How To Wash Dishes Without Hot Water

Updated byPenny
How To Wash Dishes Without Hot Water

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I switched to washing all my laundry in cold water a while ago, and have never looked back. Cold water has served me well.

Now I know I can wash my clothes just as well in cold water, I started to wonder if I could wash my dishes in cold water too?

It turns out that washing dishes in cold water can be just as effective as hot water. All that’s needed is a few simple tweaks to your routine.

Switching off the hot tap will save money, help save the environment, and you can even save some time too.

Here are my two biggest tips for washing your dishes in cold water:

1. Always begin by cleaning off excess food and grease. 2. Add some washing soda crystals to help cut through grease.

The biggest question I had on this, was to do with sanitation. Will my dishes be clean enough?

So let’s flip that question around first and find out if the hot water really was killing all the germs anyway.

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Does washing dishes in hot water kill germs?

Actually, no. You will never get the water hot enough to kill germs without scalding your hands. The only place you are going to properly kill germs is in the dishwasher.

So, if you can’t kill all the germs anyway, why even try?

Dish soap and water are all you need to clean off the dirt that germs feed on. You can do that with any temperature of water.

Why wash dishes in cold water?

For several months now, I have been washing my laundry in cold water. It saves a lot of money, and I feel like I’m doing my bit to reduce the carbon footprint of our household. So, why not do the same with dishes?

I’ve ruled out running my dishwasher on cold because a) there is no cold cycle, and b) I don’t think a cold wash would be good for it in the long run. A smelly dishwasher with a build-up of grease is very probably the situation I would be heading for.

So, I can’t run my dishwasher with cold water, but there is no reason why I can’t wash my dishes by hand.

Here are three big reasons why I think doing your dishes in cold water is a great choice:

1. You save money

Fuel bills are so expensive now. Anything we can do to reduce the burden is good.

I explained in this post, how I turned down our hot water temperature and reduced the time that the hot water gets heated.

So now there is just about enough hot water available for a shower. I don’t want to waste it on the dishes!

2. It’s quicker

I find myself wasting both water and time just waiting for the water to run hot.

Now I don’t need to do that, I just run the tap, and I can begin the job immediately.

3. It’s better for the environment

As there is no energy being used to heat the water, I’m doing my bit to help reduce our household carbon footprint.

Why wash dishes in hot water?

Just because you decided to wash your dishes in cold water doesn’t mean of course that you never do it again.

Let’s take a look at the advantages of using hot water.

To kill more germs

The greater the heat, the more germs you can kill. However, you are never going to get a completely sanitary wash unless you use a dishwasher, because you just can’t run the water hot enough.

To cut through grease

The hotter your water is, the better it will be for dissolving grease. If you have a lot of very greasy pots to wash, hot water is best.

You don’t need as much soap

The purpose of soap is to make the water more effective at washing the dishes. It does this by softening and breaking the surface tension of the water. The hotter the water, the less soap needed. You could even wash your dishes with no soap at all, providing the water is hot enough to do most of the work.

You could save water

Hot water dissolves grease better, and you can use less of it. If saving water is your goal, you might be better off using hot water rather than cold.

Dishes dry quicker

Water will evaporate from steamy dishes much quicker than cold dishes.

How to wash dishes without hot water

If you’ve decided that cold water dishwashing is the best for you. How can you get the best result? The great news is that you only need to make a few tweaks to your routine to get sparkling clean dishes.

Here’s how to wash your dishes with cold water:

Things you will need

Step 1 - Prep

Take a kitchen towel and wipe or rinse off as much of the food as you can. This will make the job quicker and easier.

Step 2 - Run the water and add dish soap

running water and adding dishsoap

When using cold water to wash your dishes, you will want to use a little more soap than you would normally. Only a squirt extra is needed.

If you have lots of greasy items, add a tablespoon of washing soda crystals to the water. Washing soda crystals take a few minutes to dissolve in cold water, but it is very worth it as they are brilliant at cutting through grease. To speed up the process, add some to a cup of warm water first.

