9 Tips for Doing Thanksgiving Without a Dishwasher

published Nov 17, 2021
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Credit: Sylvie Li

From meal prep to cooking and all the cleanup, serving Thanksgiving dinner comes with a lot of (very worthwhile) work. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you’ll likely spend even more time on cleanup duty. But, luckily, with a bit of planning and strategy, you can cut down on the time you spend washing dishes — and, more importantly, increase time spent with your loved ones. 

Here are nine simple-but-effective ways to deal to make Thanksgiving dish-washing duty easier if you don’t have a dishwasher. 

Wash dishes as you go

There’s nothing more annoying than a huge pile of dishes after an event. That’s why Zeynep Mehmetoglu, manager of the Virginia-based cleaning company Maidbright, suggests a clean-as-you go approach. As you cook your dishes, clean up all the prep materials and put them away; then, after you dish up your favorite Thanksgiving dishes onto serving ware, wash the pots and pans before the guests arrive. That way, you’ll only have to hand-wash what was on the table after the big event.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Soak your dinner dishes

Chances are, you won’t want to wash every dinner dish right after people are done eating. Irina Nikiforov, owner of the LA-based cleaning company Rocket Maids LA, suggests making the job easier by clearing the plates and soaking them in a sink full of soapy water. “If your sink is quite small, you can purchase an extra dish tub to use as a second one,” she says. 

Alicia Sokolowski, co-CEO of AspenClean in Canada, recommends soaking greasy or baked-in pots in hot water with added salt or a scouring powder, which will help break down grease and make cleaning up easier. 

If you’d rather not soak your dishes, Mehmetoglu suggests clearing them and then spraying them with Dawn Powerwash, which will cut through grime and grease and make it easier to wash the next day.

Use a barrier 

Disposable cookware is convenient, but it can also be wasteful. When you’re using a baking sheet or dish, Nikiforov encourages lining it with foil or baking paper to encourage a quicker turnover. Some juices and food residue might splatter on the edges, but you won’t have to thoroughly scrub the dish like you would without a barrier. 

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani | Food Stylist: Jesse Szewczyk

Rethink your menu

Another super-smart way to make dish-washing easier: Use fewer pots, pans, and dishes to cook. Nikiforov suggests turning to one-pan dishes when possible — for example, you could roast several veggies on one baking tray rather than cooking them separately. 

Know what type of water to use

For an extra edge on your dish-washing process, use the right temperature water when you’re washing. Generally, Sokolowski says, cold water works best on dairy and starches, while hot water is better for everything else.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Prepare your trash can 

You’ll probably be clearing a lot of food scraps into the trash after everyone eats. To streamline the clearing process, Mehmetoglu suggests lining the bottom of your trash bin with bags before the big day.

Put your oven rack to work  

You almost always need an extra drying rack for big dinners, but you probably don’t want to buy a new one. In a pinch, Sokolowski recommends using an oven rack as a temporary drying rack. Just stick a towel beneath it!

Start with the big stuff 

If you’re a one-and-done type person, Sokolowski says it’s more efficient to watch anything that takes up a lot of space in the sink or on your counter, like pots and pans. “It helps visually minimize the mess and makes it easier to deal with small items like side plates and glasses,” she says.

Enlist a helper 

If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of managing all the dishes on your own, don’t hesitate to enlist help. Your guests will be happy to pitch in if you ask. (Quick tip: If you don’t have a drying rack, Nikiforov suggests using linen towels to wipe down clean plates, since they absorb water well and dry quickly.)