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dirty dishes

This isn’t the most photogenic of posts, but one of the dirty secrets of writing cookbooks is the dishes. And this season, as the cavalcade of cooking tips comes tumbling forth in anticipation of all the holidays – and the cooking and baking that go along with them – this is the best tip I’ve ever been given.

Most of you probably know how many dishes to takes just to bake a simple cake: a stack bowls, a mixer and the whip, a gaggle of spatulas, and for my fellow Americans, a bunch of measuring cups and spoons. Now imagine if you made that same cake three times in a row, making a few other sets of dishes dirty. Then did it again.

In spite of that fact that I have a real dishwasher, I spend a few hours each and every day washing dishes. It’s funny because when friends call and ask me if I’m free for dinner, sometimes I have to decline because I have to work, and they don’t seem to understand that part of my “work” is washing and/or putting away dishes and pots and pans. It’s a cycle that’s part of my life and when I left the restaurant business, being able to hand off a bustub full of dirty dishes to someone else was something I missed a lot. (If you ask anyone who is the most important person in a restaurant kitchen, even more than the chef, it’s the dishwasher.)

tons of dishes to wash

The tip is one I learned from Marion Cunningham, who wrote a fair number of cookbooks herself, which I’ve adopted. Simply fill the sink with warm, soapy water, and as you finish with dishes, slide them into the water. Later, they’ll be easier to clean after a leisurely soaking, and you can usually just scrape or scrub them with a sponge and load ’em up in the dishwasher. Or finish washing by hand. And with any luck, you’ll get to accept more of those dinner invites than I do.

sinkful of dishes

Contrary to what some believe, dishwashers are not necessarily a luxury and using one requires less water than handwashing. There are various opinions about that, but for someone like me who works for themselves, it allows me to do other things rather than stand in front of the sink. So the whole issue for me, if you’ll excuse the pun, is a wash.


Now if someone could invent a device that prevents people from calling you the moment you start rolling out buttery pie pastry, or stick your hands in a batch of sticky cookie dough, that would be great.

All-Clad pans

A couple of other useful home cooking and baking tips I’ve culled from my experience:

Leave frequently used pots and pans on the stovetop. Putting them away and taking them out again, over and over, is a lot of wasted time and work.

chocolate cookies measuring cups and spoons

Keep graduated measuring cups and spoons in a bowl on the counter rather than in a drawer, where you have to fish them out every time you want to use them. And you don’t have to fuss with stacking them together all the time. Or switch to using a scale. And if you use a scale, be sure to always keep spare batteries on hand; there is nothing worse than your scale running out of power when you’re in the middle of a baking project.

-If you’re space-challenged, set up an ironing board to use as a temporary extra shelf.

ironing board

Never, ever run a cooking knife through the dishwasher. The high heat can ruin the blade, as can it being knocked around with other dishes and objects during the cycle. And there’s nothing less-enjoyable or dangerous than to try to cut something with a dull knife. If you don’t have them, the only three knives you truly need are a chef’s or Santoku knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.

Avoid swapping out ingredients. Recipe writers spend a long time developing recipes so they work with the ingredients presented. If you use other ingredients, your results won’t be the same and for all your hard work (and dishes you’ll be washing) you won’t be happy. Keep things on hand so you don’t run out, especially during the busy holiday season.

Buy in bulk, especially things like butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, keeping the basics well-stocked in your pantry will save you a lot of time running back and forth to the grocery store. Butter stores well in the freezer and even though good chocolate is expensive, buying a 5- or 10-pound block reduces the price dramatically.

Use excellent chocolate for dipping, okay chocolate for baking. I love chocolate and when I eat it, I buy artisanal brands or the best I can get. For baking, when the chocolate is going to be melted, then mixed with flour, sugar, butter, and other ingredients, I use a medium-grade chocolate. It doesn’t matter which one I like, choose one that you like, and what’s available to you. Around the holidays some stores sell chocolate in bulk in anticipation of customers doing a lot o holiday baking. Buy it. (If stored in a cool, dark place, dark chocolate will keep for up to five years.)

Don’t toss that sponge. I’ve been using the same sponge since 1975 and it’s lived on three continents. (Just kidding.) But you can bleach a sponge and bring it back to life. (And yes, I am aware that bleach isn’t the most ecological item, but I live in France and if we don’t go through at least 2 liters a month, the locals start getting suspicious.) I put it in a bowl with a spoonful of bleach and add water so the sponge is saturated. Then let it sit. After about thirty minutes, I take it out carefully, and squeeze it clean under running water wearing my trusty rubber gloves.

