Camping adventures are made for outdoor cooking over an open fire, but clean up time is never fun. Still, there are ways to get around this necessary evil. These four quick tips are the best ways to wash dishes in the woods while making it easy on you and safe for the environment.
Be eco-groovy. Don’t wash dishes here.
Wash Dishes in the Woods With The Right Tools
For tent camping with large groups of people it’s important to have these simple tools to wash dishes in the woods:
- Wash and rinse buckets
- Paper towels
- Dish washing cloth
The easiest way to take care of dirty dishes in the woods is to first dine on paper plates, then burn them in your fire pit. However, you’ll still need to wash cups and utensils.
First, wipe them with paper towels to remove food. If you don’t have trash receptacles nearby, you can burn the paper towels. But when camping in especially environmentally sensitive areas, you must follow leave no trace ethics and pack out all paper waste by storing it in re-sealable plastic bags.
Proceed to washing as this video shows:
Don’t Rinse Dishes at the Source
A ready water source is handy when you’re camping. But please don’t rinse wash dirty dishes in the woods at a spigot, in a river or lake. Doing so will contaminate water sources, leave food bits around and attract wild animals. Fill a pot with water, then relocate to a dish washing area at least 200 feet away from any water source.
Lakes are for swimming, not dish washing.
Ditch the Camping Soap
Who cares if your dish washing soap is “environmentally friendly and biodegradable”? Any man-made materials put into a natural environment will affect it. Did the pioneers use bottled soap? No way! If they survived, you can too as long as you take some sanitation measures.
First, for the greenest and best way to wash dishes in the woods, use the power of nature:
Dirt works just as well as leaves. If you’re taking water from a river, boil it first to remove giardia.
Dispose of Water Appropriately
There’s some disagreement out there as to how to dispose of dish water when camping in the woods. Some tent campers and backpackers say you should dig a hole and dump the water there. But the Boy Scouts of America – perhaps the ultimate authority on the subject – direct us to:
Strain dishwater through a small strainer or bandana. Put the food particles in a re-sealable plastic bag and pack them out. Broadcast the strained dishwater over a wide area at least 200 feet from the nearest water source, campsite, or trail. Scattering dishwater in a sunny area will cause the water to evaporate quickly, causing minimal impact.
Keep our wildlands wild, follow these tips for washing dishes in the woods and you’ll always have a beautiful place to get away from civilization.