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Camping Dish Washing Tips

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Worried that hand washing camping dishes is not getting them clean? Below we show you how to set up a proper camping dish washing station.

This post was sponsored content when originally published and has since been updated and moved here to Let’s Camp S’more.
man washing dishes while camping

When we are camping, my husband does all the cooking and cleaning up afterward. I am not sure how it worked out that way, but I enjoy it. I do not want to be critical of how he does the camp dishwashing, but I worry that the dirty dishes are not getting properly cleaned. He also does the laundry with our DIY Washing Machine.

He uses boiling water to make sure it kills any germs, but then he burns his hands. I did some thinking about how we could avoid burned hands and make sure the dishes are clean, and I remembered the old scout way of doing dishes.

Camping Dish Washing The Right Way

The key to clean dishes is to use three three wash basins, biodegradable camping dish soap, and a disinfectant. We have detailed this process at the bottom of the post.

camping dish washing supplies

Cleaning Tips

A key in making dishes easier to clean is to scrap them as clean as possible right away. Use a rubber spatula to scrape food from dishes into a garbage container. Since friction is an excellent sanitizer (if not the best — surgeons scrub their hands) use a sponge and/or scrub brush repeatedly, especially on forks, spoons, cups, and glasses.

For greasy pans and dishes wipe out with newspaper and then spray with full-strength vinegar and allowed that to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, scrub and rinse, preferably in warm or hot water. For more cleaning power, use baking soda and vinegar together for an all-natural, inexpensive, and minimal environmental impact!

How to Dispose of Dishwater When Camping

It is important to properly dispose of the dirty water created from doing dishes. Many campgrounds have regulations on how they want you to get rid of this water. If no rules are posted, please check with the ranger or camp host.

man pouring out dish water at a campground

Some parks have a utility sink marked for dishwater disposal. Please be mindful that doing dishes at that sink might not be allowed. If pouring the dirty water on the ground is allowed, please make sure it is at least 100 feet from a water source or body of water.

collage of camping dishes being washed
Yield: 1 set of clean dishes

How to Wash Dishes While Camping

man washing dishes while camping

Use this old scout method for washing dishes camping style

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 5 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $0

Materials

  • camping dish soap
  • disinfectant (vinegar or bleach)
  • water

Tools

  • three dishpans
  • drying rack

Instructions

    1. Heat the water up.
    2. Set up your camping dishwashing station with the 3 dishpans and a drying rack.
    3. Fill the first dishpan, which is used for washing with warm water. It should not be scalding.
    4. We like to put in the water out of the tap and add in some hot water to make a warm. We use a higher temperature if our dishes are really greasy.
    5. Add a small amount of dish soap to the first pan. collage of 2 wash basins
    6. Fill the second dishpan with hot water to rinse dishes. The water should be warmer than the first pan.
    7. Fill the third dishpan with water. The temperature of this water doesn't make a difference. It can be a temperature that is comfortable to the touch.
    8. Add a capful of vinegar or bleach to the third pan. This is the sanitize dishpan. man measuring a capful of bleach
    9. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the food from dishes into a garbage container. Use a brush on utensils.
    10. Wash your dishes by first scrubbing clean with a sponge or scrub brush in the first washtub.
    11. Rinse the soap off the dishes by dunking them in the rinse tub.
    12. Sanitize the dishes by dunking them in the third tub. collage of how to wash camping dishes
    13. Finally, air-dry the dishes in a drying rack. dishes air drying outside

    This is the proper way to clean up the camping wash basins.

    1. First, properly dispose of the dishwater. See notes below for instructions on water disposal.
    2. Then use the water from the second tub to rinse out the first.
    3. Finally, use the water from the bleach tub to sanitize the wash and rinse tubs.

Notes

If you are at home, just pour the dishwater down the drain. When camping, dispose of it in a marked utility sink or as stated in campground rules. If pouring on the ground is allowed, make sure it is at least 100 feet from a water source or body of water.

Do you have any dish washing tips we missed?

Leave a comment below or share on our Facebook page.

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Gina

Thursday 23rd of May 2019

Cold water is best with bleach for sanitizing per department of health. I have worked in the restaurant biz and a member in Boy and Girl Scout programs. For laundry it doesn’t matter as much. Great article easy to follow and great tips from your readers

Diana Rambles

Monday 27th of May 2019

Thank you!

Diana Rambles

Thursday 4th of April 2019

Thanks so much for these awesome tips! I have a great spatula packed for this weekend's trip.

Arlene

Monday 10th of September 2018

Sorry -but we use mostly paper plates and cups when camping.....but we do have to wash some things....great tips that I will use....Happy Camping !!

Diana Rambles

Monday 10th of September 2018

We too use mostly paper now when camping, but we still have those pots & pans!

RMierz

Friday 10th of August 2018

You could use white vinager as a disinfectant instead of bleach as a safer option.

Diana Rambles

Monday 20th of August 2018

Great idea that is less harsh!! Going to try this next time.

Melissa

Friday 29th of June 2018

In addition to a biodegradable soap. You should also be filtering the food particles. With our scouts we use a piece of cheesecloth to catch all the food particles Other wise you will attract animals to your campsite and they will become use to human food.

Always remember to leave no trace.

Diana Rambles

Saturday 30th of June 2018

Thank you, Mellisa!