-Speaking of which, wear rubber gloves for washing dishes. Your skin and hands will thank you after a few years of dishwashing. Invest in a good pair since the cheap ones break and tear easily, and need constant replacement.

Get an oven thermometer. Ovens are notoriously off temperature and I keep one in my oven all the time to make sure baking temperatures are on track.

Check before the indicated cooking time for doneness. Ovens may be the exact same temperature, but surprisingly, each can cook differently. Cooking times can also vary depending on the material of the baking pan or cooking dish, or perhaps if the item going into the oven is already warm or has been cooled down (as in custard mixes), so check for doneness before the time indicated. When I worked as a professional cook, I rarely used a timer. I found my instincts and senses could tell when something was done rather than slavishly counting seconds and minutes. Trust yourself in the kitchen. Chocolate cakes and other desserts are notoriously finicky, and usually benefit from underbaking rather than overbaking.

Keep an open garbage can handy, rather than one that you have to keep opening a door or lid to get to. Rachael Ray recommends keeping a bowl on the counter for the same purpose (and she even sells one), although I suspect she has more counter space than I do. And I am pretty sure you could get by with just a tall bowl that you already have on hand.

Buy extra spatulas, whisks, measuring cups and spoons, and an extra bowl and attachments for your stand mixer. Most of these things are inexpensive and last a long time. Having extras will reduce the amount of time you have to start and stop while in the middle of baking projects to clean up.

Read recipes through before making them. Although I’m working on doing this myself when making someone else’s recipe, when I write a recipe, I try to say in a recipe what size bowl to use, since it’s kind of annoying to put a few spoonfuls of something in a large bowl only to find out you’re adding it to something else.

Above all, stay calm and relax. There are some really serious problems out there. Having a cake come out goofy, burning a tray of cookies, dropping a bowl of custard mix, not getting everything to the table at the same time, isn’t the end of the world. When I’m having a bad day, or whatever, I’ll stop to think about how lucky I am to have electricity, heat in my apartment, a roof over my head, a comfortable bed to climb in to every night, friends and family to share good food with, and yes, even a sink to wash dishes in.

Happy Holidays!


Favorite Holiday Recipes

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Apricot, Almond and Lemon Bread


Spicy Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix

Belgian Hot Chocolate

Persimmon Bread


Vanilla Ice Cream

Glazed Citron

Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake

Apple Spice Cake

Chocolate-Pecan Pie

Nonfat Gingersnaps

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Fruitcake Bars

chocolate cake non-fat gingersnaps
Wittamer's Belgian hot chocolate upside down cake
fruitcake bar chocolate pecan pie
pretzel nut mix cake



    • Maria

    Great tips. We’re in the midst of a kitchen renovation (which I pray will indeed be finished before I cook turkey for 12 on Saturday), and I’ve been without a kitchen sink (but with a dishwasher) for 4 days and counting. I think I’ll be able to really appreciate being able to do dishes once the installation is complete!
    I often run my sponges through the dishwasher (my German mother-in-law uses the washing machine), but the bleach idea is appealing as well.

    • Emma

    Oh my goodness. I cater from home and I think you have just changed my life with the tip for dishes.

    • pickyin@LifeIsGreat

    “The only three knives you truly need are a chef’s or Santoku knife, a paring knife & a serrated bread knife.” Ditto chef!

    Another tip I can offer is always to separate greasy dishes from those you measure things like flours, sugars, syrups, fruits etc. I also clean as I go to keep my zen, and my baked goods in similar mood.

    • velops

    I’ve personally never had trouble cleaning up after cooking/baking. I find it therapeutic sometimes. My problem lies with cleaning up the rest of the house. I often get intimidated by all the time, effort, and supplies it takes to keep the rest of the house clean.

    • Lizzy (Good Things)

    A very relevant post at the craziest time of the year, when tempers seem to sizzle and fray! Plenty of useful tips to help the kitchen run more smoothly. Love the last para. Fits very well with my latest blog on the Vinnies Christmas Appeal.

