How Dishes Were Washed in the Early 19th Century

Justine Dorn of Early American, who previously prepared a meal that included an 1807 recipe for macaroni and cheese, showed how dishes were washed during that same era. As there was no running water in the house, Dorn demonstrated how water was gathered from the river in buckets. She also explained that dishes were done using the “dry sink” method.

In a dry sink, dishes are first washed in a soapy bucket and then rinsed in a bucket of clean water. Tin and pewter should be dried quickly to avoid them rusting.

Doing the Dishes in 1820

She also showed how cast iron pans were cleaned at the time – a process that still should be used to preserve the pan.

For cast iron, wash with water and then polish with white brick dust. Cast iron was sometimes seasoned with salad oil (olive oil). Out here we use lard.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.