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Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:12 am
by Blastomatic
I have a problem that I've managed to solve, but I'm wondering if I solved the problem by giving up, or if it really was insurmountable.

The situation is this: I cannot clean dishes of any kind in the backcountry without either massive wastewater issues and use of cleaning products which thoroughly violate all LNT principles, or leaving food residues to accumulate on the inside of my pot for days on end.

I have tried various field solutions.
Boiling and scraping produces a lot of lasagna tea and oatmeal tea, but still leaves a sticky layer inside the pot no matter how much I boil and scrape with my spoon.
Scrubbing in a basin means I'm carrying around a scrubby thing that will have rotting food in/on it no matter how much I rinse and massage it, and also a vat of water I need to dig a deep hole to dispose of properly, not to mention I'm also toting the weight of the basin and filtering that much more water every time I want a hot meal.

The solution I found was to use the pot solely for boiling water and rehydrate in freezer bags which presents off-trail problems with recycling and waste etc.
But that way all I have to clean is my spoon, which the mouth is good for, and then I keep it in a tiny cotton bag (washed often).

And yet! I see people constantly cooking inside of pots in the field, not just ramen, but oatmeal and mashed potatoes and all manner of rehydrated uber-sticky food substances. When I'm not looking, do they bust out a bottle of dish detergent, damn the pollution, full speed ahead? Are they short timers? Are they just less squeamish?

Or do they know the secret magic of how to clean a dish in the field!?!

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:53 am
by rlown
Well, my pot is a 40 year old aluminum Sigg. I put sand in it with some water and use my hands to scrub it.
My non-stick trout pan is heated up on the stove after cooking and then I deglaze the pan with water and it wipes out clean with a paper towel. I do wrap my pan in a spare t-shirt so if there is residuals on it, they don't contaminate what is in my pack.

My titanium sporks get cleaned on the beach by sticking them in out of the sand and then a quick rinse.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:04 pm
by AlmostThere
I use a silicon Sea to Summit mug to rehydrate and rinse it out with hot water after eating, scrubbing with fingers as needed. With a foldup bucket (less than an ounce) I carry water far from the source and use a drop of soap to clean hands and face. I neither eat out of the pot nor waste bags - they go home and the same meal goes in it for next time.

People are horrible out there - I have waded out to fish pasta out of the shallows of lakes on multiple occasions. They seem to think the food will go away on its own or that animals should eat it for them.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:34 pm
by jdille
We share one nonstick 1.5L Jetboil large pot to eat out of. All of our meals are made a little soupy (including granola or pasta or potatoes) because we can always use a little water after the long day and because it makes everything easier to clean. When things are soupy enough, there isn't really isn't any residue. We will swish a little extra water around, scrape the sides of the pot and drink. We will then use half a paper towel to wipe down to finish off the cleaning. The paper towel goes in with the trash we pack out. We never use soap and we never have to bury or dump grey water. We are good at measuring the amount of food we will eat in one meal and don't have any extra. We have bamboo sporks that we lick clean.
Growing up in Idaho, we used soap and a basin to clean at night and buried grey water and never thought about it. But here in California with the number of people on the trail, LNT is really important to me.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:24 pm
by Tom_H
Back in my days as a guide, we would collect those really large sized (#10) food cans. We called them Billy Cans. We used a pair of aluminum pot grippers to put them on/off the gas stove. We used those old metal mugs and bowls that have the thin enamel coating on the inside. We dug a sump hole (very similar to a 1 time/1 use latrine hole) near the cooking area. When done with eating, every last morsel was scraped out of everything and eaten. Each cook group of 4 had 2 billy cans, one just for boiling water, the other to cook in. While we were eating, the clean Billy Can was heating a half can of water to a boil, then turned to simmer. Boiling water was poured into the mugs, bowls, and the cooking billy can. Each group had one of those flat rough scrubby pads and one of the ball shaped plastic scrunchy type scrubbers and these were used to scrub down the inside of everything. No soap of any kind was used. Water from scrubbing went down the sump hole. Spit from brushing teeth also went in the sump hole. When it was time to cook the next meal, boiling water was the first thing made. A bit was poured into all mugs and bowls and the water swirled around up to the rim for about a half minute to somewhat sterilize them before the upcoming meal. This water went into the sump. The sump hole was closed out when we broke camp. We usually ate hot breakfast and dinner and only cold munchies throughout the day. Our gasoline stoves went into a canvas bag and that into a billy can, then the bag turned down sock-like over the outside of the can before going into the backpack. Each group also had 1 frypan and 1 Optimus oven for frying and baking. When we got back from a trip, everything got a heavy duty washing with steel wool and then the dishwasher. When a billy can was too worn, it was tossed and easily replaced as we bought Mountain House freeze dried food in bulk in that sized can. Our system was identical to the NOLS system as the man who founded our program was a NOLS graduate.

When I went on scouting trips with only 1 other person, we put the stove inside one of those tall soup cans. This can is same height as a #10 can, but smaller in diameter. The narrower can then nested inside the #10 can. We didn't take fry pans and ovens on the scouting trips.

Edit: change coup to soup. Spell Check thinks it's smart, but it's actually dumber than a rock.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:12 pm
by Blastomatic
Ok, it sounds like I have some experiments to conduct.

1. Sand + water + fingerscrub method.
2. Heat + swish + scrape + drink method.
3. Billy can method, which I will try next big group outing.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback and commentary!

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2018 11:50 pm
I only boil water, and mix a variety of gruel-like meals out of one Mountain-House food package. I often can't finish eating everything that night, and leave it in the package for the next day. I don't clean it as it accepts another meal the next day. Not magic, but easy.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Thu Jul 19, 2018 11:45 am
by mschnaidt
You might want to try one of these:

It should get your plate/bowl/cup clean enough that you only need a rinse. I ordered some and am waiting for delivery. I'll let you know how they work out.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:45 pm
by Wandering Daisy
I am very careful when I cook, so seldom have a pot with burned residue. I rinse the pot with cold water and throw the residue in bushes far from my campsite. Since I eat every morsel there is little food in the wash water. Because I use oil when I cook so there is usually an oily film that I simply wipe with one of those blue handi-wipes, which then goes in a plastic bag and in the bear can. I re-use the handi-wipe, and on a long trip will wash it in cold water. Yes it gets a bit gross with time. Since I will boil water the next use (boiling will automatically sterilize) I do not obsess about getting the pot spotless. I really have never found cleaning the pot (titanium) a big issue. If I need to scrub, I use a pine cone or just use a branch on a tree without actually breaking it off. I do not use soap. My level of cleanliness may gross out some, but I have never gotten sick from my cooking.

Re: Dish Cleaning - Magic Secrets Wanted

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 4:10 pm
by mangomegan
I boil water in a different pot, and use that to clean my cookpot ("scrubbing" with my spoon). Then I drink the water. Followed by a wipe down with a tiny bit of TP, which goes in the pack-it-out trash bag.