    • ron shapley(nyc)

    Yes, clean as you go along… ala Jacques Pepin’

    • Emy Koster

    Hi David,

    Thank you for all these tips. As a “beginner” baker these are definitely useful! A lot of these things I already do thankfully, I’m such a neatfreak but the bleaching the sponge is a new one! Can’t wait to try it out!

    • Gina

    I gave myself a 9 out of 10 — the only one of your tips that I don’t use is the ironing board trick. But then I used to be a professional cook…..

    You’re so right about the dishwasher being the most important crew member. But what I never understood is when the dishwasher was sick, the whole staff used to fight about who was going to wash the dishes! (I was the boss, so I usually won.)

    • Geraldine in Spain

    Hi Davic,
    OK, I’ve always known we were somehow related!!!! Or, “great minds think alike”…take your pick. The article was fantastic, it was as if my very words were being used! Marion
    and I must of been on the same page as well.

    OH how I miss my shop dishwash person, could not have functioned without them…until I had to close my business….then the same system, giant sink full of boiling water to prep for dishwasher. On a dishwasher note, I also use mine to hang drying dishes on when not having enough to run the machine.

    I have a huge IKEA stainless steel rolling rack in my small kitchen. On this rack I have just about everything I need with hooks holding all the cups and other weird implements of the baking industry. On the bottom shelf I keep yeast, sugar, flour, and other baking ingredients.

    Your advice to the novice cook is FANTASTIC, keep it up and hopefully the world will go
    back to home made cookies instead of the nintendo or whatever.

    • Nuts about food

    Thanks for your tips. Happy Thanksgiving David!

    • Kat

    Love these tips. Especially the one about buying extra whisks, measuring spoons etc. My best ‘dishes’ tip comes from my dad, a great home cook. Growing up, my parents did not have a dishwasher (me and my brother did the dishes), but no matter what my parents cooked, there were never that many dishes…that is because whenever there was a bit of a window when cooking (just put stuff in the oven, stuff bubbling on the stove, waiting for dough to rise etc.), my dad would take that minute or two to do a dish or two. His kitchen was always organized, no matter how many dishes and courses he was making and there was never a pile of dishes.
    I have a dishwasher now, and do use it occasionally, but no matter how big a dinner party I throw, my kitchen is always organized..thanks to my dad’s tip.

    • Linda

    In culinary school we were taught to “CLEAN AS YOU GO”. This is a practice that I use to this day, whether testing recipes for a book, cooking for my husband and myself or cooking for a crowd. That way when it is time yo sit down to eat, the kitchen is clean! Love all your other tips, David. Happy Holidays

    • Heather

    I don’t have a dishwasher, and like you, I spend hours washing dishes. Small price to pay for wonderful eats!

    • Catherineap

    Thanks David, brilliant post as usual! Last night, just as I was weighing out the lard for my Thanksgiving pie crust, the batteries on my scale went out and I didn’t have spares. That’s the last time that will happen!

    • MaryAlice Denson

    Probably not everyone is into making an ironing board cover. I made one with a Tropical print. Makes ironing much nicer, except when I have to iron a black and white check! It would also fit well into my kitchen. I keep measuring sets on both sides of my kitchen (I am truly lucky to have a newly remodeled, old house kitchen) and Marian Cunningham is my hero. I have cooked and baked my way through her recipes and advice for years. I have kept all the S.F. Chronicle articles she wrote, tucked into my copy of “The Supper Book”, a charming and very useful book.

    Thanks for your column, Happy Thanksgiving, let us know how it was in Paris.

    • Magali

    Thank you for these tips. David. I already do the dishpan with warm, sudsy water as I go, but when baking, a lot of things get dirty fast!! I need to gety another set of measuring spoons, and would love to find a magnetic strip that I can place on my kitchen wall, where I can hang all those measuring cups/spoons. Any suggestions?

    Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Su

    i am totally impressed about your sponge story. and i love love love the eco friendly tips scattered on your blog (like the fact that plastic wrap can be reused)!

    two more ideas:
    it is more comfortable to work with a low garbage bowl or with a plate while peeling fruits.

    there are kitchen scales working with solar energy. you still need little batteries but they will last forever (at least in germany these scales are very common)

    best regards from berlin!

    • Julie

    Great tips! My favorite is “Avoid swapping out ingredients”… the very first time I made your Mexican chocolate ice cream, it was the best thing thing ever! The second time I made it, I was out of chili powder and so I used cayenne. It was like frozen lava and sadly I threw it out.

