Doing Dishes While Camping

Category Dishes
Cooking meals while camping is a lot of fun. But doing the dishes can be tricky without the conveniences of home. This is a page about doing dishes while camping.


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February 1, 2012

Cover your pot sides and bottom with liquid soap before use. This makes the soot wipe off easily. As you fix the meal, put a pot of water on the fire/camp stove to heat. Then when you are finished, you have the warm/hot water needed for clean up. I mix the hot water in dish pans with cold water to the temp needed, one for wash and rinse. Sometimes I even use the water pan as the rinse water holder. This has worked for years. Pots and pans aren't left all black and ugly.

Source: Mom and Dad did this when we went camping.

By Trailblazer from Beavercreek, OH

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We love to camp and cooking over a campfire is the most fun. It's always a challenge each trip to see what wonderful meals we can come up with to cook over an open flame. But at the end of those delicious meals comes time to do the dishes.


While we use paper plates, etc. there are still pots and cooking utensils to wash. While cooking, we put on a large pot of water to heat up. By the time the meal is over, we have a nice boiling pot of water to wash dishes with. We have two small plastic dish tubs we use, one for washing and one to rinse in.

We like to have the water as hot as we can comfortably stand to wash the dishes in and may have to add a little cool water to the hot water to get it to that state. Then we add the utensils to soak for a bit and wash up as usual and then rinse in warm water in the other tub. I like to use water as hot as possible for greasy dishes/utensils. We drain the rinsed dishes on a towel and dry and put away in our tub just for cooking.

By HerkDia from Baltimore, MD

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Scrape your dishes well with a rubber spatula (scrape into a ziplock baggie or empty can), then wipe with a used paper napkin or paper towel. This gets the worst of the "ick" off before you wash. You will want three containers (plastic dishpans, buckets, plastic tubs, etc.) that will accomodate your largest dish or pot/pan.


One will be for warm soapy water, one for tap temperature rinse water, and one for hot water with a capful of bleach to sanitize. If you are only camping for a day or two, you may be OK to skip the sanitize step, especially if you toss everything into the dishwasher when you get home.

Bring a scrubby sponge and do your dishes in this order: cups, plates, utensils, pots and pans. NEVER put knives into the wash bucket and leave them. Whoever is washing should pick up each knife and wash it individually, then rinse and sanitize, so no one gets sliced accidentally!

If you have a dish drainer, you can use that for air drying, or have someone towel dry and put away as you wash.

When you are all finished, dispose of your wash water correctly. Pour it down a drain, if there is one provided. Or strain the water through a strainer to get any food particles, then scatter the water at least 200 feet from any water source. Put any food particles you caught in the strainer, into the container you scraped your dishes into at the beginning, and dispose of that container appropriately.


Source: 40+ years of Girl Scouts, plus general Leave No Trace guidelines.

By Eileen M. from Elk Grove, CA

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July 20, 2005

Always take soap with you. Of course you can clean up with it, but it is also useful for protecting your pans from smoke and fire damage.

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Have water heating while eating. Put on rubber gloves and add bleach to dish water and rinse water.

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When I go camping, I take jugs of water, some for drinking, others for cleaning. If you have a lot of dishes, take a dishpan, add some water, pour in a bit of dish soap and do your dishes as you normally would.

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