I Need Some Advice

April 15, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Posted in Rants | 6 Comments

I have an issue that I feel like I need to respond to, but just can’t decide what to do. Here is the background. I have a roommate who is a very sweet girl. I say girl because there is a little bit of an age difference (more than 5 years younger, fewer than 10). She is from the Midwest and is truly a nice person. She hasn’t had a whole lot of shared household chore experience though. She’s mostly lived in group living settings where people have a room or part of a room to themselves and share common areas (dorm rooms all through college, etc.) or in her parents’ home. Since she moved in with me just over two years ago, she has spent about 15 months on jobs that have taken her out of town in two big chunks (she had a subletter for part of the time and paid her share of the rent the entire time).

She is back now for at least 5 or 6 months. The problem is that there are some little things that she just doesn’t get…like that the vacuum cleaner has to be emptied every once in a while (mine is bagless, so rather than replacing the bag the container has to be emptied). I can handle most of the little things, but one thing has bothered me for a while.

I noticed quite a while back that she just can’t seem to get dishes clean when she washes them (we don’t have a dishwasher). I would routinely find dirty and greasy plates, bowls and silverware in the cabinets and drawers. I would put them in the sink and then wash them with my dishes. I blamed the greasy part on this Chinese restaurant we like to order from- their food is good, but you really have to scrub well to get things clean because of the grease. Well, tonight I discovered that the problem is actually in how she washes dishes.

After dinner we were both in the kitchen and she was washing her dishes at the sink. She put the plate under the faucet, rinsed off the food residue then ripped off a paper towel and starting rubbing the plate. She reached to put it in the dish rack, decided it didn’t look quite clean enough (I guess) and ran it under the water again. The paper towel scrubbing was repeated and the plate was placed in the dish rack. Next came the fork. It went under the water, was scrubbed with the paper towel and then placed in the sliverware drawer.

Did anyone else notice the step that was missing? No? Read the last paragraph again….OK, now that you are back, yes the problem is that she did not use any soap. None. At. All. We have plenty of dishsoap. Nice Palmolive Anti-bacterial Green Apple kitchen soap. I buy decent soap and replace the kitchen sponge regularly. I knew that she didn’t use the sponge, but wasn’t too freaked out that she appeared to like scrubbing with paper towels better. I can live with that. I can’t live with the fact that no soap is used. It disgusts me. Luckily, she has a set of “her” dishes that she likes to use and mostly eats hot pockets and frozen meals, so I don’t have to worry too much the bowls and plates. The silverware is another issue though.

So, here is my dilemma. How in the world can I politely suggest to her that dishes really do need to be washed with soap? That just running water over them and then running a paper towel across them just doesn’t get them clean? How do I say this without letting my disgust about the very unsanitary aspects of this coming through and offending her? I really do like her, but this….I just can’t deal with this.



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  1. Let her read your blog. :)

    Better yet, have her come in there while you are going to wash dishes and lick the fork and put it away. See what she says.

  2. Buy her a cheap set of silverware and tell her you have a communicable disease you don’t want her to catch. Have hers & hers of everything you are grossed out on.

    Mix up a sink full of very hot water and soap, then let the dishes soak in it. Tell her they are easier to clean that way.

    Don’t you love getting all your suggestions from your passive-aggressive readers?

    On the other hand, you could just have a heart-to-heart and give her a lesson on cleanliness.

  3. ABWF: “Hey, I love this new Palmolive Anti-bacterial Green Apple kitchen soap. It makes the kitchen smell nice, don’t you think?”

    If she says “Yes”, then you tell recite the other benefits – cuts grease, makes your hands softer (“Madge, I soaked in it!”), gets her cooties off of the silverware, etc.

    If she says “No”, then ask if she would be more likely to use another scent.

    Perhaps she thinks since it’s “your” soap then she shouldn’t use it?

  4. The bad news: Your window of opportunity passed the first time you saw her do this – and didn’t say something. Immediately. I think I would have said something light hearted like, “Hey sister, they don’t use soap in the Midwest, or what?”

    The good news: I don’t think letting her know that you are disgusted is a bad thing. All you have to do is sit her down, tell her that you two never have to talk about this again, there never has to be any weirdness, but SHE HAS TO USE SOAP on the dishes if she doesn’t expect you to hurl in the sink.

    What makes this situation more difficult than most already-uncomfortable roomie conversations is that you shouldn’t HAVE to tell ANYONE that it’s a good idea to use soap on the dishes.

    Worse case scenario: Give me her phone number and I’ll take care of it. :)

  5. You are right that I missed out on the golden opportunity Erin. I was just so shocked I could barely form coherent thoughts!

    We have very different schedules, so I haven’t seen her long enough since then to have a conversation. I think I’m ready though. I just can’t stand the idea of dirty dishes in the drawers and cupboards!

    ABW- You know I could never lick a fork in front of her like that. I’m nowhere near assertive enough :)

    Anonymous- she has no problems using the toilet paper, paper towels, light bulbs, etc. that I have paid for (not to mention I bought the silverware she is putting away dirty). I don’t think the idea that it is “my” dish soap is causing the problem.

  6. Hey, she doesn’t wash dishes. Who knows what her reasoning is for not doing it!

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