How to Be an Efficient Restaurant Dishwasher

Three Parts:Before Your ShiftDuring Your ShiftAfter Your Shift

Being a dishwasher at a restaurant may be on the same line of low quality jobs as flipping burgers at a fast-food franchise. However, dishwashers have an important role, just like the cooks. Without the dishwashers, no one will have clean, sanitized dishes in the restaurant. They are among the hardest workers in the establishment and the last to leave.

Part 1
Before Your Shift

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    Come in a few minutes early and survey the station. At any restaurant, Fridays and Saturdays are the most popular days of the week for people dine out with family and friends. When you get in the back of the house, it's good to review the station before jumping in on the action.
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    Catch up. Put any clean dishes and utensils away and claim any dirty dishes from around the restaurant. Use the beginning part of your shift to get as far ahead as possible, as this will minimize unnecessary stacking later.
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    Check the dishwasher soap level. All automatic dishwasher machines are connected to a soap line and can be refilled using removable jugs or bottles. Ensure you have a full load or enough to get you through the shift.
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    Empty the food drains in the machine. Like sinks, dishwasher drains can handle so much food before creating problems, such as water overflowing. Especially working the second or third shift, you do not want the previous dishwasher's leftovers clogging your drain.

Part 2
During Your Shift

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    Get a washing rhythm down. If you cannot create or stay with a rhythm, you will get stressed out. Dishwashers must handle just about any dish from the different sections of the restaurant: Servers and bussers may give you the typical plates, glasses, and utensils; the cooks might give you pans and pots; and the prep cooks may give you prep pans, cutting boards, whisks, and bowls.
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    Learn how to use the water sprayer efficiently. The sprayer will stop a lot of food from entering the machine, since you are pre-rinsing them. Avoid spending too much time on one rack, though. Establish the rhythm of going back and forth.—You should spend only a few seconds on a rack before pushing it.
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    Use the appropriate sponges. You could possibly get away using an abrasive wire sponge on a charred and greasy pan, but use a non-abrasive scrub on ceramic dishes.
    • If you have an automatic dishwasher, push the item through the machine and allow the hot water loosen the food from the dish.
    • If you are required to wash by hand, add hot, soapy water to the dish and set it aside for a few minutes to allow it to soak.
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    Get to know your food enemies. Never think the machine is going to do all the work for you. As you do your job, make a mental list of foods that needs to be scrubbed off in their entirety before putting sending the dish through the machine. Some foods include:
    • Melted cheese
    • Clam chowder and other chunky soups
    • Egg yolk
    • Sauces
    • Mashed potatoes
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    Expect some unplanned demands. Cooks likely have a limited amount of saute pans to work with, so, if they need you to clean them, that should be your first priority.—The other dishes will have to be queued behind the high-priority dish of the moment.
    • Maintain focus on other important things used in the restaurant, such as bread holders for servers and key utensils used by the prep cooks. Always keep an eye on the silverware: Knives are given out with meat dishes, bread, and baked potatoes; spoons are given out with coffee, ice cream, and other desserts.
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    Scrub all nooks and crannies. It's frustrating beyond belief to do so, but put yourself in a diner's view. - You would like the best and most enjoyable meal when you dine out, but what if you found your meal came on a plate with a smudge of leftover sauce from the previous diner?
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    Double check the dishes. Ensure dishes are whistle-clean before stacking or putting them on the side. If there are food remnants or stains, rewash the item.
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    Get the clean, sanitized dishes put away. Incorporate a rhythm of splitting up the clean dishes on every other run to different parts of the restaurant. Most-to-all restaurants have a rack, counter, or pushcart to stack dishes and utensils.

Part 3
After Your Shift

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    Empty the dish machine food drains. If you are on a dinner shift, you must thoroughly clean all drains as much as you can.
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    Empty the sink drain. Treat the area as your own kitchen and clean it out as much as you can.
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    Put any dishes away. When you are finished rinsing your final load, this is typically when all servers, cooks, and bussers are gone. Depending on how exhausted and soaked you are, the first thing on your mind is liable to be: Bunch dishes in the easiest spots available, clock out, and hit the road. You must condition yourself to be patient and complete everything to near-perfection before walking out the door. Learn to persist in putting each and every item away in its appointed place, so your co-workers can easily find everything the next day.
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    Throw out the trash. Garbage take-out usually lands on the dishwasher's list of things to do, although some restaurant establishments have cleaning crews that handle this responsibility.
    • Be safe when doing so. Taking out restaurant trash is never the same as normal trash, as it will include wet food, water, and other items that will weigh the bags down greatly. Use the proper lifting techniques (bending your knees) or get another person to help you lift. Refrain from twisting your spine while handling an over-heavy burden. Move your feet to turn your body appropriately.


  • Bring a drink to work or make a drink from the restaurant's soda machine, if allowed, before your shift starts.
  • Keep a pace and avoid stressing. If you break into a stress moment, it can be hard to get out of it. Stop what you are doing and take a minute for a breather.
  • Never be afraid to ask someone where something goes. Learn from it and it will become an instant habit.
  • In many restaurants, dishwashers are rarely, or never, seen to the public during shift; ask your manager how strict the uniform policy is. Some restaurants are more relaxed to dishwashers than other employees with regards to pants. Non-slip shoes are required for everyone though.
  • It is technically the bussers' or servers' job to slide leftover food off the plates and into the trash before handing them over to the dishwasher.
  • To be efficient, you must be ready to handle different levels of stress and the ability to carry all sorts of items for your shift.
    • If this is your first dishwashing job or you are not used to carrying heavy items for over the course of a few hours, your muscles will hurt due to not being used to the strains. It is highly recommended to use over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin or heat/ice pads. Dishwashers, like other jobs around restaurants, are not able to sit down (except during breaks), so expect to be standing and walking for the entirety of your shift. Elevate your legs and feet as much as possible at home and do muscle stretches regularly, such as your back, shoulders, arms, fingers, and legs.


  • Avoid storing wet dishes without drying them or allowing them to air dry. This is known as wet-nesting, and may result in a safety code violation being issued against your restaurant during an inspection.

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