Couple washing dishes on campsite

Considerate camper: washing dishes

Welcome to our “Considerate Camper” series. These are posts with tips and reminders on how to keep our provincial parks clean and healthy. Already know how it’s done? Please share these posts along for less-experienced campers 🙂

When it comes to keeping your campsite neat and tidy, doing your dishes properly is key.

However, many campers struggle with how to effectively wash their dishes.

We get a lot of questions about this topic, so we’ve compiled all the tips and tricks on the best way to clean your dishes while camping.

What to bring

Cleaning up after a delicious camping meal is easy if you have the right equipment.

Couple eating meal on picnic bench

Here are some items to pack for dish washing:

  • a pot to boil water in
  • camp stove
  • collapsible camp sink or plastic tub/basin
  • biodegradable soap
  • wash cloth
  • scrubbing pad

Where to clean your dishes

Newbie campers sometimes think it’s okay to wash their dishes under water taps or in comfort stations — these are both big no-no’s.

Comfort stations aren’t meant for dish-washing. Water often ends up all over the counter and floors. This is a safety hazard to other campers, as well as a lot of work for park staff to mop up. Dish-washing in comfort stations can also create line-ups and frustrations for visitors who are just trying to use the facilities.

Washing at water taps creates many of the same problems, including line-ups and safety hazards. Your dishwater is also a wildlife attractant. The gunk from your dishes gets splashed on the ground, and can lead to animals — from racoons to bears — sniffing around. Splashes of dishwater can also contaminate the water taps themselves, which your fellow campers are using for drinking water.

How to clean your dishes

Always clean your dishes on your campsite using a basin, and dispose of the water responsibly.

Start by scraping all food residue off your dishes and into your garbage container / bag (don’t forget to dispose of your garbage properly too!).

Boil water, then mix in cold, potable water to create the hottest water you can safely tolerate for dish washing.

Pour the water into a basin or collapsible camp sink, and add your soap.

Dish soap

Biodegradable camping soap is often concentrated so
just a few drops will suffice.

Set cleaned (but soapy) dishes on a clean surface while you wash all of your dirty dishes.

When finished, rinse all of the dishes with clean, cool water, allowing the soapy residue to drip into the camp sink or basin.

What to do with the dirty dishwater?

When finished, it’s time to dispose of your “grey” water or soapy water.

(Remember: this water shouldn’t contain any food residue because you did a great job of scraping your dishes before washing them!)

You can safely dispose of it at the trailer sanitation station or by pouring it down the vault toilets (outhouses).

You’re done — great work!

By washing your dishes in an eco-ethical and responsible way, you are helping protect the parks we all love.