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Ontario, Canada
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, December 19, 2011

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Hand Washing vs Using a Dishwasher for Dishes

Frugal Kitchens 101

For years there has been a debate amongst frugalistas as to which is more frugal - hand washing dishes or using a dishwasher.  There's no doubt that a dishwasher uses electricity in addition to water heating costs but it is not as simple as saying that hand washing is more frugal.  The reality is even if you have a dishwasher you will be doing hand washing as well for certain kitchenware.  It is inevitable that certain items simply are not dishwasher safe.  I've had a dishwasher since the first portable used one bought for $25 for our first house.  Modern dishwashers have come a long way since those old machines no longer being energy and water guzzlers.  We do a lot of scratch cooking, usually three meals a day plus snacks and I do a lot of home canning a preserving.  For me, a dishwasher is very much a frugal choice but that doesn't mean I don't have to do a bit of hand washing each day.  Others who do not do a lot of cooking, don't can and perhaps are only cooking for two may find for them hand washing is the frugal choice.  Years ago the mother of a family of twelve (IIRC) told a talk show audience that neither were frugal for them but rather disposable plates were the frugal choice, bought on sale using coupons.   So the actual answer to this debate lies in your cooking style and household size.  Here's a few tips for hand washing dishes and using a dishwasher"

  • hand washing
    • order - Wash chef's knives first, followed by glassware, then lightly soiled pot and pans and finally heavily soiled items.
    • soak - Soak heavily soiled items in hot water with a tbsp or so of baking soda. 
    • water - Use hot, soapy water for washing and clear hot water for rinsing. Avoid using dish detergent with antibiotic properties.  Soap is quite effective in killing off bacteria.   If concerned, you can add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to the dish water.  Do not use chlorine bleach as it is a respiratory irritant.
    • sponge vs dishcloth - Sponges have the tendency to accumulate bacteria, although they can be sterilized in the microwave.  Use a clean cotton dishcloth each time you wash dishes to avoid this problem. [A 24 pk of wash cloths costs about $4 in stores like K-mart and Walmart.].  Hang dishcloths to air dry before putting in the laundry to avoid attracting moisture seeking insects.
    • air dry vs towel drying - Air drying is fine if you are in a hurry and you have no pets in the home.  However, towel drying using a clean t-towel is preferred to avoid any air contaminates from settling on the clean dishes. Cotton bar towels (Sam's Club, 24 pk $12) are thick and absorbent yet inexpensive enough that you don't need to worry about staining.  Air dry t-towels before putting them in the laundry.
    • energy efficiency - Use hot water (125°F; 140°F can cause scalding in only 6 seconds) and don't leave water running while rinsing dishes.
  • dishwasher
    • do not use the dishwasher for - The following items should not be washed in a dishwasher:  any item marked not dishwasher safe, plastics containing BPA, vintage lusterware, Depression or pre-Depression glass, cut lead glass crystal, non-stick bakeware or cookware with the exception of silicone bake ware, chef's knives, wood chopping blocks, anything aluminum based,  and non-kitchenware like golf balls, lego, ball caps.  I'm sure there are a lot of other things that should not go into the dishwasher as well.  Use common sense here.
    • scraping - Older dishwashers and some newer ones have built in grinders so dishes only need to be scraped to remove larger food particles.  Some brands (eg. Bosch) do not have a built in food grinder which keeps the dishwasher quieter so be sure to scrape.
    • rinsing - Rinsing dishes before loading into the dishwasher is not necessary.  It wastes water as well.  I do rinse anything that had a tomato product in not because the dishwasher won't clean well but because the tomato residue will stain certain kitchenware.
    • rinse agent - Newer dishwashers are designed to use convection heat in the dishwasher for drying the dishes.  This reduces the energy usage.  Rinse agent is mandatory for the convection heat to operate properly without leaving spots or streaks.  Now the good news is, you don't have to pay the high costs of brand name rinse agent you just have to use rinse agent.  The dollar store brand will do just as nice a job as the brand name.
    • loading - Load your dishwasher according to your dishwasher's manual.  Be sure taller items are not blocking other items.  Don't overload the dishwasher but don't run it if it is not fully loaded.  
    • diswasher detergent - Use a phosphate free dishwasher detergent.  Most newer dishwashers need only a tablespoon of detergent for proper cleaning although some are reporting that a little as one teaspoon of detergent still does a good job.
    • pre-heat the water - Before starting the dishwasher, run the hot water tap briefly just until hot. This pre-heat helps the dishwasher clean better.
    • dishwasher detergent - Try to use the detergent recommended by the manufacturer for best results.  Most dishwashers will clean nicely with reduced amounts of detergent.  Powdered or liquid detergent is best if reducing the amount as it is difficult to divide the dishwasher tabs in half.  Dishwasher detergent does have an expiry date so never buy more than what you will use within a 3 month period.
    • cleaning - Do not use harsh chemical cleaners on the exterior or interior of your dishwasher. Clean the exterior with a soft cloth with soap and water.  Do the same on the portion of the door interior that  seals.  Once a month, pour in a cup of white vinegar then run the dishwasher empty.  This will remove any mineral deposits and built-up soap residue.
    • energy efficiency - Run the dishwasher only when full and during off peak hours.  If replacing your dishwasher, look for the EnergyStar certification.  Choose the most energy efficient dishwasher possible with the desired features in your price range.


1 food lovers commented:

LindaG said...

Thanks for the tips and information, GG! :-)