How to Properly Dispose of Dishwater While Camping

When camping, it’s important to be mindful of the environment and to leave no trace. This includes properly disposing of dishwater. While it may be tempting to dump dishwater on the ground or directly into a body of water, this can have negative impacts on the ecosystem.

Key Takeaways

  • Proper dishwater disposal is essential for responsible camping.
  • Using the right cleaning products and techniques can ensure safe disposal.
  • Campers should be mindful of the environment and choose environmentally-friendly disposal methods.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Dishwater Disposal

When camping, it’s important to dispose of dishwater properly to avoid contaminating the environment. Dishwater contains food particles, grease, and soap, which can harm plants and animals if not disposed of correctly.

Improper disposal of dishwater can also attract wildlife to your campsite, which can be dangerous for both you and the animals. Additionally, dishwater can cause soil erosion and pollute water sources if it’s not disposed of in a designated area.

To avoid these negative impacts, it’s essential to follow proper dishwater disposal guidelines. This includes using biodegradable dish soap, straining out food particles before disposing of the water, and disposing of the water at least 200 feet away from any water sources.

By properly disposing of your dishwater, you can help protect the environment and ensure a safe and enjoyable camping experience for everyone.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Products

Biodegradable Soaps

When camping, it is important to choose cleaning products that are environmentally friendly and won’t harm the surrounding area. Biodegradable soaps are a great option for washing dishes and cleaning up after meals. These soaps are designed to break down naturally in the environment, reducing the impact on the ecosystem.

Look for biodegradable soaps that are specifically designed for camping and outdoor use. These soaps are often fragrance-free and gentle on the skin, making them a great choice for those with sensitive skin. They are also effective at removing food residue and grease, leaving your dishes clean and ready to use again.

Non-Toxic Cleaning Agents

In addition to biodegradable soaps, there are other non-toxic cleaning agents that can be used when camping. These products are safe for the environment and won’t harm wildlife or plants.

One option is to use vinegar as a cleaning agent. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and can be used to clean dishes, surfaces, and even clothing. Simply mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle and use as needed.

Another option is to use baking soda as a cleaning agent. Baking soda is a natural abrasive and can be used to scrub pots, pans, and other dishes. Mix a small amount of baking soda with water to create a paste, then use a scrub brush to clean your dishes.

When choosing non-toxic cleaning agents, it’s important to read the labels carefully and make sure they are safe for the environment. Avoid products that contain harsh chemicals or fragrances, as these can be harmful to wildlife and plants.

Proper Dishwashing Techniques

Scrape Off Excess Food

Before washing dishes, it is important to scrape off any excess food particles from the dishes. This will help prevent clogging and contamination of the water source. Use a spatula or a scraper to remove as much food as possible.

Use Minimal Water

When camping, water is a precious resource. To conserve water, use minimal water when washing dishes. Fill a basin or a large pot with water and add a few drops of biodegradable soap. Use a scrub brush or a sponge to wash the dishes, and then rinse them in a separate basin or pot of clean water.

Rinse and Sanitize

After washing the dishes, rinse them thoroughly in clean water to remove any remaining soap residue. To sanitize the dishes, immerse them in a solution of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water for at least one minute. Rinse the dishes with clean water and let them air dry.

Remember to always dispose of dishwater at least 200 feet away from any water source and follow Leave No Trace principles.

Methods of Dishwater Disposal

Digging a Sump Hole

Digging a sump hole is an effective method of disposing of dishwater while camping. This method involves digging a hole at least 200 feet away from any water source, campsite, or trail. The hole should be about 6-8 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the amount of dishwater. Once the hole is dug, pour the dishwater into the hole and cover it with soil. This method ensures that the dishwater is absorbed by the soil and does not contaminate nearby water sources.

Scattering Method

The scattering method is another option for disposing of dishwater while camping. This method involves scattering the dishwater over a large area, at least 200 feet away from any water source, campsite, or trail. It is important to scatter the dishwater in small amounts and to avoid creating a concentrated area of dishwater. This method allows the dishwater to evaporate and be absorbed by the soil, reducing the risk of contamination.

Pack It Out Method

The pack it out method is the most environmentally friendly method of dishwater disposal. This method involves collecting the dishwater in a container and packing it out with other waste. This method requires extra effort and planning, as you will need to bring a container for the dishwater and pack it out with your other garbage. However, it ensures that no dishwater is left behind to contaminate the environment.

Remember to always follow Leave No Trace principles when disposing of dishwater while camping. Choose a method that is appropriate for the area you are in and always dispose of dishwater at least 200 feet away from any water source, campsite, or trail.

Environmental Considerations

When disposing of dishwater while camping, it’s important to consider the impact on the environment. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Location: Choose a location that is at least 200 feet away from any water source, such as a lake or river. This will help prevent contamination of the water and protect aquatic life.
  • Soap: Use biodegradable soap that is specifically designed for camping. Regular dish soap can harm plants and animals, and can also leave behind harmful chemicals.
  • Straining: Before disposing of dishwater, strain out any food particles and dispose of them in a trash bag. This will help prevent animals from being attracted to the area and also prevent clogging of the soil.
  • Burying: After straining, bury the dishwater in a hole that is at least 6 inches deep. Cover the hole with soil and pack it down to prevent animals from digging it up.

By following these environmental considerations, campers can help protect the natural environment and ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for everyone.


Disposing of dishwater when camping can be a challenge, but with the right approach, it can be done safely and responsibly. It’s important to remember that dishwater can contain harmful bacteria and pollutants that can harm the environment, so it’s crucial to dispose of it properly.

One of the best ways to dispose of dishwater is to strain it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any food particles, and then scatter it at least 200 feet away from any water sources or campsites. Another option is to use biodegradable soap and dispose of the dishwater in a designated dishwashing area or pit, if available.

It’s also important to consider the regulations and guidelines set by the campground or park you’re staying in. Some areas may have specific rules for dishwater disposal, so it’s always a good idea to check with park rangers or staff before disposing of any dishwater.

By following these tips and being mindful of the environment, campers can safely and responsibly dispose of their dishwater while enjoying the great outdoors.