How To Wash Dishes While Camping?

Camping is one of the coolest outdoor activities and cooking over a stove is a unique joy of this outdoor adventure. Afterward, washing the dirty dishes with leftover food is somewhat a different matter.

How to wash dishes while camping? Washing dishes while camping is not all an exception and it should not be complicated. Using an effective strategy like dishwashing at home, you can easily get rid of the fuss created by the dirty dishes at the camping site.

Basic Amenities For Dishwashing While Camping

How To Wash Dishes While Camping?

On a camping trip, you do not have the basic amenities normally found in your kitchen such as a dishwasher, sink, running water, soap, sponge, etc. 

Whenever you plan for such an outdoor activity, make a list of the most important items you need to have during your trip. Below are given some important things for washing dishes while camping:

Camp Sink For Active Washing Of Dishes

These can be collapsible camping sinks for quite a long so they can hold water and can fit your dishes inside.

– Sponge/Brush

You would need a sponge or brush to scrub off any food that sticks to your dishes.

Biodegradable Soap

A standard dishwashing detergent can be hard on the environment, so you should pick up some biodegradable soap instead. To properly break down, biodegradable soap needs bacteria in the soil.

Washcloth/Quick-drying Microfiber Cloth

This will help to accelerate the drying process so you can immediately save your dishes until the next use.

What Is The Traditional Way To Wash Dishes While Camping?

Dishwashing at a camping site can be simple if you follow the same dishwashing rules when at home, i.e., whoever cooks the meal gets to relax while the rest of the crew takes care of clean-up.

However, the following is a simple guide to washing the dirty dishes at a camping site:

• Make sure to pour water into the pots in which you have cooked your meal and put them on the campfire to prevent the food from sticking to the surface. Prepare one side with a bucket of cold water for rinsing these used dishes and pots.

• In a separate bucket add some soap, cold water from the bucket and then fill it with hot water.

• Firstly, add the cleanest dishes followed by the dirtiest ones and in the end, put the pans and pots and scrub them.

• After washing them in soap water, rinse them with cold water and then let them air dry for a little while.

• Afterward, use a towel or washcloth to dry each utensil and then store them immediately.

• Lastly, dispose of the dishwater and food scraps away from the camping site.

Tips While Washing Dishes

 Some important tips to follow while dishwashing in woods:

1. Leave No Trace

Camping lets us enjoy the real beauty of nature and teaches us not to harm this beautiful environment.

Being a good camper, you should never leave your waste at the camping location. In case of dishes, clean them properly and dump the food waste away from the camping site.

2. Only Cook The Realistically Eatable Food

During camping, try to cook food enough to serve several people camping with you. Leftovers are usually pain when you have no proper setup to store them. Always prefer to prepare food that is easy to pick and eat. Although, you can try bringing a cooler to preserve leftover food but lugging during hiking might be a challenge.

Vegetables are a better option to cook than meat since meats are aromatic and there are more chances of wild animals’ attraction to your camping spot. Also, meats are greasier when cooked, making it difficult to clean the dishes.

3. What To Do If Clean Water Isn’t Available?

If you are camping in dry, rough terrain or a rocky mountain area, dishwashing with water is an impossible thing to do. Follow the tips given below that will help you in areas where little or no water is present:

How To Wash Dishes While Camping?
  • A good practice when you have less water is to boil some water in a pot after cooking your meal, and you’ll be able to create an instant soup that helps you warm up in no time.
  • A good substitute for the commercial soap is the wood ash from the campfire which when mixed with a little bit of water forms a mild alkali paste and this helps to clean the dishes.
  • Another way is to bring a pot liner to cover the inside of the pot that prevents the food from sticking to the inside of a pot. But this may cause more waste than necessary so this is not a recommended method.
  • In case you have none of the above, sponge and grass, or pines cones serve well for the cleaning purpose.

4. How To Disinfect Dishes Without Soap

In older times, boiling water was the most common disinfectant for utensils. If you are camping and have no access to a washing facility, or if you didn’t bring soap, you can use boiled water to disinfect your cookware. Dip your plates, and other cookware in boiling water to sanitize them. 

Related Questions

  • How to discard dishwater when camping?

Firstly, Put two sturdy sticks on the ground and pier the bag open on them. Slowly pour in the dishwater. The pieces of food will be captured in the leaves and the water will drain out the bottom. Then simply tie up the bag and throw it in your trash.

  • How to discard food waste when camping?

Usually, camping sites have disposal sites where you can throw away your food waste. In a remote area, the best option is to put your food waste in a plastic bag to avoid attracting animals.  

  • How to wash dishes while camping in the backcountry?

When during camping you’re in a backcountry environment, eating all the food on your plate is one of the most basic steps toward reducing food waste and human impact on the environment.


Camping is one of the best outdoor activities through which you can reconnect with nature, explore beautiful surroundings around you,  spending some quality time with your family and friends. During these beautiful moments, washing dishes can be an irritating chore for everyone. But essential tips and equipment as mentioned above could make it easier and enjoyable. It will help you enjoy your trip in a better way.