A dishwasher insinuated itself into our lives when we bought a house that came with one in 1986. With a family of four, a job and grad school, I was grateful for every minute of kitchen work saved. Our next house had one too, and it was again a great time saver.
When we upgraded our current kitchen, we added a dishwasher because we hope this house will sell easily when the time came to build and it seems most people expect a dishwasher. (We’ll see how that works out.)
When our younger daughter left for college, we stopped using it. We fill it when we have company, but it’s just too tedious watching a favorite coffee cup disappear into its innards and not be cleaned till the washer fills up days later.
when we build our little house, it will not include a dishwasher. It is, according to ApplianceAdvisor.com , the most complex appliance in the kitchen. We’re talking “heaters, moving parts, rubber seals, electronics, and 42 million gallons of municipal water held back by a $3 valve and $4 hose.”
There have been studies that conclude dishwashers are more efficient than hand washing. Even the Sierra Club quotes them. But I suspect these studies were funded by dishwasher manufacturers. Hmmm.
The studies seem to be about water usage, which is admittedly important, but it’s possible to wash dishes by hand pretty efficiently.
-Partially fill the sink with warm water.
-Soak the dishes in the sink
-Wash the dishes in the sink
-Rinse the dishes en masse while in the drying rack using the spray, not one at a time under the faucet.
And what about the electricity use?
What about the fact that dishwashers are not always run when they are filled to their most efficient levels?
And don’t forget that dishwashers are made of 60 pounds of steel, plastic, copper that all had to be extracted, refined, transported shaped, transported some more, etc. etc. etc. Dishwashers have a life expectancy of 10 years. Ultimately they have to be landfilled. So we would be demanding another 60 pounds of dishwasher materials every decade.
Now factor in the number of defective machines that use up the same 60 pounds and go to landfill early. Many manufacturers have had to recall their dishwashers as fire hazards. Fire hazards?!? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, GE recalled 174,000 dishwashers in 2010, and Maytag recalled 1.7 million units. Bosch and Siemens recalled 476,500J in 2009, the list of recent recalls also includes Whirlpool and Sears models. How replacing the unit or the entire burned out kitchen compute into the efficiency factor of dishwashers? When was the last time your dish pan caught on fire?
I’m saying no.
I prefer the contemplative process of cleaning my crockery by hand
But if you feel differently. If you need that dish washing time for other pressing tasks (and I sure did at one point) then —
Only wash full loads
Skip the pre-rinse
Discard whatever food waste you have into your tidy compost bin, don’t waste water rinsing them in the sink either, and place your dishes straight into the dishwasher – you’ll be saving water and time.
Delay the start of your dishwasher for off-peak utility hours, which may even offer reduce rates based on your energy provider.
Use an eco-friendly detergent and then, according to the NYT, go VERY easy on the amount you use. Author Vernon Schmidt, who wrote Appliance Handbook for Women: Simple Enough Even a Man Can Understand,” claims most people use 10 to 15 times the soap they need in their dishwasher.
So, have you got a dishwasher?
Do you use it much?
Do you use it efficiently?