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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Dishwashers

Frugal Kitchens 101
A dishwasher is almost an expected appliance in today's modern kitchens. They do save a lot of time but if they are not used in an eco-friendly manner they can be energy wasters. Dishwashers use electricity to operate, energy to heat the initial hot water, energy to boost water temperature to sanitize, energy to dry the dishes and water itself so there are three areas where you can save. In addition to that dishwashers use both dishwasher detergent and rinse agent giving you two further areas to save money.

Older dishwashers are not as energy efficient as newer models. If you are considering replacing your dishwasher look for the EnergyStar® qualified models such as Bosch. While these machines do boost the water temperature for sanitization via a flow though heater they save energy by not having a food grinder (quieter) and by not having a heating element for drying dishes (eco-friendly). Instead they dry by convection. To read more about our particular dishwasher and another article on dishwashers read here and here. Regardless whether you are using a high efficiency or older model dishwasher there are still ways to save more energy and money. Here's what I do:

  1. detergent: When it comes to dishwasher detergents there are three concerns: environmental, cost, ease of use. Some dishwasher detergents contain more phosphates than others and there are now no phosphate detergents available (chart here). Use a non phosphate brand of dishwasher detergent if possible. It will cost more per load but as it becomes more popular, the price will come down. Always buy dishwasher detergent on sale in a quantity to last you 3 months. Avoid powdered detergents in humid areas. Do not buy over packaged, individually wrapped dishwasher tabs. If you want to use tabs, choose the kind packaged in a dissolvable coating. These are now available in non phosphate formulas. Look for the eco-green logo. Washing soda (20 Mule Team) can be effectively substituted for dishwasher detergent for an eco-friendly alternative.

    The recommended amount for a normal load of dishes is 1 tbsp. Add an extra teaspoon for extra soiled dishes. Using more is basically wasting money. In general powdered detergent is cheaper but if you live in an area with high humidity liquid or tablets may be a better choice. Do not be tempted to buy more detergent than you can use in a 3 month period as powdered detergent loses its effectiveness over time.

  2. rinse agent: Dishwasher manufacturers usually recommend using a dishwasher rinse agent. This prevents spotting caused by small food particles redepositing on the dishes. Some manufacturers (Bosch) indicate the dishwasher should not be operated without a rinse agent even if you use a dishwasher detergent with a built in rinse agent. The brand name rinse agent was costing me 8¢ per load considerably more than the electricity cost to run the dishwasher. The noname® brand worked out to 3¢ per load. The dollar store had the same size bottle for $1 or 1¢ per load and it works just as well. So shop around especially for the rinse agent.

  3. loading: Rinsing your dish ware is unnecessary but do scrap them. Under or over loading a dishwasher costs you money. An under loaded dishwasher wastes electricity, detergent and rinse agent. An overloaded dishwasher can result in improperly cleaning the dishes resulting in having to rewash, also another waste of energy. Load your dishwasher according to your manufacturer's recommendations. Most manual can be found online if you do not have one for your machine. When you are loading ensure nothing interferes with the sprayer arms. Smaller items need to be secured in either the cutlery baskets provided in the dishwasher or a similar removable basket meant to wash baby bottle nipples. These can be found in the baby section for about $5.

    Certain items do not belong in the dishwasher. Wash these items by hand. Your good knives should be hand washed as the blade may get nicked or bent in the dishwasher. Non-stick coated bake ware or pans can be damaged by the harsh chemical environment of the dishwasher. Any labels on jars you want to recycle should be removed before putting them in the dishwasher. The glue can cause problems by gunking up dishwasher parts and the label itself can breakdown plugging both filters and sprayer arms. Plastic water bottles or other plastics that may contain BPA should not be washed in the dishwasher as this can cause the BPA to leach out of the plastic. Do not wash disposable foil pans in the dishwasher and beware that aluminum pots washed in the dishwasher will discolour. Do not wash cast iron pans in the dishwasher as this will strip the seasoning that makes them non-stick as well as cause rusting. Some people have reported cooking food in their dishwasher and washing things like baseball hats. Don't do this!

  4. operating: If you are in an area with tiered electric charges run the dishwasher when the rates are the lowest. In most cases quick wash or rinse are not necessary. Run on regular cycle only. Heavily soiled pots, pans or dishes can be soaked in the sink then washed in the next dishwasher run. If your dishwasher has a dry cycle, turn it off. Set the dishwasher to air dry. It will take a bit longer for the dishes to dry but won't use any electricity.

  5. cleaning: It is imperative for proper cleaning that your dishwasher is cleaned on a regular basis. Spray arms should be checked for any blockages and the blockage removed using tweezers. Keep the door seals squeaky clean as failure could lead to costly water leakage. Do not use chlorine bleach in your dishwasher even if it is stained from washing tomato products. This applies to plastic interiors mainly. Chlorine bleach can cause premature failure of valves and seals on dishwashers. Your dishwasher should be run empty on regular wash using either a special dishwasher cleaner or 1 cup or vinegar or 2 tbsp citric acid every other month. If you have hard water, do this once a month.

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