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Large Family Dishwasher: Why We Choose to Hand Wash Our Dishes

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Large Family Life: Why we choose not to use a dishwasher.


We don’t have or use a dishwasher with our large family. Yes, you read that right. We wash all dishes by hand in our house.

I have found that this small fact about our family surprises a lot of people. There are many reasons we don’t use a dishwasher. If I am being completely honest I will have to admit that our handwashing days began because our dishwasher broke. We burned through three or four dishwashers in a decade. Some were new and some were used. We bought the cheapest we could find and expensive “super-capacity” washers. In the end, we’ve decided the best dishwasher for our large family is hot, soapy, water.

Here is why we choose to hand wash our dishes.

1. When you use a dishwasher, the dishes are never really done.

Even in a regular family dishes are never quite “done” with a dishwasher. Even if you clean the kitchen, put every dish in the dishwasher and run it, you wake up to a dishwasher full of dishes that need to be put away. When hand washing, drying and putting away is part of the built-in process. Even if I leave the dishes for half an hour to air dry, I can put them away quickly. With a dishwasher you need to wait an hour or so while it runs, then wait for the dishes to cool off.

2. There is too much “extra work” with a dishwasher.

I put “extra work” in parenthesis on purpose. For some reason, my kids perceive washing any dishes that don’t fit in the dishwasher as “extra work”. Back when we used a dishwasher the kids would ask nightly, “Do I have to wash the pots on the stove?” and inevitably they would overload the dishwasher, stacking dishes on top of each other even, to avoid having to hand wash. Now everything is hand-washed so it doesn’t seem like extra work.

3. No more wondering whether dishes are clean or dirty.

My grandma had these lovely clean and dirty magnets that she used for her dishwasher. Lovely idea…but with a house full of kids (especially babies and toddlers) they were never left on the dishwasher long enough to make a difference. And who hasn’t unloaded half the dishwasher only to suddenly discover it hadn’t been run yet? EW!

4. Doing someone else’s work.

When we had a dishwasher my kids often “couldn’t load” the dishwasher because their sibling hadn’t unloaded it and unloading the dishwasher wasn’t their work. I have written many times about my kids’ biggest fear: that they would do more work than a sibling. Yeah, having no dishwasher eliminates this issue entirely. Each child (except for Mordecai and Apollo) have a dish night and I do them on the seventh night.

Do you have a dishwasher? Do you feel like it saves time and work?

Be sure and check out my post on how to teach kids to clean the kitchen.



  1. Kayla Hunt

    We’ve never had a dishwasher, and I’m good with it. Our hard water would gum a dishwasher up pretty quickly. I agree with Renee’s points. I wash the dishes, let them air dry, and then one of the kids puts them away. Our plastic containers last forever, and it’s pretty rare for something to get dried/baked on. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with dishes throughout the years, but it’s gotten to the point where they’re just not a big deal.

  2. Sheila

    I could have written nearly every word of this post! Except that I only have six children (only five of them living at home), and at the moment, we don’t have specific days assigned, because schedules have been too crazy. But we’ve also done that with each person of dish-washing-age being assigned a day. And if it wasn’t done by the time I got back from my walk the next morning, the person from the day before had to do the whole next day, too, which was amazing motivation based mainly on your reason number 4: the fear that someone else might do less work! (Seriously, it wasn’t the thought of having to do dishes for another day, it was the thought of a sibling getting out of it that motivated them!) But I don’t actually mind washing dishes, and I do hate drying them, so lately I’ve been washing most of them and then the children have to dry and put away. And if a child refuses, that child pays a Euro to the child who does agree to do it, which is a pretty steep fine when they only get their age in Euros each month. 😉 (And again, a fine to ME is not really any motivation, but the fine going to a sibling works wonders…)

  3. Anna

    We don’t have a dishwasher either. For all the same reasons. The last time I sighed and said, “I want a new dishwasher..” my husband gasped, “What’s wrong with Shane? Why do you want to replace HIM?”

  4. Julie Scott Garrett

    We put one in when we remodeled the kitchen, but it broke a few years ago and we’ve never gotten around to replacing it. Like you, I dislike the “never done” aspect of it! I like having everything washed, dried, and put away. My three boys have gotten used to it and they’re an awesome dish crew 😀 Although I’ve been pretty glad for the Corelle (mostly unbreakable) every-day dishes. When we get fancy and use the china…. well, I’m more likely to wash the dishes myself.

  5. Nyssa

    We are in Australia, Tank water only. I find a dishwasher to be the most economical way of doing dishes for us. It might change when the kids are older though and more inclined to assist with kitchen chores, at the moment they can help empty the dishwasher. (6 kids, 9,5,4,2,2,1)

  6. Sabriena

    I didn’t have a dishwasher for the first 10 years and 5 kids of marriage. I’ve had one now for about a year, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I can totally respect your decision, but as for me, I’m still smiling every time I load and unload, because it’s just SO MUCH easier for me!

    With that being said, I was the oldest of 8 children, and we switched dish duty by the week for us older 3. When it was my week, I got to where I always washed by hand because I didn’t like several aspects of using the dishwasher.

    But now, it’s been a life changer and I feel like a life saver too. however, I’ve not yet added dishes to any of the kids chores. I have quite a few other chores they are in charge of, while dishes is one that remains mine.

  7. Renee

    I totally undestand that. For us, it cut down on fighting about who does what and when the kitchen is “finished” being clean. Now, with only six kids at home, dishes are a breeze.

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