For generations, the end of a meal meant the beginning of a chore -- someone had to wash the dishes. The invention of the automatic dishwasher changed all that, though. Many households can now forego the time-consuming chore with the push of a button, and still have sparkling clean dishes. Some consider a dishwasher to be a necessity, but like most modern conveniences, the appliance does have some drawbacks.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of using a dishwasher is convenience and timesavings. Instead of standing over the sink scrubbing and rinsing dishes by hand, just load the dirty plates and glasses into the machine, press the button and let the dishwasher do the work. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that using a dishwasher can save you up to 230 hours of personal time each year. And not only does the dishwasher save time, it can also get your dishes cleaner. Dishwashers generally heat water to 140 degrees, which is much hotter than most people can tolerate, and it cleans and sanitizes dishes more effectively.
Using a dishwasher instead of hand-washing dishes not only saves your personal time and energy, it also cuts down on your water and electricity usage. The Department of Energy estimates that a new, Energy Star-certified dishwasher can save up to $40 a year in utility bills, and uses almost 5,000 fewer gallons of water per year. Not only does this save you money, but it also helps save the environment. Less energy usage means less pollution and greenhouse gas production.
Washing dishes in a dishwasher requires using soap specifically designed for the machine; using regular dish soap creates too many suds and could damage the machine. Dishwasher soap does cost more than standard dish detergent, and some types can be harsher on the environment than others. And if you want to avoid water spots on your glassware, especially if you have hard water, you'll need to add a rinse agent to the machine, which increases both the cost of operating the machine and the number of chemicals you're introducing to the environment.
Damage to Dishes
While dishwashers can disinfect dishes more effectively than hand-washing, the machines do have limitations. Sometimes, even the most powerful machines cannot remove dried-on food debris, requiring you either hand-wash the item or run it through the machine again. In addition, not everything is dishwasher safe. Fine china and crystal, knives, nonstick pots and pans and wooden items can be damaged in the dishwasher, meaning you have to wash them by hand. If you have a large gathering and use your best dishes, cleanup can take extra time. And if you fail to properly load your dishwasher, not only will the dishes not get clean, but you could damage items.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.