Water, the “universal” solvent is the center of most cleaning applications in the home. Water, at least in my location in the US, is readily available, plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Water plus a small amount of overly expensive and competitively merchandised chemicals does an admirable job of cleaning dishes and clothes which constitute about 50% of cleaning in the home.
Let’s start with dish washing. I prefer the old-fashioned method of filling a dishpan or one side of the kitchen sink with water, letting the dirty dishes soak for a few minutes in soapy water and then finishing the job with a sponge or dish cloth. Once the dishes are washed, they can be rinsed with running water or in a second dish pan or sink filled with clean water. Drying is accomplished by wiping the dishes with a dish towel or putting them in a drying rack (dish drainer) and letting gravity and evaporation do their job overnight. There’s no need to rush this process unless you are of the mind that the first step in preparing a meal is to wash the dishes from the previous meal . . .
My wife, on the other hand, insists that a dishwasher (No, not the kids – – the one under the kitchen counter) provides better cleaning using less effort and energy. A dishwasher is no more than a simpler and less expensive version of a spray washer similar in nearly all regards to an industrial spray washer. The parts (dishes) to be washed are usually “rinsed” to remove uneaten bones, peels and shells are placed in a rack with meticulous care to assure that all surfaces are accessible to the rotating spray bar or bars located at the bottom, middle and/or top of the unit. Of course, there are those special dishes which can’t go in the dishwasher at all and must be washed the old-fashioned way anyway. Once the dishes are placed in the dishwasher’s chamber, a packet or two of chemicals are placed in a little dispenser on the inside of the unit’s door in faith that it will be magically released at the proper time in the washing cycle. In order to be effective, that chemical is really some pretty nasty stuff in an attractive package but we’ll talk about that in a later blog. OH, and don’t forget the “blue stuff” that makes the dishes “shine.” Next you set some dials and push a bunch of buttons. Pots and Pans cycle? Normal Cycle? Glassware Cycle? Sanitizing Wash? Sanitizing Rinse? Air Dry (“Energy Saver)? Heated Air Dry? “Power” Dry? The more expensive the dishwasher, the more buttons it has. Frankly, I’m pretty convinced that it does the same thing no matter what buttons you push – but that’s my opinion.
Finally, about time and energy efficiency – – It seems to me that, since you have to handle the dishes individually to load them into the dishwasher, you might as well finish the washing and rinsing process while you have them in hand. Using the dishwasher, you still have to handle them again to return them to the cupboard so what’s the big deal? It is true that the dishwasher probably does use less water than hand washing dishes. This is especially true if you are one of those who keeps the water running while you wash and rinse by hand. HOWEVER, the savings in water use is likely eclipsed by the increased energy used by the dishwasher. After all, the dishwasher has a respectably-sized pump to spray all that water and a heater to heat the wash and rinse water as well as the air for drying. There are also a bunch of automated valves to control the flow of water in and out of the machine and a fan to circulate air (hot or cold) for drying. In short, a dishwasher uses less water but certainly more energy than hand washing and I’m not convinced that it saves time.
The analogy between industrial parts cleaning and a similar cleaning process at home is interesting. The industrial requirement is quite different and, usually, can easily justify a sophisticated cleaning machine. However, just as at home, bigger and better is not always the best overall solution. The next blog will address the issue of doing laundry at home. Do you think I’ll be in favor of doing laundry by hand?