Washing before I wash

Monday, June 6th, 2016 at 8:50 am

Dad teased that my grandma washed her dishes before she washed them – immersing them in soapy water and wiping them down before carefully placing them in the dishwasher for a cycle.

I smiled at Dad’s teasing, wondering at Grandma’s methodical refusal to take advantage of the wonderful convenience she had in her kitchen.

A dishwasher! That washes dishes at the press of a button! Just put the dirty dishes in and, a couple hours later, take the clean dishes out!

We didn’t have a dishwasher, you see. My dad proclaimed he had seven – with no need for another.

I never in a million years imagined that I would become my grandmother.

Yet I have.

After nearly every meal, I walk into the kitchen and fill a dishpan with hot soapy water.

Plastic containers, knives, and lightly soiled mixing bowls and pans get washed first – and rinsed in hot water in another dishpan before I set them in the freestanding drying rack to dry.

Then I place the plates and cups and bowls and utensils from the meal in the dishpan of soapy water. I lift them out one by one, inspecting them for food debris, which I wipe off with a dishcloth before placing the dish in the dishwasher.

Finally, I wash the heavily soiled “big stuff”, soiling my dishwater in the process. But by then it doesn’t matter. I’ll dump the dishwater down the drain or throw it on some plants or use it to soak a pot with persistent cooked-on gunk. No need for clean water for those purposes.

Why did my grandmother wash her dishes before she washed them?

I don’t know.

But I do know why I do.

Because the idea of a dishwasher that turns dirty dishes to clean in the touch of a button is a myth. It might be true for the first few cycles, but eventually, you’ll end up with food particles spread throughout your load of dishes and dried on by the “autodry” function. You’ll have to disassemble the bottom arm and clean out all the detritus that has collected from improper rinsing. It’ll stink.

The alternative most people take is to rinse their dishes prior to placing them in the dishwasher, scraping off the food gunk with a fork or knife and rinsing the rest off under running water.

But, as environmental folks are wont to remind us, the process of rinsing can often use more water than our super-efficient dishwashers do.

So what’s a semi-crunchy-but-still-wants-clean-dishes mama to do?

She washes her dishes before she washes them, using every ounce of water to its greatest advantage.


Reader Comments (2):

  1. Kathy says:

    I do the same thing – and it irks me when people wash dishes by squirting dish detergent on individual pieces and then putting them under running water!

  2. joanne says:

    Grandma Menter RINSED dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. BTW none of those boys spent much time in the kitchen. The SOAP part is part of the apochrypha of family lore!

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