Friday, February 8, 2008

why i probably don't want a dishwasher

I grew up without a dishwasher. Unless you count my parents. Bad joke.

No, really, we never had a dishwasher. We moved around a lot and lived in all different apartments, etc. and my mother raised me washing dishes by hand. This might come as a shock to some people, in fact, it has. Someone once asked me if this method actually resulted in clean dishes. Not only was that insulting and rude (no, I'm serving that cake on dirty dishes...) but it made little sense. Dishwashers are a relatively recent invention, and only gained real popularity in the 1950s, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Website. This means that for the vast, vast majority of human history, people have washed dishes by hand. I'm guessing a good portion, if not most, of those dishes, were actually clean.

My feelings about dishwashers stem partially from living in a house where many people use the dishwasher, although I think it basically ends up as the model of how a large family might use a dishwasher. Many people I know are extraordinarily precise about how they rinse their dishes and load their dishwashers. They've honed this ability over time, so that the dishes they put in usually, if not always, emerge clean and pristine. Ah, clean plates with at least a small reduction in time input.

The problem is, when many people share a dishwasher, this doesn't happen. Everyone adds things to the dishwasher willy nilly. Forks and knives are stowed with the business ends up (ouch, for whoever is emptying the washer), vessels are placed facing up (and emerge full of filthy water). Either some things end up clean or nothing ends up clean. This is just how it works when lots of people use a dishwasher, and I imagine it would be much worse if the people leaving together included seven year old boys, not just adults. The issues surrounding who loads, who empties and who is responsible for dishes left in the sink while the washer is running (or clean but full) can be taxing. All that, and you still have to log sink time scraping and rinsing the dishes properly before you put them in the dishwasher. I don't know if, on average, dishwashers save or waste water (comparative to hand washing), but they definitely use up vital resources in the form of energy. Why not go the extra half inch and just wash them by hand?

NH says that he, having been raised with a dishwasher, could not live without one. But I think I could probably do pretty well without this costly convenience. Could you?

Updated: Fixed some typos and to include a valid point from NH, that quite possibly in a large house or large family without a dishwasher,  simply no one would do the dishes, which would probably be worse. The responsibility would likely fall on one person. 

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