Many typical Americans like me grew up using a dishwasher. We believe these machines
are the normal way to clean dishes, silverware and cookware after a meal. US home
kitchens are designed with a place for a dishwasher near the sink. Dishwashers so deeply
embedded in American culture that four of every five households* use one.
For starters, middle class families typically do not have domestic help. It’s not unusual to
have children clear the table while the parents put the food away and load the dishwasher.
Americans believe dishwashers save time and get the dishes cleaner than hand washing.
They use dishwashers for the same reasons they use a machine to wash clothes.
Cleaner and Save More
Many Americans don’t realize that dishwashers save more than time. According to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the newer Energy Star rated dishwashers save
the typical US household 230 hours of work, 5,000 gallons (19,000 liters) of water, and enough
energy to reduce a typical utility bill by more than $40. The dishwashers also get the dishes
cleaner because they boost the water temperature above the typical water heater 140⁰F (60⁰C)
Going Face Down
There are a few simple rules for best dishwashing results. Scrape the bigger pieces of food
off the dishes – but no need to rinse them clean. If you wash them twice, then you are wasting
time, water and energy.
Wait until the dishwasher is mostly full before running it because dishwashers are designed to
rinse food off dishes.
Put the heavy items like plates and pots on the lower rack, and lighter items like glasses and
bowls on top. Bowls, cups and glasses go face down. Dishwashers often have spinning arms that
spray water up from below each rack – so don’t leave anything hanging below the racks. There is
usually a heater at the very bottom that will melt any plastic things that might fall down there.
Avoid a Flood
Use automatic dishwasher detergent. Don’t even think about trying hand soap, which is
designed to make many large bubbles. The dishwasher is very effective at turning hand dish
soap into a mountain of bubbles that will fill the dishwasher and then spill out across the floor.
Good dishwasher detergents remove even sticky foods like rice and thick sauces,
and keep the food from being redeposited. That means no spots or films on glasses, and
metal pots, pans and silverware won’t bediscolored. Merican’s favorite detergent is Finish
Quantum Powerball. Other decent detergents are Cascade Complete powder
and Mrs. Meyer’s liquid.
Utilize Your Cycle Choices
Many dishwashers have a confusing array of cycle choices – plate warming, presoaking,
quick rinsing, pot scubbing, etc. Most of the time the normal wash works efficiently
enough, and you can save energy bykipping the heated drying choice. Merican usually runs the
dishwasher after dinner, then leaves the door open to air dry dishes overnight.
But Don’t Try It On These
Merican learned the hard way that dishwashers shorten the life of wooden spoons,
chopsticks and cutting boards. They survive the washing process but eventually the wood
will swell, then crack and split. Dishwashers also make steel and cast iron frying pans rusty.
It is best to hand wash them (without soap if the pan is seasoned) and then give them
a light coat of cooking oil. Dishwashers may dull sharp knives if the blade clunks into other
Dishwashers are useful for cleaning other household items. Mold and germs grow in kitchen
scrub pads and brushes, so put them in the dishwasher each time you run it. Toothbrushes and
hairbrushes can be cleaned the same way. Dishwashers are also good for baseball caps
(on the top rack), running shoes, flip flops, small brooms, and even plastics toys
(use a mesh bag to hold small things).
The Los Angeles Times once published a recipe for cooking whole salmon or other large fish
in the dishwasher. Merican has already drawn the line at putting shoes in the dishwasher,
and believes the craziest Americans live in California.
*According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, 78% of US households