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“My Great Grandmother’s Dirty Dishes”

Do you have a sink full of dirty dishes right now?

I do.

Whenever I think about my dirty dishes and resist, I dig deep and channel all the ladies that used to do them way back when, without a peep.

I peep.

I whine.

I throw suds in the air.

I also whip out this because it cracks me up.

It tickles me pink.

It helps me keep it real.

These are index cards from my Great Grandmother on how to properly wash dishes:

You have to respect a woman who wrote it out neatly in Roman numerals. Do you think she had it next to her at the sink while she did them?

Do you think she referred to it as she had the silver forks and “iron ware” in hand?

Here is the translation. I offer it here for you to have at your disposal whenever you need to dig deep also. Take a look, while I go and… sigh…do my dirty dishes:

“To Wash Dishes”
by Ada B. Gray – Wellesley 1912

To Wash Dishes
I.  Preparation –
Empty cups & glasses, scrape dishes,
Put things of a kind together.

II. Appliances –
Dish pan half full of soapy water (borax),
Dish pan full hot clean water
Dish cloths
Mop – hang out in sun or will sour.

III. Method –
Wash cleanest things first in following order
other dishes not greasy
carvers & steel cutlery
greasy dishes
wooden ware
tin ware
aluminum ware
enamel ware
iron ware

p.s. For treats from my Great Great Grandmother’s recipe book, go here!

Leave a Comment



  1. That's so cool that you have such a great reference. I hate doing the dishes and I have a dishwasher. Why do I complain so? I'm so spoiled.

  2. Me too.

  3. Those index cards are great! Now I'll be thinking of your great-grandmother next time I stand at a sink full of soapy water!

  4. Bill Gray says:

    Love it.

  5. Amazing that you still have those cards. Sometimes I run across my Grandmother's handwritten recipes–and I cherish them. But dish washing directions? Way too cool!

  6. Did Grandma write out any other training instructions? This would be great to start my granddaughter on Home Ec skills. She’s only seven, but you have to start early with basics. This is priceless!

    • Georgia says:

      There are more somewhere… I’ve been going through a lot of old family things so I’ll see what I can dig up for ya ;)

  7. This is exactly the way I’ve been taught to do dishes – though never in written form! It drives me nuts since my husband is the “Mr. Mom” and doesn’t bother to sort this way!

  8. butterfly says:

    That’s the way I learned way back when!

  9. butterfly says:

    This brought a chuckle remembering my sister & I doing the supper dishes, arguing who was going to wash & who was going to dry & who was going to make the excuse they had to use the bathroom first!