Nancy Roman

The Dishwashing Experience

The phenomenon of “Dishpan Diarrhea” really seemed to strike a chord with many readers.

(which I’ll admit is a strange metaphor, but who’s to say that diarrhea is not melodic?)

But I digress.

Since so many of you could relate to dish-washing avoidance, I figured I could milk the idea expound on the subject for one more post.

I don’t mind doing dishes. I have a dishwasher – which I didn’t have for most of my marriage –  so it’s really no big deal. Stack the dishwasher, wash the pots and pans or delicate stuff, and clean the stove, table and countertops. And since we don’t have kids, it’s usually pretty quick work. (When my parents were empty-nesters, my father used to ask my mother why there were sometimes three forks.)

When we have company, it’s nice, though, to have a little help. And I almost always do. My husband is a model husband with an audience.

But not so much when we’re alone.

But as I said, it’s not hard and I don’t usually mind.

And he helps. I calculated the rate of help back in 2011, and it turned out he had helped with the dinner dishes at least 100 times – out of 7,045 dish-washing days.  That’s 1.3%. But we’re halfway through 2013 now. I am sure he has helped out quite a bit more. He may be approaching 2%.

And he’s retired, so he does the breakfast dishes after I leave for work in the morning. It’s usually in the morning, anyway. I know because I have had a few calls at the office to ask, “Are the dishes in the dishwasher clean or dirty?” We’ve all had those calls.

Sometimes however, I have a strong suspicion that the breakfast dishes were put in the dishwasher when he heard my car coming up the driveway at the end of the day. But I have no proof of this.

And doing the breakfast dishes is certainly a big help. We have toast.

And let me digress again. I have stopped asking him at breakfast what he would like for dinner. Because it’s breakfast time – he ‘can’t even think’ about dinner. Meal planning requires a difficult shift in perception. It’s akin to time-travel.

He does help at dinner though. He brings the dishes to the counter near the sink. And he often asks me if I need help. He usually phrases that question as “Do you have enough room to let them drain?”

He’ll dry though, if I really don’t have enough room. I like it when he dries the dishes. Because I get even more help that just the drying. He generously points out the occasional infinitesimal spot I have left on a pan. I am thankful that he is so observant. I love the opportunity to improve my dishwashing skills.

He’s also a big help with stubborn stains. I have a favorite travel mug that I bring to work every day. It holds a lot of coffee and I can fill it at 7:45 and at noon I still have enough hot coffee for lunch. I hate to plug a brand (that hasn’t paid me), but let me just say that Thermos really knows how to make a thermos.  It’s beginning to show its age though, and scrubbing the narrow inside can be hit-or-miss.  So my husband offered to give it a good cleaning.  And the next morning it was all shiny inside! The coffee tasted like carburetor cleaner for a day or two. But the mug was very clean.

And just this morning, Hubby was thoughtful again. We have one of those big Viking stoves with a built-in griddle on the cooktop. Because it was Sunday, I had made for breakfast a banana quiche that he likes. But I was speculating that I could turn that recipe into pancakes and cook them on the griddle, which would be quicker than baking the quiche.

“Oh, don’t do that. I don’t mind the wait, and cleaning that griddle is such a pain in the ass.”

And it is! And he knows it is! Because he has cleaned it once.

This week my husband has been extra helpful. I’ve had a stomach bug, and important deadlines at work. And he’s been great.

He did the dinner dishes TWICE this week.


And I didn’t ask him. He just did them.

And I’m sure it is just coincidental that also TWICE – after the dishwasher was loaded, and it was time for the pans – he said,

“I think I’ll just let these soak.”



  1. 1%? that’s pretty high. i’d say around here it’s more like .5% – but there is a constant reminder of that .5%. as in, “I don’t help? what do you mean? I cooked the dinner back in January! remember?” and hubby’s favorite response when I ask him if he did the (any of the) dishes is, “well, they needed a good long soak.”


    • I will never understand why dishes need to soak. But apparently they do.


  2. Kim

    Recently I got Hubby’s agreement to do more dishes. He did one sinkful and then I noticed nothing being done. So I stopped doing them, too (except we both put the dishes that can go in the dishwasher in that wonderful machine.) After two weeks I pointed out that not touching a dish for two weeks does not in any way constitute “doing more dishes.” Sigh….


    • I can’t not do them. My head would explode.


  3. My resident dish washer is bad about letting things soak. For days if I don’t step in.


    • I think “soaking” is a euphemism for hoping that the pan will wash itself.


  4. Al

    What I’m getting from reading this blog and some of the comments is that your husband is the only one who truly understands the concept of pacing oneself. Alas……


    • Ah…Pacing. A lot of pacing oneself goes on here.


