Dinner to Dish Duty, Digging the Dirty

Arnold, MD: At the end of a busy day, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers treat ourselves to relaxation by cooking delicious meals. Afterwards, we are left with a small mountain of cutlery, cutting boards, plates, and food scraps caked to the frying pan with an intimidating clean up in sight. What is the best system for getting those dishes clean, you ask? Well, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers use a three-step process towards maintaining a clean camp kitchen.

Step One: Gather the dishes and cleaning supplies.

·      Dish soap and sponge

·      Two plastic wash tubs

·      Water container

·      Drying rag

·      Strainer

Keep these items accessible and start the process by filling the two tubs with some water. The first tub will be your washing station with the second acting as a rinse.


Step Two: Time to get those dishes clean! When camping we always prefer to use biodegradable soap to help minimize our impact. Add soap to the water in the first tub, or to the sponge itself. Alright, time to get scrubbing! After the dishes are lathered in soap give them a dip in the rinse tub, washing away the left over suds. Dry the dishes using a clean rag. Voila, sparkling clean!

Step Three: When your small mountain of dirty dishes has successfully transformed into a mountain of clean ones; it is time to dispose of our grey dishwater. Start by combining the two tubs of soapy water and rinse water. This will leave you with an empty tub. Pour the water through the strainer (to catch any leftover food particles) into the empty tub. These food particles will attract wildlife, so be sure to pack them out with your trash. At this point you should have one tub of strained dishwater.


Time to ditch the dirty! Always be sure to research the area in which you are traveling. If there are facilities such as a sink or a sump always dispose of your wastewater there. If facilities are not provided, carefully carry the tub two hundred feet away from any trail, campsite, or water source. Once you have reached your destination prepare yourself for the eco-spray technique. Broadcasting dishwater is the standard technique for disposal. At shoulder level swing the tub, releasing a steady, wide stream of water. Ideally, spray the water onto a durable surface to evaporate. However, if you are in grizzly bear country utilize a cat hole that is 6-8” deep, so that the smells are concentrated and less attractive.


We hope that these dishwashing techniques will prove most effective to you on your next adventure. Happy eating…. and washing!  

Adventure on!

Steph and Andy – Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team East

Leave No Trace’s Stephanie Whatton and Andy Mossey are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Deuter, Hi-Cone, REI, Smartwool, The North Face, and Yakima.