    • Judy

    Excellent post, David – loved the last point – can I be so bold as to say I’m
    grateful for you being on the planet- your generosity as a writer and chef and your wit.
    I always cook/bake with something on the counter to throw my trash in and ALWAYS read a recipe through before starting.
    Thank you for mentioning Marion Cunnigham – I treasure her Breakfast Book. I never hear her mentioned anywhere and so I thank you for the glimpse into her life.
    I’m a late bloomer to the food blog world -thank you for the unbelievable article you wrote some time back as a summary to the boot camp. I began my baby blog 2 weeks ago -hats off to David for being one of my mentors… unawares.

    • Patti

    You’re awesome David. Thanks for the wonderful post and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Always Wright

    Thank you SO MUCH for the BEST kitchen tip ever! I tried this today while baking for the big day tomorrow and it worked just great. Happy Thanksgiving and I still love your food blog. You’re the best! All of your kitchen hints are so good.

    • Shari

    David, thanks for the great post! I noticed you have one of the nice older cookie scoops that I can’t find anymore. (The one with the spring in the top) I wanted to purchase a spare recently, and they just don’t make ’em like they used to. So, if you can still find that particular model, -buy more now! Also, I’ve almost purchased an extra stainless mixing bowl for my mixer a couple of times now, and they’re so expensive ($45) that I’ve chickened out both times. Thank you for the great tips, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

    • Bernadette

    David I am glad I am not the only one to put spatulas and whisks in the dishwasher–my mother thinks putting them in the washer is a heinous crime.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Really? I always put those things in the dishwasher. All my spatulas are heat-proof silicone and my whisks are professional-grade (because the cheap ones don’t last..)

    • Skippy

    I’ve always had to deal with tiny Manhattan kitchens, so I’m sure we share a lot of space saving tricks. I have frosted cakes on ironing boards (and that’s a half-size ironing board) and use pretty much every piece of furniture that’s above dog reach to cool cookie sheets. I’ve even worked on the floor (no, the dough, batter or whatever isn’t on the floor, just the bowls and cookie sheets). My number one baking achievement, in terms of limited space and equipment, though, is making 7 batches of buttercream with a hand mixer for a four tier wedding cake. And I’d rather not do it again. Good heavens, I hope I get a stand mixer someday…

    • DiggingDogFarm

    No room for a dishwasher here.
    We had one when I was growing up, but I don’t think that it saved much, if any, time.
    If dishes are rinsed well, and pots and pans that need soaking are soaked well,
    I can’t see any advantage to having a dishwasher.
    I remember loading and unloading was no less a pain than washing by hand.
    As far as the water use goes, we’re billed in cubic yard increments….if hand washing uses a little more water…it’s not noticeable.


    • Lysa

    It doesn’t matter that you’re someone famous like David Lebovitz or a simple home baker like myself …. Once the baking goes on, our sink-full of dirty dishes and cluttered counters look exactly the same! All for the enjoyment of making something special!
    Thank you for always making my night time reading so delightful!

    • margaret

    Happy Thanksgiving David. Are you having a feast in Paris with friends this year? Thank you for your many recipes, food tips, glimpse into French life and just plain fun of hanging out with you online….

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      In Paris, Thanksgiving is often celebrated on Friday because if it’s Thursday, people have to work the next day. So often we celebrate the day after!

    • Kristine

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments through, so maybe someone already mentioned that, but regarding the sponge – you can keep it clean and hygienic by throwing it into the dishwasher together with the dishes. And avoid the bleach :)

    • Lucius

    YES! Huzzah for dishwashers, human or otherwise. I worked for a cooperative restaurant several years back and I recall long discussions about paying the dishwasher as much as the chefs and other staff. As it was a post 60‘s social experiment, I was for a flat payroll, and no–I was not the dishwasher. It’s amazing what motivated people can do in a kitchen when they feel ownership.

    BTW, I generally agree with your every pronouncement, but sponges? I put them in the same category as Petri dishes. Give me a towel, any day.

    • Alexandra

    Hi David,
    I have just come back from a delicious lunch at Café du Grütli, Heike and Willi send their love, they are both charming. I will soon go back for a fondue. I finished my afternoon visiting Blondel…do I need to say more…
    I love reading your blog and every week I am looking forward to receiving a new one!