  5. A couple of years back I busted my kneecap.I found that it’s amazing what husbands can do when it’s a matter of “do it or don’t eat” but I wouldn’t recommend breaking a bone just to test the theory. Still, he now makes us waffles for breakfast every two or three weeks. Lovely!


    • When I had my gallbladder out, the doctor told me no housekeeping for a couple of weeks. My husband tried once to vacuum a room. The other rooms waited a couple of weeks. Perhaps they were ‘soaking’.


  6. Hilarious. Why don’t men understand that twice in a week or a year, doesn’t get the job done. But, you gotta love a guy who tries. Hee-hee. One point three percent is so much better than zero.


    • And although I didn’t update my calculations, I think he has improved in the last two years – he may be close to 2%!


  7. I hate doing the dishes. I’d rather go mow the yard. Hopefully, my husband will not figure that out. He’s kind enough to wash the dishes since I hate it so much, but hasn’t figured out that he could ask for something in return. 😉


    • My mother-in-law once suggested that I should learn how to use the mower. I was horrified! There have to be SOME chores that only he can do!


  8. The one ‘domestic chore’ my husband DOES do is the dishes (“You cook, I clean”, he declared at the start of our relationship). He washes everything by hand, then puts the plates, cutlery, glasses, etc. in the dishwasher for a ‘final rinse’. He equates his methodology to cleaning car parts (fortunately, he hasn’t used carb cleaner, but I have detected a whiff of varsol on one particularly ‘sticky’ pan). He occasionally ‘tsk-tsks’ at how I put my breakfast and lunch dishes in the dishwasher (and I’ve caught him rearranging – and even ‘re-washing’ – them more than once); it used to annoy me but I’ve decided I’d rather be insulted than have to wash the dishes every night!


    • I do not criticize him for the way he tackles chores. If it takes him 90 minutes to water the plants – well he DID save me the TEN minutes it would have taken me!


  9. What’s with soaking the dishes? My mom would never let us get away with that. If you wanted to soak you had to put them in water before we ate…like maybe the mashed potato pan. My husband who does do dishes is a big soaker. He soaks cat food cans (yuk!), empty milk cartons and other stuff for hours or until I get fed up with the stink or the mess.


    • Soaking is the hope that the thing will wash itself.


      • That works in my house. I can’t stand yukky dishes in my sink although I’m testing it now. There is a deli cup soaking since yesterday lunch in the sink and I haven’t touched it. It’s killing me though!


  10. I’m glad to see I’m not the only who enjoys “the pointers” when doing the dishes. “Ooh yes! Please tell me again how I can redo the drudgery work that you for some reason don’t do. Thanks so much, Mr. Speaker7!”


    • Oh, I am always striving to improve my performance on meaningless tasks.


  11. I’m very amused at how many people think “doing the dishes” is loading the dishwasher. When He-Who does the dishes he loads the dishwasher. When I do them they are always done by hand. I never use the dishwasher and he never uses a sink of hot soapy water. It is our system.
    I can only hope he does not read your blog. If he finds out your mister does not get the whole defrosting of the dinner entree by removing from the freezer in the morning I’m in big trouble. He will now be able to explain it with “Meal planning requires a difficult shift in perception. It’s akin to time-travel”.


    • This morning, I actually forgot to take something out of the freezer for supper. I called him from work to tell him exactly what to take out and where in the freezer he would find it. (Directions have to be specific.) I will call him again in an hour and make sure he took it out.


  12. Envy me. My husband does the dishes nearly every night. Truly.

    He does not, however get them all clean. Early in my marriage I complained about it to my mother. She gave me some advice:

    “If your husband does a household chore 75% correctly, do not complain! Because if you do, he will do that chore 0% of the time extremely well.

    So I rewash any that aren’t clean myself as I put them away. I am still well ahead of the game.


  13. Jon

    I’m with Al. It’s all about pacing. You wouldn’t want him to burn out from overexertion would you?


    • Definitely not. Many a heart attack has been brought on by scrubbing a pan.


  14. I see the soaking method is extremely popular. I once tried this method to determine if my husband would load the ‘soaking’ dishes into the dishwasher. They soaked for three days. I realized my attempts to spur action were futile. He does like to tell me I don’t do it right though, I have suggested he show me how to do it properly he declines.

    My solution? Paper Plates, Plastic Cutlery except when we have guests. With this method there are very few dishes to wash nightly. It is an exceptional method.


  15. Well, I guess I got The Prince Who Shops, Cooks and Cleans Up. Oh, wait, there’s the If-we-had-a-central-vac-I’d-use-it-a-lot issue. Let’s just say he didn’t wear it out ~ but I have to give credit where credit is due, he orders the replacements bags without fail once a year. 🙂


  16. I was the designated dish washer growing up. Five people, and they saved them for me every night. I am not quite old, and I still hate ski the kitchen


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