The Best Countertop Dishwashers and Survival Tools for the Dishwasher-Free


We get it, some of you have it made—coasting through life on your parent’s oil money, living in massive mansions with dishwashers in every room. Well, we hate to break it to you, but not everyone has that luxury. Some of us, if you can believe it, wash dishes with our [gasp] hands. 

Now, for those of you living in parts of the country where realtors gift you a dishwasher just for touring a place, you might not be familiar with the concept of a cuisine sans lave-vaisselle, or a kitchen without a dishwasher. (It sounds less depressing in French.) But for everyone else, especially those carving out a living in crowded metropolitan areas, a dishwasher can be a hot-ticket amenity—one that’s often sacrificed in order to afford the endless barrage of Sweetgreen deliveries that might dirty enough dishes to make said appliance necessary. So, dishwasherless brethren, we hear you, and we’re here for you. 

First off, dishwashers really aren’t that great. I mean, the name itself is a misnomer, since you literally have to wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher (according to our collective mothers anyways). Secondly, for renters, they can tack on a good chunk of change when you pay your landlord’s salary rent each month. And if that isn’t enough, there are also lots of kitchen items you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) put into the dishwasher, like your good knives, easily scratchable pans, fragile glassware, and cast iron skillets (maybe?). 

So until I have a chance to pop down to the Money Store and pick up some more money, here are some ways to make the pain of cleaning up after your big cooking projects less, well, painful. 

Forget everything we just said 

… And just buy a portable dishwasher! (“Dishwashers suck, actually” sounds suspiciously like something someone without a dishwasher would say, TBH.) This portable powerhouse by Magic Chef is quiet, sits comfortably on a countertop, and features six wash programs. (In the market for something a little more sleek? We also love this Farberware version with a voyeuristic viewing window, or this stainless steel model.)

$379 at Home Depot

$399.99$379.99 at Amazon

$399.99 at Wayfair

You’re a size queen

Looking for a bigger, badder portable dishwasher? Look no further. This upright, stainless-steel model by GE is the perfect accent piece for your railroad apartment’s teensy-weensy kitchen. Slide it next to your perennially broken oven, or plop it next to your singular square foot of counter space. With six feet of hookup line to outlets and a water source, you’ll have no trouble literally making ends meet. (Do kitchens wider than six feet actually exist? Asking for a friend.)

$949$628 at Home Depot

Please remember to clean this thing

What’s the point of doing dishes if you can’t show them off while they dry? This rack is compact, it holds pots and pans, and it’s KitchenAid, which will give off the illusion of luxury when houseguests confuse it with something from Breville. Plus, it has a “truly premium look,” just like you.

$59.99 at Wayfair

The humble sponge 

Stop slam-dunking your usual yellow-and-green bois directly into landfills and swap them out for these eco-friendly dish sponges. They’re cheap, they work, and—according to the product description—they’re “Mother Earth Approved.” (Can we get her number?)

$5.49 at Etsy

If most of your eating is done on takeout containers 

… You probably don’t need a full blown dish rack. Instead, get this rollable, over-the-sink drying rack for the coffee mugs you’re currently using as wine glasses. (Also, tip your delivery people, people!)

$16.89$10.98 at Amazon

Ajax could never

Unsuspecting shoppers who read the product description might start to decant this luxe dish soap. “French lavender fields give way to light, sweet floral notes, delicately finished with subtle, earthy wood.” Let us know how it tastes?

$12.95$5.99 at Sur La Table

$12.95$5.99 at Sur La Table

You can’t afford to break any more wine glasses

After all, you only have three. OXO products are both sick and tight, and this silicone sink mat is no exception. In addition to turning the bottom of your sink into a drying rack, this bad boy is sure to save you the headaches of fishing broken glass out of your drain. 

We’re suckers for anything “ultimate”

The “ultimate” kit comes with a sisal pot scrubber, a palm pot scrubber, three large bamboo cloths, a sisal dish brush refill, a coconut bottle brush, and a brush cleaner. Whew—we’re out of breath.

$17.17 at Etsy

Dexter’s mom vibes

All we’re saying is that if she were walking down Canal Street, people would think she was doing the whole 1950s housewife thing ironically, and very well. It’s functional fashion, folks! Wear gloves and save your hands. If yellow isn’t your color, we also stan these silicone gloves with scrubbers built right into the palms.

$12$6.99 at Amazon

$12.99$7.53 at Amazon

It won’t hold your golf bag, but it will hold your dish soap

Reviewer DeLoris purchased this dual-compartment sink caddy as a Christmas gift for her granddaughter-in-law, who was “excited” to receive it. We thank you for your service DeLoris. 

You are not a dish

… So have some hand soap near the sink! As tempting it is to use that crusty bottle of Palmolive on your mitts (it just feels… right) it’s probably not terrific for your skin. This moisturizing hand care set from our new favorite brand Elorea is enriched with vitamins to smooth out the skin of gardeners (and longshoremen, probably). The brand creates intriguing scents inspired by Korea, like Joy, which is filled with Jeju mandarins and grapefruit.

$95 at Elorea

Kneel before your one true god, this pizza kitchen towel

It’s your kitchen—it’s okay to get weird with it. Embrace the lame, the ironic, the sardonic. Be really, you know, cheesy. (FYI, they were out of drying towels shaped like this.) 

$13.99 at Amazon

Stop pushing bottom-of-the-sink food mush down the drain 

We’ve all been there: Too much liquid in the soup bowl to throw into the trash, yet not enough solids to really warrant dirtying a fine mesh strainer. Instead, you just pour the dregs into the sink and hope that loose onion chunks and celery particulates won’t deal your drain the final death blow. Get a sink strainer, and save yourself the embarrassment of telling your super what a dirty, dirty boy you’ve been. 

Resist the urge to use paper towels 

Oh, you dry your hands with PTs? We weren’t aware that you hated the earth—good to know. While the quicker-picker-upper might be effective, does it look as stylish as this checkered, artisanal hand towel? We didn’t think so. 

$19$14 at Urban Outfitters

$19$14 at Urban Outfitters

Unless you want old man hands

Are soft, beautiful hands cheugy yet? (Not sure, but we’ll keep you posted.) If you’re not acquainted, let us be the first to introduce you to Working Hands. This, friends, is the way. Loved by bartenders, cooks, lumberjacks, and anyone whose hands crack and chip in the winter, this stuff is hands down (get it) the best cream for seriously dry hands—an unfortunate side effect of constant dishwashing. 

$14.99 at Amazon

Hate doing dishes? Don’t

Look, some of you are going to use Solo cups and paper plates until some poor soul takes pity on your feeble, floor-mattress soul. So, instead of waging a one-man war against the ozone layer, why not switch to a more sustainable set of disposable plates? These happen to be far cooler-looking than the average white paper plate. Plus, they’re compostable. 

$23.99 at Amazon

And yes, you have to wash the backs of your plates. 

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.

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