Use less water to wash dishes and greatly reduce the chances of clogging the galley drain? Double-win!

Scraping the Dishes

As I was doing dishes last evening, I realized that while I’ve written up lots of tips for doing dishes on the boat — ways to use less water, compact drainers and more — I’d never written about scraping the dishes.

Ashore, with “unlimited” water and a garbage disposer, most of us just rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher or setting them in the sink for hand washing.

There are two, often three, problems with this on a boat: water is limited, there’s probably no on-demand hot water to rinse grease off, and there’s no garbage disposer.

So I’ve returned to scraping the dishes.

I repurpose either a jar or Ziploc bag from the trash for garbage (food scraps that is, not trash). Most often, it’s a Ziploc bag that I froze meat in — I don’t like to reuse these bags for food, so they’re great for food scraps. Whatever you use, it needs to have a large opening, yet seal tight so that you don’t smell the garbage. One jar or bag will usually last for several days for us then goes in with the trash (I’ve never encountered a marina with a composting bin, but it would be great).

I use my silicone scraper to clean all the little bits of food left on plates, pans and cooking dishes into the garbage container. Anything with oil or grease — typically pans and salad bowls — I also wipe out with a bit of paper towel, usually also reclaimed from the trash.

Not only does scraping the dishes make them easier to wash, but this keeps small bits of food and grease from clogging up the galley sink drain. In our Gemini, the drain hose is fairly small diameter and could clog much more easily than the larger one did on Que Tal. So far, I haven’t had to use of my ways to unclog a drain . . . but I do pour boiling water down about once a week, typically the water that I boiled/steamed pasta, eggs or veggies in.

Use less water to wash dishes and greatly reduce the chances of clogging the galley drain? Double-win!

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17 Comments
  • Jim Allen
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    even with my dishwasher at home i scrape the dishes.

  • Andrew Barron
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    Why can’t food scraps just be tossed over? Rinse in a bucket of salt water then tossed over the side?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

      In many places, it’s illegal.

    • Andrew Barron
      Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

      Not in a marina, but even at an anchorage?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

      Much of it floats and is an eyesore and it’s also not good for the wildlife, so yes, many places have outlawed dumping “identifiable” food scraps overboard.

    • Commuter Cruiser
      Posted at 16 January 2015 Reply

      Depends on where you are. We were shocked when our dockmaster in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala instructed us to throw all food scraps overboard, never in the trash. ???? The logic was that food scraps in the trash attracted rats and the tidal flow in the river kept it washed clean … well, almost. And we never saw a rat.

  • Mary E Dixon
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    I don’t throw any food overboard cuz that would attract birds that wd then poop on boat

  • Barbara Lowell
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    Hi … this is a great reminder for my silicone spatula which sits unused most of the time but I love the chartreuse color! Just for the record you would never put greasy stuff or animal products into a compost pile. It attracts vermin and does not compost well and you will have a gummy mess. Being a landlubber farmgardener I just had to say it. I also find that a credit card works fabulous for picking up sticky stuff off of cooking pots, especially the lightweight kind that you can curl for the curves.

  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    I learned about scraping food for minimal water usage while backpack camping with my Girl Scout troop and have carried the practice over into my home and on the boat. Backpacking serves to make water conservation very important since you have to carry every drop you use and it’s heavy! The scraper recommended is one kind I use and can be found at most major sporting goods stores.

  • Tammy
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    I’ve become a BIG scraper since moving on the boat in December. Like you repurpose trash, anything from empty cans to dirty paper plates or paper towels. I have a small spoon scraper that I keep handy just for this task! Still working on cutting back on water usuage for dishes. I’ll go back and read your articles to see if I can pick up some tips.

  • LaDonna
    Posted at 15 January 2015 Reply

    We have a 4-legged dish scraper !

  • Windsong II
    Posted at 16 January 2015 Reply

    I have used a dinghy pump to blow out a sink drain. I use a wet rag to try and seal the hose in the drain then quick plunge on the air pump. It seems to blow out what ever is clogging it up.
    I used this once on a friends Benteau. The holding tank gravity drains out but the thru hull was clogged. I put the dinghy pump on the tank vent, wrapped a wet rag around it while he plunged it down twice. It blew the clogg right out. We were in the Bahamas with no pump outs. The alternative was to take the hose off to clear. The tank would have drained into the bilge !

    Fair winds ! Windsong II

  • Cheryl Buckner
    Posted at 16 January 2015 Reply

    I love these tips from wise seasoned sailors!! Thank you everyone! I’m sure I’m not the only one benefitting from your experiences.

  • Belinda WOLFE
    Posted at 16 January 2015 Reply

    One way to get rid of food waste immediately to get it off the boat without dumping large scraps overboard is to use a countertop garbage disposer. You put the scraps in it with a small amount of water, purée it and pour it overboard. This counter top garbage disposer also doubles as a margarita maker!! I have the Oster model.

    • Paula Spence
      Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

      LOL, Belinda, great idea!

  • Charlie Jones S/V Tehani
    Posted at 20 January 2015 Reply

    One other tip from a friend of mine who does offshore delivery trips. NEVER stack dishes aboard a boat. Because then you must scrub the bottom instead of just rinsing- She dumped a boy friend because he wouldn’t adhere Grini

  • Jennifer McAdams
    Posted at 22 January 2015 Reply

    Come to Nova Scotia! The marinas there have composting. In fact everyone does, towns, homeowners, resturants, etc.

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