How To Wash Dishes While Camping


Washing dishes while camping is one task that most people dread. You don’t have a fully functional kitchen. There’s no dishwasher and sink. The water supply is probably limited. Despite all these, you have to properly wash all the dishes to prevent the bacteria from spreading and to keep the campsite clean.

Want to know how to wash dishes while camping? Read on and we’ll let you know how seasoned campers do it!

Gather Everything You Will Need

Before you head out, create a checklist of the essential camping gear to bring. Don’t forget those that you’ll need to wash the dishes. One of the most important is a collapsible camping sink. A mixing bucket can also work as a makeshift sink in the campsite.

Bring biodegradable soap. Do not use soaps with harsh chemicals. They can harm the environment. However, even if this is biodegradable, this does not mean that it is completely safe. It can be equally damaging as a regular detergent when you don’t throw it properly.

Your camping checklist should also include brushes and sponges. This will help to scrub any food residues on the dishes, making sure that you’ll leave no traces of dirt once you are done washing.

A pot and a camping stove or portable grill are also important items in your camping cooking kitchen gear. You will need them for warming water to wash the dishes. Warm water makes it easier for food particles to break down, allowing you to scrub them off the surface effortlessly.

A Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have all the things you’ll need, follow these steps on how to wash dishes while camping. It’s not as difficult as what you might have initially imagined.

  1. Remove Food Residues

Start by getting rid of any food residue in the plate or the camping cookware sets. The more you remove, the easier it will be to wash the dishes.

Right after eating, wipe the dishes using paper towels or cloths. The trick here is to do it as soon as possible. They will harden and will be more difficult to remove if you let them sit for hours.

If possible, throw the food directly on a fire. This way, it won’t end up attracting wild animals in the area.

  1. Set Up Three Buckets/Sinks

This is important to make the process simple and efficient. It also uses minimal water, so you won’t end up wasting one of the most precious resources on the campsite. Set-up the sinks on the top of a camping table so that it will be easier for you to do the washing.

The first sink is for washing the dishes. Fill it with ¼ warm water.  Add a few drops of your choice of biodegradable soap.

The second sink is for rinsing. Fill it with ¼ water as well.

The third sink is for sanitizing, which you should also fill with ¼ water. You might need to fill the sinks with more water depending on how many dishes you will wash.

  1. Start Washing

With the sinks or buckets all set-up, you can now start. Put the clean plate in the first bucket. Place the dishes one at a time. Scrub it using your sponge. Make sure to clean the back and front parts thoroughly. It is also a good strategy to start washing the cleanest dish first before you move to the dirtiest.

After cleaning the dishes with soap and water, move into the next bucket for rinsing. Dunk the dishes individually to remove suds. If it is still dirty, wash it again on the first sink. Rinse them until they are completely soap-free.

Move to the third sink to sanitize the dishes. This will help to get rid of the bacteria on the surface. Let them soak for a while, especially for camping knives that you use for cutting raw meat and other ingredients that can be prone to contamination. It also helps to remove the smell from the dishes that can attract animals.

  1. Dry the Dishes

After washing the dishes, dry them thoroughly before storage. Keeping them wet can harbor a foul smell. Use a clean towel to wipe the dishes to make sure they are dry.

Disposal of Waste and Water


When learning how to wash dishes while camping, it is also crucial that you know the proper disposal of dirty water and waste. Keep in mind the leave no trace principle. So, you need to be responsible enough to figure out a way to properly get rid of the waste.

Prepare a large bucket where you will pour the dirty water from all three sinks. Put a strainer on the top of the large bucket to remove any food residues. Burn the solid food or throw it in a designated bin at the campsite. Do not leave it lingering as this can cause a foul smell and can attract animals.

Throw the water at least 200 feet away from a nearby water source. Never throw it directly to a water source like a river or lake since this can cause contamination, even if you use biodegradable soap. You should not also pour the water in a single spot. Try to disperse it evenly.

Alternative Methods for Washing Dishes While Camping

The steps mentioned above on how to wash dishes while camping will be applicable only if you have complete gear. If you don’t have the essentials, there are alternative methods that you can do, including those we’ll briefly talk about below.

  1. Washing The Dishes Without Soap or Water

Forgot to bring soap? No access to water for washing the dishes? No problem! A little creativity is all that it takes. If you have leftover bread that you won’t eat, you can use it to scrub the dishes and remove any residue. A clean cloth will also do the job. Once you get home, wash the dishes with water as soon as possible.

  1. Washing the Dishes Without a Sink

Many campers try to be as lightweight as possible. Aside from the camping tent, sleeping pads, survival kits, tactical flashlights, and camp towels, among others, can all add weight to your gear. If you don’t have access to three sinks or buckets, you can improvise using a large pot.

Using Disposable Plates and Utensils

It is tempting to bring disposal plates and camping utensils. All that you need is to throw them after eating. No more need to think about washing dishes while camping. This may sound like a convenient option, but this is one thing you should avoid.

Using disposables is bad for the environment. Especially if it is plastic, it will have a huge negative environmental impact. Try to spare a few minutes of your time and a little effort to wash the dishes at the campsite instead of resorting to single-use plates and utensils.

Other Tips and Tricks

If you hate the idea of washing dishes while camping, one thing that you can do is to pack cold foods only. This way, there is no more need to cook, and hence, you won’t have pots and pans to wash.

It is also a good idea to eat with your clean bare hands. Especially if you are a big group, doing this will minimize the use of spoons, forks, and knives.

Camping is not a place for gourmet experiences. Even with the rise of the glamping concept, in many situations, you will be devoid of the luxuries you have at home. With this, one thing that you should do is to serve food straight out of the pot where you cooked them instead of having them on serving plates.

Bringing pot liners will also help to minimize the need to wash the dishes. They are made of high-quality plastic that resists extremely high temperatures. They are liners that you put inside the pot before cooking, which will prevent food and grease from being stuck on the surfaces of the pots and pans.

Some people use foil wraps on their plates to minimize the need to wash the dishes. While this is good, there is one problem – it creates additional waste. If you opt to do this, make sure to throw the foil properly.

Globo Surf Overview

From setting up a tent to starting a fire in the woods, there are many things that novice campers should learn. Another thing that you should know is how to wash dishes while camping. Leave no trace and be mindful of the environment. Do it while conserving water, especially when supply is limited. Don’t leave the dishes unwashed as they can be a breeding ground of bacteria!

More Camping Reviews:


  1. How to Wash Dishes When Camping,
  2. How to Clean Dishes on a Camping Trip,
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!