    • Jennifer

    I often suffer from lack of space in my apartment just outside Boston-the ironing board is something I’ve taken away from your post-thank you so much! I love how you write and your dedication to your profession and your blog. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

    • Sonia

    FIrst of all, I LOVE YOUR PHOTOS~! My apartment’s kitchen is very small and somehow it’s reassuring to see that even DAVID LEBOVITZ has insane pile-ups of everything but the kitchen sink. Reading your tips was interesting and fun, and I already do many of them, which made me feel pretty good (following in the footsteps of DAVID LEBOVITZ). But the ironing board tip made me guffaw because the narrow space between one side of my kitchen and the other side (a skinny rectangle) would exactly accommodate an ironing board. With no space left over. So I would have to jump up on the counter, give up cooking, and crouch there growling and chewing bones.

    • paule caillat


    what I love most about this post is the philosophy : in two words COMMON SENSE (en français “le bon sens”) too rare in this world. And the conclusion is even better. You are a good person.



    • Sandra Castro

    I missed this,Happy Thanksgiving..and thank you!

    • Maja

    and, the last tip, as Nigel Slater would say: pour yourself a drink before you start cooking :)))

    • Erin

    Lovely post. I bookmarked it to come back to.

    Thanks for the tips!

    • Rebecca

    Seeing as I’m a little late to the party (commenter#197- I’ve been in a tryptophan/sugar induced food coma for the past two days) I know that microwaving sponges must have been mentioned as a quick sanitizing sponge agent.

    I do not know why I don’t think to fill up the sink with hot sudsy water, so I must confess to lacking some common sense. But that is why this is such a great post! Thanks for all the little helpful nuggets, particularly useful since baking (and ensuing cleanup chaos) is kicking into high gear.

    • Shannon

    Hi David,

    I havent read through all of the comments so maybe someone else mentioned this trusty tip…
    Living in Paris with a small kitchen, I always “wash as I go”. I highly reccommend finding time during a recipe to just wash the bowl or utensil right after it was used. Sometimes its out of necessity as I dont have enough bowls so i’ll have to re-use one for the next step.
    I find it nice that as I slide my cake into the oven, I turn around and the only thing staring at me in my sink is the batter-licked spoon :)

    – shannon

    • CopyKat Recipes

    I loved this post. On days that I do the video shoots, I am shooting 7 recipes, and the amount of dishes feels like triple. It really makes me want to cry. I loved your tip about the ironing board, finally a use for it. Thank you for sharing what makes your life easier in the kitchen.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      The whole “clean as you go” works well in restaurants, as well as when you don’t have a lot of cooking equipment (which is why I stock up on extra utensils) – but I just find it hard to stop all the time to wash dishes, then I get distracted from my baking and work. So I’ve adopted this method.

    • Marc

    “wear rubber gloves for washing dishes” — great advice. Here are two additional reasons that gloves are great for dish washing: 1) you can use much hotter water, resulting in cleaner and more sanitary dishes (excellent for mild germ-phobes like myself), 2) they protect your hands from accidental cuts. Who hasn’t put a knife or other object with a sharp edge (one of my worst dish washing cuts was from a sharp edge on a Chinese vegetable turner) into the dish pan and forgotten about it, then rediscovered it when reaching for something in the dish pan? Gloves will prevent cuts in those (mostly avoidable) situations.

    Another water saving tip: when the water in the dish washing bucket is “done”, pour it into any of the pots or pans that need some soaking time, which will let the stuck-on material soften before it is their turn to be washed.

    • Marissa

    About 10 years ago when I moved into my very own house I put up pegboard for saute pans, measuring cups, openers, measuring spoons, etc. Best thing I ever did. Little did I know that Julia Child had done the same thing. Very happy to be following in her footsteps. Also I put a rack on the “inside” of the door leading to basement which happens to be near stove. It is where I store spices, grains, and other small packaged goods.

    • Beth Somers

    Great post! I don’t have a dishwasher at home, so everything gets washed by hand. Music and wine help pass that time, and I’ve finally started to find it relaxing!

    • M


    I love your last tip. Happy Thanksgiving–where ever you happen to be!


    P.S. Oh and I have a tip–mis en place makes baking more enjoyable.

    • shelby

    Great post and comments. I’ve been using the soaking the dishes trick for years and find it especially helpful when we have guests over because as the table is cleared for the next course everything that’s dirty just goes into the soaking water – makes clean up so much easier.

