How To Clean Dishes While Camping

How To Clean Dishes While Camping

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A trip to the great outdoors is great for any vacation or just for a weekend getaway. And there’s nothing better than a meal under the stars. But clean up isn’t as easy as putting your dishes in the dishwasher. But that doesn’t mean you can’t wash your dishes while you’re on a camping trip if you have a water source nearby. This article will cover the different ways in which you can clean dishes while camping to ensure you have packed everything you need.

Wipe your work area so it’s clean and ready. Place three large pots or tubs in your work area, which should be anywhere people will have room to work. Up to three people can work on washing dishes at one time.

Scrape your dishes to remove any excess particles. Food should be thrown away promptly so you don’t attract unwanted wildlife to your campsite.

Ways to Clean Dishes While Camping

Fill one pot with hot, soapy clean water. Your soap should be biodegradable dish soap so it’s environmentally friendly. Fill the second pot with hot water and bleach. You should use a tablespoon of bleach for every gallon of water. The third pot should be filled with warm water.

  • Wash your dishes in soapy water. The soap cleans dirt and any leftovers that stick to your dish.
  • Rinse your dishes in the bleach solution. Bleach mixed in hot water will sterilize your dishes so they’re ready for their next use.
  • Submerge your dishes in a pot of hot water, allowing them to be rinsed again. Hot water helps your dishes dry themselves.
  • Allow your dishes to air dry. Using a cloth to dry your dishes could contaminate them. Cover them with cloth or mosquito netting so insects can’t get on your dry dishes.

Strain your dirty dishwater through a bandana or other piece of cloth before you throw it out. This will ensure there are no small particles of food residue that could attract insects or wildlife. The food particles will stay on top of the bandana while the water runs through.

How To Clean Dishes While Camping

How To Clean Dishes Without Dish Soap

When you go camping, one of the most polluting objects that you can bring, aside from body cleansers and your dirty self is dish soap, so if you forget it, don’t get mad or disillusioned, get motivated and innovative.

If you happen to be camping by a rather fast-moving stream, you can simply scrub the dishes with very fine dirt or sand, and rinse them in the current of the stream or river. Repeat this process until there are no visible food waste stains or grains on the dishes, and then rinse once more for good measure. This simple process will keep the cleanest dishes, as long as you use a clean paper towel to wipe them down afterwards and do not let the dishes retain moisture.

By using older camp dishes rather than paper plates in your camp kitchen, you are not only lowering your carbon footprint and helping the overburdened landfill situation, you are saving money at the same time. Paper plates and plastic cutlery may seem ideal for the ease of the after-dinner cleanup, but they add tremendously to our landfills and do not make life easier in the long run for anyone or any animals.

Keeping dish detergent out of the waters of our lakes and rivers keeps the water clean enough for swimming and drinking in emergencies, and the less pollution that we toss into our freshwater systems the better.

Using cleaned pots and pans for dishes never hurt anyone, and function is the keyword when it comes to camping accessories. Dishes are for sissies, some may say, and simply eat out of the large pot and pan that the foods were cooked in, as is possible for one or two people to do easily, and make the necessity for paper and/or plastic dishes, cups and utensils a thing of the past.

When the number of people who are with you on your camping trip is larger than two, then there is no excuse for not bringing the minimum required number of dishes, as they are as important as the tent, swimming clothes, and bug spray.

When camping, you should bring, as a minimum, one plate, bowl, cup, spoon, fork, and butter knife per person that is camping. Make sure that they are hardy dishes, not ones that would be likely to break with one drop onto a rock, for example.

Outdoors stores, camping and sporting goods stores, and the sporting goods aisles in most department stores sell camping quality dishes, and no camper should be without these lightweight, durable, and easily washed and dried pots, pans, glasses, and utensils.

When camping, dishes, cups, utensils, and pots and pans should be kept clean at all times and washed as soon as finished being used. There is no reasonable excuse for leaving the dishes alone so that the food and liquids do not harden on them, as it only takes a few minutes to clean them when the foods and liquids are still pliable and easily washed off in the current of a stream, or with the aid of some fine-grit sand.

How To Clean Dishes While Camping

How To Clean Dishes While Camping – Other Methods

Camping is a great experience, not only do you get out and into the wild, but you get to have fun shucking off all the modern debris we deal with every day. Some of those modern appliances are handy though, and the one usually missed most of all is a sink.

Most people have no clue that a sink is so important until they have to deal with a pile of dirty dishes and have no running cold water, no sink basin, and no clue how to juggle cleaning dishes without having them touch the dirty ground. There are a few tricks that will make your camping experience a little more enjoyable though, and these tips will tell you how to clean dishes while camping without a normal wash sink.

