Mother Earth Monday – Dishwashers

I grew up without a dishwasher and hated that I was constantly the one in my family who got stuck washing dishes. Everyone else in the world, it seemed, had a dishwasher and could just toss dishes into a box and forget them. It wasn’t until my teens that we obtained a dishwashing machine and after a surprisingly short time, I found the appeal wearing off.

It became a war between logic and laziness. Sure, when we first bought it, it managed to get at least 70 percent of our dishes clean, but it didn’t take long before that number dropped. Drainage was less than ideal and it seemed like nothing could prevent the slow accumulation of rotting food particles from floating in a small puddle of undrained water.

Each time the machine started again, it was tossing more of that up onto the dishes again, not to mention mildew or mold that might have formed in the times between uses. Of course, I was assured that the steam and heat of the device would kill anything that might be on the dishes.

Despite it being on my shoulders to wash dishes, I eventually forsook the dishwasher in favor of hand washing everything again. It wasn’t until my adult years that I was vindicated by proof that not all bacteria were destroyed by the heating process of a dishwasher. Ick.

I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the appeal of a machine that spits dirty water all over my dishes along with a chemical cess. A machine that managed never to get half of the dishes clean and that was eating energy and water with every usage. If I have to pull out a dish to wash it after running the dishwasher, what was the point?

Still, there is that laziness. I can’t really offer anything to push against it. Toss dishes in (probably after you took the time to ‘rinse’ them so much they might as well have just been cleaned outright), turn it on, and walk away. No slaving over a sink for hours…. hmm…

I did mention earlier that I have some experience with washing dishes. Hours? I currently am staying with another family to cut on costs and build up funds. Between us, there are seven people, three of whom are children. We generate a lot of dishes in a day. A lot.

Just to experiment, I counted down how long it took me today. I did no dishes yesterday so that they would all be waiting for me in the morning. No pre-rinsing, so some things were stuck on. Three meals for seven people worth of dishes not-so-neatly stacked and waiting for me.

From start to finish, it took me roughly half an hour to do the whole lot. What is more, I did it with only 4 gallons of water total. I know this because that was part of the experiment as well. I plugged the drain and started with some easy items, Using the soapy rinse water from these to begin filling the sink.

Next some silverware were tossed into the sink as well as the plates. On to a number of the larger dishes, every rinse going to fill the sink with hot soapy water. Anything too rough just got tossed down under the soapy water flow to soak by the nature of what I was doing above. I didn’t leave it running, I just turned it on as needed.

At last the only items left were those in the sink, now 3 gallons or so full. All had soaked well by this point and it was not difficult to get them cleaned off. The last dish finished with just under a full sink. 4 gallons of water did enough to fill the dishwasher and more, along with a few oversized items like a stockpot, wok, large cutting board and extra large mixing bowl.

I am told you can manage with just one gallon, but I assume that is for a family of 4 and only per a single meal worth of dishes. 4 gallons isn’t too shabby though. Even if I would have had to soak an entirely separate load of really bad dishes, it would have meant 8 total. No dishwasher is going to manage that.

Per load, (not too full or it doesn’t work at all and you just have to rewash every single one) the average dishwasher uses 15 gallons of water in addition to the energy costs. If you were being ‘eco friendly’ and bought that super efficient low water model, it uses 9. Or rather, it uses 9 gallons if you remember to set the water-saver to on and don’t mind rewashing almost everything you put in.

So, what can you take from this? Well, first is that if you just work smartly, it doesn’t take long to do dishes. Ten to fifteen minutes at most for a regular meal and very easy to do if they are freshly used. That isn’t so bad when compared to the hour or more per load of a noisy dishwashing machine. Secondly, you can take away that it is more gentle environmentally to hand wash dishes. Third, your wallet over the course of a year is going to benefit greatly from hand washing dishes. And lastly, you can ensure clean and disease-free dishes for your family.

There are a good number of benefits there. At least think about it. Maybe consider doing an experiment of your own. One damp scrub sponge with a bit of soap on it and a tap. Not too hard to manage. Oh, and ignore the people who tell you it saves water to use a dishwasher. Clearly they can’t do math or do their dishes with a sink of soaking water and a tap that is permanently left on as they slowly scrub away.


What are your thoughts?

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