    Years ago I observed that my stepmother threw the kitchen sponge in the dishwasher; it made sense to me so my kitchen sponge gets cleaned along with the dishes every time I run the dishwasher.

    Happy Holidays!

    • Brandon Matzek

    I agree with many of your kitchen tips above. I leave my most used pots and pans directly on the stovetop. Rather than bleaching my sponge, I like to throw it in the dishwasher once I’m done rinsing dishes for the evening. The next morning, I have a nice clean-smelling sponge!

    • cafe wayan ubud

    These tips of yours. My wife should read this. this is a great entry that she can apply in our kitchen. Our Kitchen is kinda messy. Happy Thanks giving.

    • angela@spinachtiger

    Great tips and I have one for you. I keep a rolling bin in pantry that holds plastic containers of flour, sugar, conf. sugar which are stacked, and then my vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. It’s been the life saver. I keep the dutch oven on top of stove, the measuring spoons triple of everything out in a big cute cup. Best tip: I keep 7 cast iron skillets hanging on a rack around the island at waist level. No digging around for heavy pans. My favorite dish washer is still my husband, whom I often leave the mess to in trade for good food, but that doesn’t always work and it’s refreshing to know that someone else is doing tons of dishes, to be a food writer. So not glamorous, but rewarding just the same. Oh,you can put sponge in microwave for two minutes which kills bacteria. We only use sponges, no icky rags. Now if only I could discipline myself to read the recipe through. I’m bad with that.

    • Brooke @ Food Woolf

    Great tips, David! Thanks for reminding me of all the shortcuts I can employ in my tiny kitchen!

    • Karen

    I do an extension of the garbage bowl on the counter; after I’ve collected any “wet” garbage in the bowl, I transfer it into a used plastic bag (but clean on the outside) that I’d throw out anyway and FREEZE (or refrigerate) it until collection day. That way there is no smelly, rotting garbage sitting in the kitchen or outside to attract bugs or animals. This is especially helpful in the summer. I realize that this may not be an option if you have a tiny refrigerator or freezer, but in in my small American kitchen with the big cooling unit, it works very well.

    As for the post, they’re good, common sense tips that any cook/baker should use to make life easier. But always, always, the last is the most important…and so easy to forget. Best to take a minute every day time to remember the blessings/advantages/good luck – whatever you want to call it – in our lives.

    • Norine

    My favorite banana bread recipe uses every bowl in the kitchen, so I have to store up some cleaning fortitude for the project. Having a set of clean everything for egg whites really clutters the process. I bought/tried one of those fat Japanese knives. It felt bulky like the fat German knives. I bought a skinny French knife in the 1960’s and guard it with my life even though it looks terrible. Love that old high carbon steel Sabatier. But I never use rubber gloves. Chipped china and glassware seems to be the natural course of events with rubber gloves. And I don’t cook/clean for a living :-).

    • Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    No room for an ironing-board in my kitchen – I couldn’t get in there too!

    What I find works even better (unless, of course, you have the luxury of a double sink) is to put the washing-up bowl full of hot water on the draining-board. That way, you can rinse off the first lot of excess gunk under the cold tap so that the water lasts longer. Otherwise it fills up with bits of gunk and then when you come to do the actual washing-up it’s Most Nasty!

    • Chris Brandow

    Microwaving a wet sponge for 3 minutes is just as good and a lot quicker. Apparently kills 99.9% of bacteria.

    • Kucuk Sef

    I should admit that when I first read the title, I had great expectations, which then turned into a disappointment. I thought I would see a thing, which would change my life and when I read through the blog I said “I am already washing them under the flowing water before putting in the dishwasher, so what is interesting in this?”. But I had guests at the weekend and after I collected all the dishes, I wanted to stay with them rather than sponging the dishes, so I did fill the sink with water and let them in. It was really easy to put them in the dishwasher after they are gone. So, thank you very much for this very important tip, really saving a lot of time in the kitchen :)

    • Mary L.

    Great tips. Instead of bleaching sponges, fill up a microwave-safe cooker with half water and half vinegar – enough to immerse the sponge, cover and cook on high for 10 min. Or simply boil the sponge in water in a covered saucepan on your stovetop.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Mary, Chris, et al: A number of people have mentioned microwaving sponges (I don’t have a microwave) but although that may sanitize them, it doesn’t seem to me like it cleans them. My sponges get really dark and muddy-colored (from all the chocolate!) and they look awful after a few loads of dishes, so I bleach them.

