What does a Dish Washer do?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

A dish washer is responsible for washing dishes in a restaurant, dining hall, cafeteria, or other eatery. The job usually requires using a large automatic dishwasher, scrubbing pots and pans, and maintaining a general level of cleanliness in the kitchen. A dish washer doesn't receive much training, and there are not many requirements to get the position.

A woman washing dishes.
A woman washing dishes.

The main duty of a dish washer is to stack dirty dishes, from both the kitchen and dining room, into washing crates, and then feed them through the dish washing machine. After the dishes are cleaned, the dish washer is responsible for putting them back where they belong. Servers in the restaurant bring dirty dishes to the washing area, but the dish washer may need to go onto the kitchen line to gather dishes from the cooks, who are busy and cannot bring the dishes over.

Dish washers may be responsible for washing anything from cutlery and drinkings glasses to heavy pots and pans.
Dish washers may be responsible for washing anything from cutlery and drinkings glasses to heavy pots and pans.

The dish washer is often responsible for keeping a steady supply of clean dishes stocked at each station of the cooking line. The cooks need plates to prepare the food for the customers, and running out of plates or bowls during the dinner rush can back up the whole line. He must also bring clean glasses to the bar, and make sure that the expedition area of the kitchen, where sauces and garnishments are added to each plate before it is brought to the customer, is stocked with the dishes it needs to get everything out of the kitchen on time.

A restaurant may hire a dish washer to hand clean plates to cut back on electricity costs.
A restaurant may hire a dish washer to hand clean plates to cut back on electricity costs.

Dish washers are usually in charge of keeping the kitchen picked up, most commonly during slower times of the day. This includes sweeping and mopping, taking out garbage bags, and cleaning the counters and sinks. They must also keep the dish washing area wiped down and dry, to prevent contamination between clean and dirty dishes, and to prevent dangerous slippery zones.

A dish washer must make sure there is a clean supply of dishes in the kitchen at all times.
A dish washer must make sure there is a clean supply of dishes in the kitchen at all times.

During slow times, the dish washer may get to perform some of the food preparation for the day. In many kitchens, dish washers are trained in basic prep skills once they have expressed interest or have shown competency. Dish washers may also be called upon to chop vegetables, mix sauces, or make other basic items the cooks are running low on during the lunch or dinner rush. They may also be asked to grab food from the coolers, freezer, or dry stock area if the cooks are unable to leave the line to get it themselves.

Washing dishes in a busy restaurant is not as easy as many think it is. It is a very stressful position, as dirty dishes come in faster than the dish washing machine can get them cleaned. This can create a back up of dirty dishes. An inexperienced or slow dish washer can bring the entire restaurant to a halt by not having the required dishes cleaned and ready for use. Many kitchens treat their best dish washers well; they are an invaluable resource in a busy restaurant.

Taking out garbage is a common dish washer duty.
Taking out garbage is a common dish washer duty.
Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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Discussion Comments


I'm a dishwasher right now at a restaurant and I hate it. Maybe its because I am a older female, but this job is just too hard physically. There is a lot of heavy lifting of crates of glassware, then I also have to carry the heavy rugs out at end of shift, and mop all floors, and empty the big garbage cans. It's just too much physically for me, the people are really nice, and I don't mind hard work, but this one is just too much.


This is a horrible job, so labor intensive. I did this a at a big pub years ago for about a month. It was horrible.


You're basically a slave in a kitchen -- a human dishwasher. Most chefs literally burn everything. It's unreal, like rice baked on huge pans. They throw everything at you all at once and treat you like garbage.

I did it for a few months before leaving for another job, thank god. All I can say is respect the people who do this job.


Some days are not too bad while some days are horrible. I do this job at a huge hotel and it is really hard work. You have to do dishes, but basically, they expect you to be able to clean the whole kitchen, walls, doors, fridges and all the back areas including the scrapyard etc. It's basically slave labor working as a dishwasher or kitchen porter.

Sometimes, I'm working on potwash scrubbing pans that are baked on rice burned to the bottom, hard soup in huge pans you have to soak, etc., and the chefs still yell at you telling you to clean and tidy up so you then clean and after 10 minutes, the potwash area is piled up with plates, etc., and then they tell you do to that. It's ridiculous, really.

How I am still doing this job, I don't know, but I've been at it for over three years. It's very tedious work at the end of the day. The only pros for me are not dealing with guests and actually having a job, and some of the waitresses are very good looking and nice. Most the chefs are jerks where I work, however.


It's the worst job ever. I did it for a week, and never went back. You bust your butt in the worst conditions possible.


It is a very hard job, the most physical job in a restaurant. Where I work, most of the waitresses are nice, but some of the chefs are right moody jerks, though. They will work you so hard. Most chefs are egotistical and expect you to do everything,

Don't do this job unless you're desperate -- trust me.


Where I work, the restaurant is too cheap to hire an extra dishwasher, so on busy days I have to do all the dishes and help out the waitresses because they can't carry the bus trays back, and they can't clear tables fast enough.

So then when I get back to do dishes, they are stacked up so high it's ridiculous.


I am a dishwasher, but I'm quitting in two weeks. Yes, it is very stressful. it backs up quickly if you don't keep up.


I recently got a job as a dishwasher. It's not that bad-- you just have to always be on top of things. Learning where everything goes and getting it all put away fast is the hardest part. But when it comes right down to it, if you cannot find the right spot, just put it in the general area. I get to order free meals and get drinks at the bar at the end of my shift. It is stressful, though.


I was a dishwasher once and it was stressful. When I took my half hour lunch break, nobody would cover for me and the dishes stacked up and got way behind.

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