How to Wash Dishes like an Israeli

As promised, here's my no-holds-or-pictures-barred view of how to wash dishes in a water shortage. Read at your own risk!

As Mark pointed out in response to my last post, the best way to save water while washing dishes is to own a dishwasher. However, I don't... as I'm reminded daily when I walk into the kitchen hoping the dishes will have magically washed themselves.

Back in the US, I'd wash dishes with a soapy sponge and a stream of hot water running constantly. To me now, that seems almost like, oh, barbecuing by feeding my grill a constant stream of dollar bills. Here in Israel, I've learned to wash dishes the the minimum of water running. There are some more complicated techniques than this: I've heard of people rotating three bins of water of various degrees of cleanliness, so that they first scrub in water that has been used twice, then rinse in water that has been used once, then rinse in water that was freshly poured that day. Then they throw out the dirtiest bin, shift the other two bins over, and start again the next day. However, this is what I've seen most Israelis do.

STEP 1: Fill a small bowl with warm, soapy water. Our water takes a while to turn warm (our water heater is on the roof), so instead I tend to use hot water from our electric tea kettle. The point of this water is simply to keep your sponge clean and soapy.

STEP 2: Use a sponge and this small amount of warm, sudsy water to soap up all the dishes. (Scrape off any remaining food before you do this step.) Set the soaped dishes on the counter while you're soaping the rest.

STEP 3: Rinse off all your dishes, turning off the stream of water while you put each dish on the drying rack. Bonus points if you can rinse several dishes at once. I usually manage to rinse big clumps of silverware at a time.

STEP 4: Clean off your counter. It gets very soapy.

That's it! Ha, I avoided the Step 2 picture of my dirty dishes. So this post ended up not so graphic after all. (My dirty dishes aren't unusually disgusting-- no mold, I promise-- but still, isn't it gross to see someone else's half-eaten chicken?)

This, btw, is my drying rack:

It slides down (making a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard) as it gets heavier with dishes, and it can be hidden from view behind cabinet doors over my sink. I'm not sure if this is a uniquely Israeli invention, but I know I never saw build-in racks like this in the US, and I've seen them in several apartments here.

Anyone have a different dishwashing technique to share?


  1. I totally agree with the dollar bills bbq analogy - genius! And I think that the rack is a European thing, but who knows, maybe it is Israeli. I still get a kick out of showing mine to Americans who have never seen one before. It makes so much more sense to let your dishes drip into the sink, and so it's always impressive.

  2. Hi, I am Yonatan, I am still an american... sadly. I have been following your blog for a couple of months now, great blog. Suggestion, you said it helps to rinse all the dishes at the same time, why not think like a dishwasher... get a... I guess american style dish drainer, one that fits in the sink. After you wash them don't rinse them yet, put them in the dish drainer along with the flatware, and then spray them all off at the same time in the strainer.

  3. Yonatan, that's a really brilliant suggestion! I'm going to keep my eye out for a strainer that would fit! Not only would that save water, but it would probably save me time. Thanks for reading!

  4. Maybe the reason Israel sinks have racks above them is because people live in apartments, where the kitchen sink is on an internal wall and so there isn't a window directly above the kitchen sink ... whereas in most people live in houses with a window above the sink.

  5. I really want a window above my sink. I know quite a few Israelis who do have windows above their sinks, but you're right that this isn't so ubiquitous here.

  6. If you still haven't found an "American-style" drying rack, you could always try simply placing all of your soapy dishes in the sink. That way, while you are rinsing each dish directly, the other dishes underneath get a little indirect rinsing, saving you a little time and water. :)

  7. Do you know how I can buy one of those in the cabinet dish racks? I am very familiar with them.... used to live in Israel and now I'm back in the US. I really would love to have one of those!

  8. Rivkah, I just posted your comment as a new post. I hope some readers can help!

  9. Looks good, but one comment: In that picture it looks like too much soap. It requires more water to wash off, is bad for the environment, and doesn't make the dishes cleaner.

  10. can I post about half of this on my blog this coming "kitchen tips Tuesday"? Of course I'll credit you! You're welcome to write a guest post anytime!

  11. Hi Maya...Cab you perhaps post a link to an Israeli website where I can find one of these Dish racks? My hebrew is not so great. I am looking for one that raises and lowers so that my wife can have easier access to the upper shelves and make them more useful.


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