Plan Ahead

There will be dishes and greasy pans to wash while camping, even if it’s only panning, it’s better to plan out how you are going to clean those dishes before you go. Ask yourself these questions and do a bit of research if necessary:

  • Is there going to be running cool water available? Some campgrounds are dry, so, in that case, youíll need to bring water with you.
  • Do you have a big pan that you are planning on bringing? Perhaps you can use that as a camp sink to wash dishes in.
  • Do you need a picnic table? Some campgrounds have them, others don’t. You may need to bring a folding table to eat on and then use it to hold the camping dishes while you wash them.

Planning will keep you from getting out at the campsite and realizing that you’re missing something you need and with no way to get it.

Purchase Camping Essentials

Purchase anything you need to wash dishes without a sink. These may include:

  • Plastic tubs are in the household/dish drainer section of many stores. You may want two different colours of plastic bins so you can tell which is the wash basin and which is the rinse bucket.
  • A small container to put a little soap in, any small, cleaned, watertight bottle works fine. The regular bottle most dish soap comes in will leak all over everything and make a mess, so you’ll want to put a small amount in a good bottle. Most stores have an area where they sell sample-size containers and they usually have little bottles that work well.
  • Biodegradable dish soap, if you can find it. Most often there won’t be a drain to dump the dirty water into and you don’t want to pollute.
  • A scrubby, scrub brush or rag to wash the dishes with
  • A couple of dishcloths, a clean cloth or old towels, you will want one to set the clean dishes on and another to dry at least.
  • Other items such as a folding table and a large water jug depending on what is available where you will be camping

Another possible purchase is the folding table/sink setup available at many camping stores. These are units that fold out to form a place to set a stove and usually have a sink setup attached. They’re great for camping but are fairly expensive.

How To Clean Dishes While Camping

Packing Camping Cleaning essentials

Pack your dishwashing supplies into a plastic tote box or whatever you are using for cooking supplies. Many people have a chuck box with all their ìkitchenî equipment in one place, but tossing all stuff into a plastic bag in the back of the car works fine too.

If you plan on cooking over an open flame using nice pots and pans, you may want to protect them to make it easier to get the soot off after they’re used. Some people have a dedicated set of pots and pans to camp with, and in that case, you may want to allow the soot coating to build up since it helps the heat of the pan quicker, but nice pots that you want to stay nice will require a bit of care.

At home, before packing the pans you will take, coat the outside of the clean pans with a few drops of biodegradable soap. A bar of hard bar soap works fine, or you can use liquid dish soap and let it dry. This will form a protective shield over the pan, so while soot may build up when the pans are exposed to the fire, it will wash right off when you go to clean the dishes. Reapply each time you wash the pans.

Setting Up Your Cleaning Station

If you can, at the campground, before sitting down and eating, set up a little wash station with your wash bins. Set out a basin with water in it; add a dollop of soap and the scrubby. Set the rinse basin next to that and if on a table, lay out a towel for clean dishes to rest upon. If the wash station has to be set up on the ground, look for something clean and flat to set the clean dishes on, a plastic tote lid works great, or a cutting board.

Lay a towel nearby and when each person is done eating, they can each easily wash and rinse their dishes, saving a big bother. Either have them lay the dishes out to dry, or they can dry them and put them back in the box where you’re keeping your dishes. Not having a pile of dirty dishes to have to set somewhere and then try to clean and set somewhere prevents the dishes from ending up in the dirt. Most kids will be fine washing their dishes if they know they don’t get smores until they do. Most adults too.

You will also want to make it easy for yourself when it comes to cleaning the pots and pans, remember, this is your vacation too, don’t spend all your time cleaning. If the pans you cooked in are empty, add a handful of wood ashes from the campfire to the pan and then a bit of water. Set that over the fire to simmer while you eat your food, and theyíll be super easy to clean out when you are done. The lye in the wood ashes and the grease in the pans combines and makes a natural soap that takes the gunk right off the inside of the pans.

Hopefully, by the time everyone is done eating and cleaning their dishes, there isn’t much left for you to do. Wash your dishes, clean up any cooking tools used; finish washing the pans and you’re done. No mess, no fuss, and no trying to clean the dishes without dropping them in the dirt. Remember to toss out any dirty dishwater used to clean the dishes far away from camp, preferably strained of any food bits, and at least 200 feet away from any running water.

crop man cooking on metal stove in nature - How To Clean Dishes While Camping

The Importance of Keeping Your Campsite Clean and Tidy

You don’t want to attract wild animals to camp or pollute the nearby streams. If there are flush toilets at the campground you may want to toss any cleaning water down there. If there are bear boxes at the campground, put any items that have been around food, or have food odours attached to them into the boxes for the night, this includes the clothes you cooked in since smell clings to clothing very well. And most of all, enjoy your camping trip, it is supposed to be fun, not more household drudgery.

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