1. Rubber gloves. I bought mine ($2 at Walmart) for making mozzarella cheese, but one morning I went to do dishes and realized that I had several cuts on one hand. Putting a glove on the maimed hand, I finished washing without a problem. I decided to glove both hands, and kept doing so even after my cuts had healed. The dishes get clean faster and better than ever before. The gloves protect my hands, enabling me to use hotter water instead of constantly readjusting temperature. They also grip dishes better than my wet fingers which allows me to go faster and not splash water so much. They keep my skin from drying out, and I no longer have to wipe my hands (and therefore dirty towels) so often.
2. Ajax soap. This is the best brand we have found so far. It is second cheapest at Walmart, but keeps suds for a long time.
3. Washcloth hanger. I never knew these things existed, but they allow you to use the same washcloth over and over without it stinking. Simply rinse the towel and hang it up to dry between dish washing sessions. You can also hang bottle brushes and drying clothes on it.
4. Jar brushes. These are a couple dollars at Walmart- definitely worth it if you eat a lot of home-canned foods like we do. It's a lot faster than using a fork/washcloth combo, and jar brushes are more sturdy than bottle brushes, which have more delicate bristles.
5. An old toothbrush. I use this to clean around the hardware on pots and pans, and to clean other small areas.
6. Something to listen to. I almost look forward to dish-washing time, because it gives me an excuse to listen to some of my favorite podcasts, which include but aren't limited to Michael Hyatt's "This Is Your Life" and Joshua Sheats' "Radical Personal Finance". There are a TON of podcasts to chose from. The other day I listened to "The Anarcho-Yakitalism Podcast", by a 16-year-old yak farmer. Seriously?? Really, you can find anything out there. If the internet isn't working, I pop in a garage-sale CD: beginner Spanish, audio book, audio Bible, motivational speaker, or other interesting thing. Sometimes I listen to classical music or NPR.
What are your dish washing secrets?