How Do You Wash Dishes Camping

Firing up a grill or roasting something over an open fire is one of the best things about camping. That flame-grilled taste accompanied by the smell and sounds of the wild is simply one of life’s greatest pleasures.

But, once you’ve finished cooking and you’ve eaten your delicious meal, what are you supposed to do with your dishes?

How do you wash dishes camping

Unlike cooking at home, you don’t have the opportunity to wash them in your kitchen sink. Neither do you have the luxury of hot, running water.

But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible! All you need is a few pieces of equipment, and you’ll have beautifully clean dishes in no time.

Here’s what you need to wash your dishes when your camping:

  • A collapsible camping sink: No, we’re not joking, this is actually a real thing! There are many different types available, but this UST FlexWare Collapsible Sink is one the very best. Simply pop it up when you need to wash your dishes, empty the water out, and collapse it back down when you’re done. You could just use a regular bucket instead of course, but a collapsible camping sink will take up much less space in your tent!
  • A sponge or a brush: Either is fine and will do a great job of cleaning your dishes without taking up much space in your camping bag. If you’re cooking on cast iron, however, you might need something a little stronger. Something like this Herdan Chainmail Sponge is ideal.
  • Biodegradable soap: It’s really important that you don’t use standard dish detergent when you’re washing your dishes on a camping trip. The chemicals can be really harsh on the environment. Instead, opt for a biodegradable soap. We’ll look at this in more detail a little later. 
  • Absorbent cloth: Once your dishes are clean, you’ll need to dry them so they’re ready to use again when you need them. A cloth with a high level of absorbency is best for this, as it’ll cut your drying time in half and make sure that your dishes are completely dry. 

Once you’ve got all of your equipment together, you need to follow some simple rules for washing your dishes and disposing of your water. 

To begin with, make sure you’re at least 200-feet away from a water source. This will stop any accidental splashes from getting into the water. Use only as much biodegradable dish detergent as you need, too.

Don’t be tempted to create a sink that is filled with more bubbles than water!

When you’re done, strain any food scraps out of the water. A metal strainer or some other cooking utensil is ideal for this. Scatter these food scraps far away from your campsite so as not to attract any unwanted critters in the night, or place them into a plastic bag and take them with you when you leave.

Finally, dig a 6-8 inch hole in an area away from the campsite and pour the water into this, then cover it over with the dug-out dirt.

Do not be tempted to pour it into a river or a stream. Make sure you’re pouring it straight into the hole instead. 

What soap is safe for camping?

The safest soap you can use for washing your dishes on a camping trip is biodegradable soap.

This is because it doesn’t contain the same chemicals that regular dish detergents do, so it is far less likely to have an impact on the environment or on any surrounding wildlife.

The reason you shouldn’t use standard dish detergents is that the ingredients are non-biodegradable.

This means that bacteria cannot decompose them and, as such, they remain in the environment for much longer. 

So, if you were to empty a sinkful of water with standard dish detergent in it onto some soil, the chemicals will stay in the earth for a very long time. 

You might be thinking that, if this is the case, surely emptying your washing up water into a river is a better idea. But you’d be very, very wrong!

Standard dish detergents have a harmful effect on any fish living in the river, and high concentrations of dish detergent can cause the following:

  • Weakens mucus layers that usually protect the fish from bacteria and diseases
  • A reduced ability to breed
  • The destruction of eggs
  • Decreased surface tension, meaning fish are more susceptible to pesticide absorption

So, to avoid all of these things from happening, use biodegradable soap when you're washing your dishes on a camping trip.

 Sierra Dawn Concentrated Campsuds is one of the best biodegradable soaps available. It also has a nice, refreshing pine scent, so you won’t have to worry about running the gorgeous smell of the surrounding woodland!

Is Dawn safe for camping?

Dawn is safe for camping as it is biodegradable. However, as with all biodegradable dish soaps, you need to make sure you follow some simple rules and dispose of it properly when you’ve finished washing your dishes. 

Andrew Mullen
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