The Etiquette of Dish Duty: Should You Be Responsible for Washing Someone Else’s Dishes?

The question of whether or not you should be responsible for washing someone else’s dishes can be a contentious one. It’s a situation that arises in many shared living situations, from roommates in a college dorm to a family living under one roof. The answer isn’t always clear-cut and can depend on a variety of factors, including the specific circumstances and the established norms within the household. Let’s delve into this topic and explore the etiquette of dish duty.

Understanding the Basics of Dish Duty Etiquette

Before we can answer the question, it’s important to understand the basic principles of dish duty etiquette. Generally speaking, the person who uses a dish is responsible for washing it. This is a simple and fair rule that can help prevent resentment and conflict. However, there are exceptions to this rule, which we’ll discuss in the following sections.

When Should You Wash Someone Else’s Dishes?

There are certain situations where it may be appropriate to wash someone else’s dishes. For example, if you’re a guest in someone’s home and they’ve cooked a meal for you, offering to help with the dishes is a polite gesture. Similarly, if a roommate or family member is unwell or particularly busy, stepping in to help with the dishes can be a kind and considerate act.

Establishing Household Norms

In a shared living situation, it’s important to establish clear norms around dish duty. This can prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone feels their contributions are valued. These norms might include a rotating dish duty schedule, or a rule that the person who cooks doesn’t have to clean up. Whatever the norms are, they should be agreed upon by everyone in the household.

Communicating About Dish Duty

If you find yourself frequently washing someone else’s dishes and it’s causing resentment, it’s important to communicate about it. Express your feelings calmly and respectfully, and try to come to a solution that works for everyone. Remember, the goal is not to assign blame, but to ensure that everyone is contributing fairly to the household.


In conclusion, whether or not you should wash someone else’s dishes depends on the specific circumstances and the established norms within your household. While the general rule is that the person who uses a dish should wash it, there are exceptions to this rule. The key is to communicate openly and establish clear norms that everyone agrees on.