    Does microwaving actually clean them?

    • Helen S. Fletcher

    As a former bakery owner, I too had dishwashers that were treasured for their ability to clean a massive amount of pans and utensils and keep things orderly. Today, in my own kitchen rather that let the dishes mount up, I simply rinse them quickly and stick them in the dishwasher. I also keep a bowl of hot soapy water and wash the hand wash items as I go along. At the end of the session I have very little to clean up and can go out to dinner! Love the rest of your tips.

    • Breadpassion

    Great Tips, as always! I was having guilty conscious from throwing away each week a sponge! Keeping water with detergent in sink is a tipp I learned from my mum, works great unless you have a dough that has mastika paste in!:(

    • Sherry (of PB)

    I like you David. I like reading your post and appreciate your point of view (your perspective on “stuff”). Really, you make me smile. Thanks. :-)

    • Janae

    Hi David, great post, very helpful. May I add a tip of my own? You know those wooden handled silicone spatulas? Pop the silicone part off of the wooden handle (it should be detachable) and only put the silicone part in the dishwasher. If the wooden handle is dirty, gently wash with soap and sponge, and dry (if still damp, let air-dry completely before reattaching the silicone). This way, your wooden handles won’t get dried out and splintered from the dishwasher cycle, and the top part that goes into the silicone won’t rot from any trapped water. Et, voila! Your silicone spatulas should stay new-looking for a very long time :)

    • Annabel (Mrs Redboots)

    Re: microwaving sponges. No, it doesn’t clean them, but if you have rinsed them thoroughly and then wrung them out in cold water before putting them into the microwave they are fairly clean anyway – you can always put them in the washing-machine with the rest of the weekly wash.

    Another reason I prefer a bowl of hot water to a sinkful is that at least then I have somewhere to drain my pasta, run cold water over my eggs, etc. I wish I had room for a double sink!

    • Jean | Delightful Repast

    David, these are wonderful tips, from the ironing board right down to the final one about having a sense of proportion about things.

    • kamila

    I appreciate your real-life photos! My tiny kitchen often looks just like those pics, with dishes piled EVERYWHERE. I don’t have the ironing board set-up but do use the top of the bed and sofa when needed.

    • Lori

    Mrs. Cunningham is full of practical advice, and “the friendly sink of hot soapy water” is one of the most practical. I preach to my kids — we handwash dishes here and can use every help we can find. Mama can’t stand to walk into a messy kitchen when she’s ready to work!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Lori: In professional kitchens, there’s a motto: “Clean as you go”, which I always followed. But for home cooks, I think it’s really not a great idea to stop in the middle of a recipe and wash a few dishes here and there. (Unless you have to.) Which is why I like having two stand mixer whisks, a handful of spatulas, etc…

    (My mother made us kids wash dishes when we were kids…glad to hear you’re doing the same!)

    kamila: I know a while back in small NYC apartments, people used to put boards over their bathtubs and use them as extra counters, too.

    Janae: I wonder about those wooden handles as well, and try not to soak my spatulas in the sink too long. But I’ve never had them warp or splinter. I’m a huge fan of the Le Creuset spatulas that are spoon-like. I check out the sale racks at Sur La Table stores in the US, where they put them on sale when they discontinue a color (!)

    • Barbara

    David-I love reading your blog posts, thank you so much for this one-how is Marion? I’ve been gone from the Bay Area and out of touch…remember her fondly from Baker’s Dozen.
    and I’ve used drawers as pan racks-just pull them out and there you go!

    • Lynda

    Hi! I know exactly what you mean about the phone always ringing when you’re rubbing in fats or some other messy operation. I don’t know if this would work for any of you; I work at a clinic that performs aromatherapy massages with oils. All the remote controls on the music systems in the treatment rooms are covered in clingfilm so the volume can be turned up or down without the remote and little buttons getting dirty. I don’t know if you could do this with all your phones but hey, it’s an idea!

    • Erin

    This is a fantastic post – I love the tip about soaking dishes. I’ve been soaking dishes since I was a teenager and it never occurred to me that not everyone does that.

    • Jen Laceda

    I just have to say that these are hilarious but useful tips!!!


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