There are many things we can do to conserve resources that take some extra work. Many of them pay off by giving us better quality “real” stuff to use, health benefits, cost savings, or surprising new versions of convenience.
Then there’s washing the dishes.
It turns out that today’s automatic dishwashers use less water and energy than washing dishes by hand! For once, the environmentally friendly way is not the difficult way! Of course, it’s best to use your dishwasher wisely and choose a natural detergent and rinse aid, but those parts are easy thanks to the intrepid research of Katie at Kitchen Stewardship.
Now, washing dishes by hand is a chore that I never minded all that much, and my dad feels the same, so I never have lived in a home where the dishwasher (if we had one) was used routinely. I came up with lots of ways to diminish dishwashing drudgery, and it was fine except for the time it took! I’ve been spending about 4 hours a week washing dishes, almost every week, for 17 years.
Last summer, we happened to visit my out-laws (isn’t that what you call your partner’s parents if you are happily unmarried?) at a time when we were feeling very stressed, so we spent an evening talking with them about just what was wrong. After a while, my mother-out-law pointed out that I was repeatedly mentioning the dishes as a source of stress–how I was staying up past midnight just to wash the freaking dishes, how I felt unable to cut myself any slack on this chore because coming downstairs in the morning to a kitchen filled with dirty dishes is so dispiriting for me, etc. She offered to buy us a dishwasher for Christmas!
It took us five months to get our act together (what with all our other sources of stress…), do some research on which model of dishwasher we might want, and go to Sears to check them out in person and make a final decision. On Monday, we finally got our new dishwasher, and then we had to generate enough dirty dishes to fill it, but last night we put it to the test!
I have been deposed from my role as the family dishwasher. This machine does about as good a job as I can–that is, it left a few specks on 3 items that my sensitive fingertips would have detected, but the overall squeaky cleanness of the dishes seems slightly superior–and although it took about half an hour longer to wash them than I would, the amount of human time and effort required was much, much less! Also, the dishes were mostly dry already, without rinse aid or a heated dry cycle!
The one thing that surprised me about the dishwasher’s instructions is that you’re supposed to run the water in the nearest sink until it gets hot, before you start the dishwasher, to improve its energy efficiency because it won’t have to heat the water as much to reach the high temperature it uses. That could get a little bit wasteful . . . but all I have to do is time it such that I’m running the water anyway to make some hot soapy water (a smaller amount than I used to use) to wash the few plastic items and jar lids that can’t go in the dishwasher. I also can collect the water while waiting for it to get hot and use it to water my plants.
I think having a dishwasher is going to work for me! This is the Valentine’s Day tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, but in my opinion a dishwasher makes a lovely Valentine’s Day present. Thanks, Elsa!!
Oh, and I guess I do have a Valentine’s Day tip: On that day, focus on love and expressing love in ways that don’t cost money. On February 15, start watching for clearance sales on chocolate-covered cherries and such, and then buy a gift for your lover.