How do you wash dishes?

Posted by: rabbitearscarver

How do you wash dishes? - 08/17/14 09:59 AM

Let's hear your strategy for washing dishes in camp, lightweight style.
Assuming you cook food....
Do you:
Boil water for it?
Use a separate wash basin?
Wash well away from camp?
Dig a cat hole for waste?
Bring biodegradable soap?

Posted by: Gershon

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/17/14 10:29 AM

Before washing dishes, I wash my hands well. I make the washing chore easier by not cooking food that gets the pot too dirty. This means no oils or grease. I'm vegan, so that makes it easier.

I use a two cup pot for all my cooking. I have a separate pot for heating water for coffee while I'm eating. I put some water in the pot and clean it with my fingers. If you don't want to use your fingers, a small square of yellow camp towel works well. I dump the water away from water sources and away from the camping spot. Usually, I dump the water in the fire.

One thing I don't do is wash the pot in a stream.

A related issue is washing clothes. If I'm on a trip where I plan to wash clothes, I bring a large plastic coffee can to wash them in. The coffee can is also hand for getting water to put out the fire.
Posted by: JPete

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/17/14 04:56 PM


I usually use my tea (or coffee) bag and the last couple of sips of fluid. I strip the bag, scatter the contents (away from camp) and add the bag itself to the carry out garbage bag. There are usually only drops (literally) left so I just go a bit away from camp and sling them along with the leaves or grounds. If need be, I will rinse with a tablespoon or two of fresh water and wipe out with toilet paper. Usually the toilet paper gets carried out since I rarely make a fire.

Believe it or not, this takes less time and effort than it took to write this. I usually combine the disposal trip with my usual morning toilet run. When there is an actual outhouse, I've been known to put the leaves (or grounds), the drops of tea, the rinse water (if any), and the toilet paper (in my case, usually tissue), down the hatch.

The weight of a full week's empty bags can't be much more than an ounce (I take the labels and container bags off of them when I'm packing since I usually put each day's ration in a freezer bag).

My pot is only very rarely really dirty since I simply boil water, pour some out for tea, and then pour the food into the water, cozy the pot in my fleece hat for five or ten minutes and eat from the pan.

Once in a while my Esbit will gunk up the bottom to the pan. for that I carry in the cook kit a small piece of plastic kitchen scrubber. To use, I wet it, scrub, then clean off with a tissue. The wet scrubber goes into an empty bag, and the tissue into the carry out.

Hope this helps. I realise it sounds complicated when I write it out, but it's not.

best, jcp
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/17/14 05:37 PM

I use the so-called "freezer bag cooking method" popularized by "Sarbar" on her excellent website. Actually, it's rehydrating dried or quick-cooking food in a freezer bag, kept warm by means of a cozy. I then eat the food out of said bag.

With this method, the only item needing washing is my spoon--I just lick it, rinse with water, dry and I'm ready to go. The used plastic bag is resealed and goes back into my food bag for disposal when I get home.

As you can probably deduce, I hate washing dishes! Sarbar is my heroine!

Food waste should always be packed out, never buried--critters will go to elaborate lengths to dig it up, turning any popular camp site into a garbage dump. As for soap, even biodegradable soap is deadly to aquatic life and should be disposed of at least 200 feet from any water source.

For washing clothes (usually just dirty socks), a two gallon plastic bag works great as a "washing machine." Its other use is for hiking clothing that gets wet in the daytime--that way I can keep it in the sleeping bag so it's at least warm, if not dry, when I put it back on in the morning. The bag is less bulky than a hard-sided container.

When taking my grandkids out, I do have to do a little dishwashing--in that case I wipe the dish with a small piece of paper towel (packed out with garbage), then rinse with very hot water (I heat up a little after the meal). If it's untreated water, I let it boil a minute before using.

As you can see by the responses here, there is more than one way to do things! In other words, Your Mileage May Vary!
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/17/14 09:07 PM

Lots of good ideas here.

We start by not getting very many dishes dirty. Lunches never call for dished on our trips. Breakfasts are instant oatmeal and cocoa...that means that the water gets boiled in our pot, poured into the oatmeal in the bowl, cocoa in the cup. WE rinse those out with some of the warm water from the pot (and usually drink that rinse water---hydration is good!) Then the bowl and cup get a very quick rinse with a tiny bit of Dawn, another rinse with water, and off we go.

Dinners are miso soup in that same cup, and then freeze dried dinners in their pouches. The pouches get packed out (as does all of our trash, from used TP to tea bags, etc) and the cups get washed as before.

As noted by others, always wash dishes far from any water source, and when it is time to throw the last few drips of water away, fling them so that they spread out on the ground.

Washing clothes? We rinse our clothes in water...but we don't wash them in soap.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/20/14 02:45 PM

If I cook something that is messy, which is rare, but not never, I'll bring some Dawn dish soap and if I'm by a creek I'll get some water and sand from it and use it with a few drops of Dawn to scrub a greasy pot, or I'll use a small piece of a Scotch scrub pad.

Dishwater disposal is the same wherever you go. I just walk a few hundred feet away from the source and camp and dig a cat hole and cover it when the water is mostly soaked up. I don't use much water though and I bring a thin wash cloth to wipe down my cup and pot if they need it.
Posted by: CamperMom

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/24/14 08:45 AM

Most of my meals are packed in single serve re-purposed mylar snack bags. (Wash and dry well, seal both ends with a clothes iron.) Like Sarbar's, most of my food is precooked and dehydrated. Add hot or cold water on-site. Eat from bag, lick off the spoon, sanitize it the next time I heat water. The bags are thrown out whenever a trash can is available. I've happily done this for nearly 15 years. Before this method, I cleaned the pot or cup as well as possible with a spoon or small scraper, added some water to swish around, then drank the "pot soup." No soap, no waste to leave behind. This works OK for simple, non-greasy foods. If I decide to take something like raw bacon or raw meat, I might cook these on sticks over an open fire, then burn the sticks. The grease would fall into the fire, so no worries about getting rid of that. Ground meat can be cooked in veggies (peppers, tomatoes,onions,etc.)or in foil which can be disposed of later. For me, these are too much trouble. I might reconsider if on a long trip, close to a resupply trail head. Actually washing dishes is something I try to avoid. I only carry a pot and maybe a cup, plus a spoon. Simplify, simplify, simplify...
Posted by: susannewilli

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/26/14 06:50 AM

Sand from the creek
Ashes from the fire

And there is also a plant called Equisetum arvense that grows in swampy areas and makes a GREAT scouring device.
Posted by: ndwoods

Re: How do you wash dishes? - 08/31/14 02:20 AM

A little water. No soap. No food particles in any waterway. Been doing it this way over 20 years...