You wake up in the morning, groggily go to pour some coffee, and that’s when the smell hits you. It’s robust, wretched, and it’s coming from your sink – dirty dishes. The night before you filled some crusty bowls and pans with water under the pretense of cleaning them later on, but you forgot and now you’re regretting it. It’s time to stop lying to yourself – it’s time to stop soaking.
What dishes actually need to be soaked anyway? Most of the time, you only have to soak dishes that you didn’t do fast enough. If you stay on top of things and get to the food crud early, you probably wouldn’t have to soak anything, ever. I mean, there are other potential reasons why someone would soak their dishes, but the primary cause is “I just don’t feel like doing dishes right now…” So you chuck them in the sink and go about your business thinking you’ve made things easier for yourself later. But before you walk away from that sink filled with soaking dishes, ask yourself: do they actually need soaking, or are you being lazy?
Even if you do end up with some caked on crud, either from food getting burned or because it’s a substance that dries quickly, there’s still things you can do right then and there while you do the dishes instead of passively soaking away your problems. If you have a pan with stuff burned onto it, put the pan back on the stove, add some water, then crank up the heat until the water boils. It won’t take very long, and all that charred gunk will come right off. Or you can do a quick deglazing of your pan with vinegar. Voilà!
If you’ve got stuff caked onto a dish, cup, or mug, add a little water, put another plate over the top, then run it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Boom, steam cleaned. Besides, if you have a dishwasher, there’s really no need to go overboard with your dish cleaning anyway. Dishes do not need to be spotless before you throw them in the machine. In fact, most modern dish detergents use enzymes to digest protein and starch on your dishes and other kitchen paraphernalia. If there’s no food in there to activate them, the detergent isn’t going to do much.
Look, I’ll admit, some items do require soaking. Baking dishes, blender pitchers, and other odd items that won’t fit in a microwave or can’t boil water on the stove, will need a minute or two with some warm water and soap in there. Also, we’re only human and we all forget things sometimes, and a good soaking may be the only option for getting the oatmeal out of that mug that’s been sitting on your desk for two days. Soak away.
That said, if you’re going to soak, do it while you’re doing the other dishes. Start the soaking, clean the other items that don’t need to soak, then come back to the soaking stuff. It doesn’t take long for them to be ready for scrubbing. Do what I like to call “completing the cycle.” Don’t move on to something else until you’ve finished the task at hand. You’ve begun, you’ve armed yourself with rubber gloves, scrubbing brushes, and concentrated dish soap, so finish the battle you’ve started warrior. Raise your weapon to these warriors of grease, and show no mercy.
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