Sunday, 24 February 2013

Washing Dishes Vintage Style

My family think I am crazy, but I actually enjoy washing dishes. Well I enjoy it more than rinsing dishes, stacking the dishwasher and then unstacking it again – especially in the morning.  It’s nice meditation time, or chatting time if you have a helper. It’s funny how the kids will chat to me more when we do the dishes than they do at the dinner table.
  Doing_dishes  washing-dishes

When I was a little girls growing up in the 70s, there was an campaign for Palmolive dish washing liquid with the catch phrase 'Dishwashing Liquid?You're soaking in it!" It was meant to be the detergent that actually made your hands softer. I don't think it really did, although Palmolive was originally made from olive oil so it may have back in the day, but I don't think it's bright green colour could be good for anything.  The campaign was obviously successful as it ran for 27 years until the late 90s, with american actress Jan Miner (October 15, 1917 - February 15, 2004)  playing Madge the manicurist. Madge did a lot to make washing dishes more glamorous - she certainly made me want to do dishes! Hmm, and I also became a manicurist.........the power of advertising!

Palmolive ad c, 1969

I do the dishes twice a day during the week, and three times on weekends when everyone’s home for lunch.  Tea and coffee cups used in between get left in the sink with a little water in them, and any other dishes as well.  I use environmentally friendly detergent or soap, and when the weathers been dry I like to use a big tub in the sink so I can pour the dirty dishwater onto the garden.  At the moment the gardens a bit water logged, so I don’t worry.  I used to have a metal soap saver and wash in sunlight soap, but at the moment I am using a supermarket eco detergent that was on special.  I also like castille liquid soap – the lavender one is wonderful. I use fabric dish cloths, which I found at the supermarket, but overlocked rags or cut down towels are good too. I am going to try crocheting some soon – I found a great pattern here.  I also use a dish brush and steel scourer. The timber dish brushes with replaceable heads are great and good to use if the water’s still very hot.

Castile Melrose  Lavender and Foam   saver   Dish Brush  scourer  Cotton_Woven_DishCloth
Liquid castile soap, vintage metal soap saver,  sunlight soap. eco dishbrush, metal scourer, cotton dish cloths

There are many ways to wash dishes, but this is my basic technique:

Firstly all the plates/bowls are scraped into the chook food bin, which saves pre-rinsing.  I part fill the sink with straight hot water and soap, put the dishes in to soak for about ten minutes, then scrub with a brush if I need to or wipe with the dish cloth, but usually they have just about washed themselves by then, rinse the top/inside of each plate/bowl under the tap, so that the excess water goes into the already partially full sink, and put on the dish rack.  Hot water seems to make things dry faster, and I don’t rinse the backs, just the  parts where food or liquid will be. 

boy  Attractive-Housewife-in-Modern-Kitchen-Washing-Dishes-Photographic-Print-C13867072

Then I ad the glasses/cups to the sink and wash and rinse those. Then any pots, which have already had hot water put in them straight after dishing up if possible – I like the steel wool for those. Lastly cutlery, and I drain the sink and ad a little more hot water to rinse them in. I like to let each round of dishes air dry on the rack if I can do other things in between time (sweep the floor, wipe the table, runt he kids bath etc), otherwise I lay a tea towel on the bench and extend my drying room.  If I have a drying helper they use a fresh tea towel each time.  After the dishes are put away I spray the sink with a vinegar and lavender cleaner and wipe and rinse it, and wipe down all the benches. Then the dish cloth and towel go into the wash and clean ones are put out. Easy!

sunbrite   tea-towels-on-the-washing-line
Here is a sweet little song from the1930s called Washing dishes with my sweetheart.  The lyrics start about half way through, but there are lots of lovely images of vintage kitchens as well.

So if your dishwasher breaks down, don’t stress – just wash the dishes the old fashioned way and have fun!

Deb xx

As usual, more vintage dish washing images on tumblr.


  1. I must confess, I prefer the convenience of my modern dishwasher. I do, however, wash all of my pots and pans by hand, and if there are just a few dishes, I will go ahead and wash them by hand too, rather than load up the dishwasher.

  2. I have to agree about the dishwasher. I love having one. It is a time-saver for me. I rather wish I did have the time, though, to hand-wash dishes, though, and if I did, I would spare no expense fie great smelling and Eco-friendly soap for the sheer pleasure of it. One day down the road when some of life's pressures have lifted, I think I will do that. My grandfather got a fancy dishwasher for my grandmother back in thev1950s. She used it for storage! I'm not sure she ever ran it!

  3. Wow, a dishwasher in the 50s - that would have been an expensive storage cupboard!
    I must say, after a weekend with all five kids home, plus a girlfriend,I was tempted to use it. But then we run out of glasses and have to hand wash them anyway. I did use it last week when my husband cooked dinner and the kitchen was a shambles - it looked too hard so I threw everything in, pots and all!


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