Step 3 - Wash

microfiber cloth in washing up water

My husband insists on using a sponge scrubber for the washing up. I am not a fan of those at all because they don’t last very long, and they stink before too long. I much prefer to use a microfiber cloth. They do a great job of removing grease. Then you can simply put them in the laundry and use them another day.

Step 4 - Rinse

rinsing a plate in cold water

My husband always misses this step, and I always grumble at him for it!

Rinsing gets rid of soap suds and stray food particles. Who wants to taste dish soap on their glasses?

Step 5 - Dry

Some people recommend you dry your dishes immediately, but I’ve also read that air-drying is better. So, my advice would be to do whichever you prefer.

However, if you are going to dry your dishes straight away, make sure your kitchen towel is really clean. I try to use a clean one every day.

I also like to use a microfibre cloth for drying because it does a fantastic job of shining up glasses at the same time.

As you can see, you don’t need to make much of a change to your routine to get clean dishes in cold water.

Carry on reading for more tips to make the job even easier.

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7 Tips for effortless dishwashing in cold water

1. Don’t let dirty dishes sit around for too long

The longer you leave dirty dishes hanging around, the harder they will be to clean, even if you use hot water to wash them. Also, the longer you leave them, the more bacteria will grow.

Get into a habit of putting dirty dishes straight into the sink with some cold water, and they will clean up later so much more easily.

2. Immediately soak pans in cold water

As soon as I have finished using a pan, I usually put it straight in the sink and fill it up with cold water. That is usually all it takes to make washing them super easy.

3. Avoid burning pans

When you find yourself having to clean a burnt pan, soak it in cold water with some dishwasher powder for a few hours. The dishwasher powder is great at lifting off stubborn food deposits. Another thing to try is baking soda or washing soda crystals.

4. Use a kitchen towel or cloth to remove excess grease

If plates or cooking pots are very greasy, I like to wipe them down first with a kitchen towel. The least amount of grease going down the plughole, the better for your drains.

5. Use a good quality dish soap

By removing hot water, washing greasy items is harder, so you will want to balance that out with the best dish soap you can get.

If you don’t want to switch dish soap, another thing you can do is to add some washing soda crystals. These help to soften the water, meaning you don’t have to use so much dish soap.

Soda crystals will take a few minutes to dissolve in cold water. Dissolve them first in a small amount of water first to save time.

6. Wash the cleanest items first

The best way to conserve water, and to get the job done quicker, is to start with the cleanest items and move down to the dirtiest.

This is my usual order of washing:

  1. Glasses
  2. Cups and mugs
  3. Plates and cutlery
  4. Cooking utensils
  5. Pots and pans

7. Change the water as soon as it gets dirty

When I wash my dishes in cold water, I don’t think twice about the changing the water the minute it gets too dirty.

Frequently asked questions

Does washing dishes in cold water kill germs?

Washing in cold water does not kill germs, but neither does washing in hot water! Think of dishwashing as cleaning off the food particles that germs feed on. Nasty germs cannot multiply on a clean plate like they can on a dirty one.

Can you wash dishes with hot water only?

If you have run out of dish soap, or you are simply cutting back on household cleaners, you can equally clean your dishes with hot water only.

Use the hottest water you can bear, and pull on some household gloves to protect your hands from the heat.

Can you wash dishes without boiling water?

Dishwashing water does not have to be boiling. Warm or cold water is great for washing dishes too.

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Sparkling Penny

Penny | Sparkling Penny

Penny’s expert cleaning advice has been featured repeatedly by Homes and Gardens Magazine, and also at wikiHow, The Daily Express Newspaper, and Glam Magazine to name a few! was founded in 2019 and has since helped millions of people achieve a cleaner living space.

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How to wash dishes without hot water and save on your energy bill.How to wash dishes without hot water and save on your energy bill.How to wash dishes without hot water and save on your energy bill.How to wash dishes without hot water and save on your energy bill.