National No Dirty Dishes Day —Yes, It’s a Thing

by April Garner
April Garner

National No Dirty Dishes Day.

What a load of crap was my very first thought. And yet here I am writing an article about it.

National No Dirty Dishes Day originated nowhere and was invented by nobody sometime in the past (barring a discussion on the space-time continuum as an artificial construct). Google turns up a handful of sites proclaiming, “May 18 is National No Dirty Dishes Day!” and not much else about it, save that you can celebrate by using disposable dinnerware and polluting the earth just that much more in the name of convenience.

I spent a good thirty minutes searching for something of substance on National No Dirty Dishes Day but turned up nothing. So, when you cannot find the truth, I say, make something up.

National No Dirty Dishes Day, though commonly thought to originate with homemakers or possibly teenagers, was created in 1950 by a consortium of paper goods suppliers.

“What can we do,” they asked each other in the narrow, dim, smoky boardroom, to get these people to stop being so obsessed with their colorful new melamine dishware? We need them to make legions of paper-plate-filled garbage bags to haul off to the dump and molder for the next several generations. Thus, this particular “National Day of..” was born (in my mind).

It worked. The paper plate was invented in 1867 by Hermann Henschel as a convenience product. By 1908, it was being used as a public health tool to curb the spread of tuberculosis. And after that secret (rumored) paper goods conference in 1950, disposable dinnerware corralled the food of thousands of workers in remote locations as well as those in defense factories. Twenty-five years later, my grandmother bought wicker holders for paper plates. Now we had non-disposable plates to hold our disposable plates. How meta, or ironic, or hypocritical, maybe. But I digress.

What does this “Day of No Dirties” mean to us now? Honestly, I’d love a day without a sink full of plastic cups and plates that my kids have carelessly deposited a mere few inches from the actual dishwasher. And since we’ve all been at home sheltering-in-place, the creeping sense that I am washing the same dishes over and over in a recreation of Groundhog Day has become even more pronounced. I’m not the only one. Our appliances share my distress. The dishwasher runs so often, it feels it’s sufficiently trained for a marathon.

Here’s how the sites I visited recommend you celebrate No Dirty Dishes Day:

  • Eat Out! And if you live in a city where restaurants still aren’t really open, due to the pandemic, too bad for you. Also, if you lost your job recently and can’t afford to eat out, tough titties for you as well.
  • Eat on Disposable Plates! Because who cares that, worldwide, we make 2.6 trillion pounds of trash every year, and we are running out of places to put it. Oh, I know! Buy biodegradable plates! Unless, of course, as mentioned above, you can’t afford such expensive nonsense.
  • Wash Each Dish Right After You Use It! What?? So I eat breakfast, wash my plate and fork. Eat a snack, clean my plate and cup, eat dinner…HOW IS THAT A HOLIDAY FROM ANYTHING??

The above “celebrations” didn’t do it for me, so I came up with my own. It’s easy, cheap, earth-friendly and makes zero dirty dishes: Eat at home but don’t use any dishes. Now THAT’S a fun challenge. One you may want to partake of outside.

Here are some ways to eat without using dishes:

  • Eat finger foods over the sink.
  • Dump cereal in your mouth from the box. Pour in milk. Swish, chew, swallow. Repeat til full or drowned.
  • Practice eating yogurt with your fingers.
  • Make a sandwich on the countertop. Pour or squirt condiments. Spread with finger if desired.
  • Cook food outside on the grill. Turn quickly with fingers to avoid severe burns. Nudge it off the grill, onto the porch when done. Use your hands and gnaw like a rabid raccoon. Consider it disturbing performance art for your neighbors. (Hey, they’re bored, too.)

There you have it, folks: both the traditional methods and a brand new way to celebrate National No Dirty Dishes Day. You know, after all the research, thought, and writing, maybe this “day of” isn’t such a bad one after all. It might spur you onto some form of creativity. It might inspire you to approach food in a new minimalistic light. It could force you to take into consideration which of your dishes are actually necessary and spiral outward into the Marie Kondo-ing of your whole life.

You know what, never mind. It’s still a load of crap. Happy No Dirty Goddamned Dish Day anyway.


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