have casserole dishes, serving bowls, and platters that need cleaning, they’ll take up a huge part of the bottom rack if you put them over the tines (they’re the vinyl- or rubber-coated prongs that keep dishes in place) like normal. Instead, try loading large items around the edges of the dishwasher—just make sure they’re not blocking the detergent tray from opening.

The benefit here is two-fold: First, when they’re on the sides, large dishes won’t block the spray from reaching other items. Second, you’ll still be able to fill up the inner area of the basket with plates and other dinnerware.

Move The Utensil Basket To The Middle

Need more room for large dishes? Most dishwashers have a removable utensil basket, and you can often place it in the middle of the bottom rack to free up more room around the sides.

Dishwashers with a “third rack” make it even easier, as you can load all your utensils into the shallow upper rack, which is specially designed for silverware. This leaves plenty of room in the bottom rack for pots, pans, and other holiday necessities.

Face Dinnerware In The Same Direction

With older dishwashers, it was often advised to angle plates toward the center to allow the spray arms to clean them more thoroughly, but with modern appliances, this isn’t necessary—the powerful jets can clean off dishes no matter which direction they’re facing. To that end, you can often squeeze a few extra dishes into each load by lining up plates and bowls in the same direction.

Skip The Rinse To Save Time

If you’re planning to start the dishwasher right away, there’s really no need to pre-rinse your dishes. Sure, you should scrape off large pieces of food so they don’t clog the filter, but your dishwasher can handle gravy or mashed potato remnants that got left behind.

Get Started During The Party

If you can slip away to the kitchen for a minute during the festivities, you might be able to get ahead on dishwashing.

Take Advantage Of The Speed Cycle

Running low on mugs or silverware? You can toss lightly soiled items in the dishwasher during the party and run them on an express cycle. While it varies by dishwasher, this setting generally takes around 30 minutes to run, so you’ll have clean dishes again before your guests even need a refill on their drink.

Clean Cookware During The Party

If you really want to get ahead, load up the pots and pans you used to prepare the meal while the party is still in full swing. By starting this cycle in advance, it will be ready to unload once people start heading out. However, when going this route, make sure your dishwasher is relatively quiet—nothing disrupts the atmosphere of a party like a loud, clanking dishwasher.

Give The Dishwasher Rack A Gentle Shake

Here’s a good pro tip: When washing delicate glassware or dinnerware in the dishwasher, try the shake test before you hit “Start.” Essentially, you want to give the rack a little jiggle to see if any of the items move around or bump each other when agitated. Rearrange as needed to keep everything secure.

If the dishwasher is already running, and you still have dirty plates and cups piled on the counter – or, heaven forbid, you don’t have a dishwasher at all – these tips for washing dishes by hand will help the process go quickly and smoothly. Grab a handful of helpers and organize your assembly line – it’s time to wash some dishes!


Fill the sink or a large basin with warm soapy water.

Dish soap with grease-cutting power is ideal for this job. If you can, choose brand name soap over a generic product for better results.

If you have a double sink, fill the other side with cold water for rinsing.

This cuts down on water usage by skipping the open tap to rinse dishes. Add one to three teaspoons of bleach to the rinse water for sanitizing power.

Recruit three other people to help you.

The first person scrapes plates into the trash and sets them in the warm soapy water to soak. The second person scrubs dishes with a netting-covered sponge or scrub brush. The third person dips the plates in the rinse water and dries them with a soft, clean towel. The fourth person puts the dishes away.

If you don’t have anyone to help you, start by scraping all the plates and setting what will fit in the warm soapy water to soak. Scrub, rinse, and set dishes on a drying rack. Once everything is clean, you can dry dishes with a towel and put them away or allow them to air dry for a few hours before stacking them back in the cupboards.

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