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What's The Big Deal About Doing Dishes By Hand?

If you love doing dishes by hand, you're stuck with the dishwasher. It's just a kitchen appliance you need to have especially for resale purposes. If you hate doing dishes by hand, you may love your dishwasher. If you talk to many adults about this, you will get a diversity of opinion, perhaps like the diversity of meals prepared and cleaned.


I'm still waiting to be sold on the benefits of a dishwasher. This is what I observe: high to medium water pressure is used as each individual dish is cleaned before it's loaded into the dishwasher. This continues as the loader bends over before finding a home for each individual dish.

Once it's fully loaded, the cycle typically takes 1-2 hours to complete. It can be noisy enough to hear it do its thing even if you're not in the kitchen. Once complete, one must unloaded one or several dishes by hand, often, one has to physically bend over and physically removed these. With the amount of bending and moving to load and unload the dishwasher, it's hard for me to see many benefits of a dishwasher - especially for those with a bad back.


I'm not going to tell you that I walked 2 miles to school uphill both ways when I was a kid. That's silly to say and is a big turn-off, except for the crabby "get off my lawn" sort of guy. However, I have to say I was exposed to doing dishes when I was 6. Having two parents and 7 siblings gave me plenty of practice over the years. We never owned a dishwasher and my mom never saw the point as it was not as common years ago and what's the point of having it when it's a valuable chore to teach kids when young?

While in college or even later, there were many Thanksgivings I'd offer to wash all the dishes. Some of my sisters thought I was crazy but felt the need to help out. Otherwise, I'd struggle to stay awake after too much turkey (Tryptophan) watching the Lions or Cowboys play. It helped to have the right clean-up crew on board, knowing what dishes to bring and when. It also helped on the other end to have the dryer keep up with the clean-up process. There are many ways to slice the pie which an abundance amount of dishes but I'd begin with glassware, small plates, eating utensils and work my way to the pots and pans. I found categorizing the dishes this way helped streamline the process, especially if I had all helpers on board with my approach.


Here's a thought, manually clean dishes while you bake or cook. While you wait for the cookies to bake, begin to clean up the kitchen. Not all dishes will be cleaned but the majority will be done and waiting to be dried before you sit down to enjoy your chocolate chip cookies. The same principle applies to cook, run the water to a warm/hot temperature and fill up the sink with hot soapy water. While the sink is being filled, rinse any dish that may contain stubborn stains. Again, once your meal is ready for consumption, you should only have a few dishes to clean.


Some say you should never go to bed with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. This is "verboten" as the first task you may see in the morning as you wipe the sleep from your eyes is an ugly pile of dirty dishes. That's not the best way to start one's day. It reminds me of having to stop for gas as your car is on empty but first need to stop by your son's school to drop off his forgotten assignment. If you're unable to muster the energy or courage to do dishes in the evening, at least fill up the sink with hot soapy water and let them soak overnight. Yes, the dishwater is cold and unpleasant in the morning, but the easy part awaits you with a minimal amount of morning bandwidth.


When my kids were young, they'd tease me that it's resource intensive to clean out empty jars or plastic containers before they were recycled. They'd contend that rinsing and cleaning them waste warm water and natural gas. Their solution, which I never modeled as a parent was to brazenly drop those containers right into the waste bucket. (When this occurred, I'd whisper to myself what went wrong with my eco-friendly parenting.) Back to recycling and efficient resource usage. My response, on weekends after doing the dishes, I'd leave the remaining water in the sink and begin to de-clutter the refrigerator and pantry. Once collected, I'd add these to the soapy water and let them soak a bit and then a quick rinse does the trick. It's a win-win, you're not only recycling clean containers but you're reusing the existing resources to do so.

Another Eco-friendly trick I found while doing dishes was to fill up the sink only half way and begin to wash the smaller items like silverware, cups or bowels. As I cleaned these, my rinse water would trickle into my dish sink as not to waste unnecessary water. Once the larger items came by, the water level was deep enough to clean those pots and pans or cookie trays.

There are times when it was decided by consensus or individually that the dishwasher needed to be employed. Often, the water needed to rinse the dishes would pour from the faucet as each individual item was being prepared for the dishwasher. It reminds me of a big waste of resources when someone would let the water run as they brushed their teeth. I've not scientifically tracked the amount of water used just to prepare the dishes for this modern appliance, but intuitively know a lot more water is used compared with the traditional method of cleaning dishes.


Some people say they couldn't live without a dishwasher, I disagree. It's a nice convenience that I never use unless we have guests over and my wife insists on using it. There are other modern appliances I couldn't live without. Take the washing machine, having to wash all your clothes by hand would indeed a frustrating task that would be a struggle for me. Not to mention, personal hygiene may take a hit. Or take central air, with the unpredictability of today's summer weather, having to jerry-rig individual window units to certain rooms in the home would not be an easy task to maintain. Washing dishes, no problem with my camp.


Indeed, there are times when I struggle finding the gumption to manually clean dishes. To help, I'll use my noise-canceling headphones and listen to music or a podcast to relax my mind from this psychological barrier. The same principle applies when making a grocery list or cooking, there are times these tasks appear to be drudgery but I find Bach, Beethoven or Mozart often will change my mood and help me achieve this task.

I'm going to state the obvious by saying when you cook, you need to babysit the dishes as they are being cooked or baked. Sometimes it's every few minutes and other times, it's every 10 minutes or so. In other words, you're basically stuck in the kitchen standing and waiting for the food to be cooked so what can I do in the meantime? Clean out the fridge, make a grocery list, do dishes, sweep the floor, etc. I'm no classical music savant but there's something about that music that helps me complete a task that's mundane or challenging. A sense of accomplishment aided by modern technology.


One more thing, when a new appliance is invented, it may get free publicity. In addition, it may be an appliance that "gets hot" in the marketplace where many homeowners feel the need to have. For example, the Keurig machine is something I've owned for the last few years that I don't use. Not sure why I purchased it in the first place, perhaps because it was cute and sophisticated and made me feel special. Now, it collects dust. Some may call me a minimalist as I either take instant coffee in the morning or the plain old Mr. Coffee. These two avenues that will suffice to address my caffeine addiction. Anyway, one needs to be careful about the business rhetoric surrounding new things coming on board. Is it useful? Is it something that will be around for a long time? Economical? Good value? Is it something to make our life better or just a gimmick?


Some house guests may ask me if the dishes were actually thoroughly cleaned by doing them by hand. I'd just laugh and say that when I'd consistency do the majority of dishes by hand, our family was just as healthy. Had they seriously given this much thought or was this just something they had heard of, read and regurgitated? I will add one more comment, from my empirical experience, I contend that washing dishes by hand helps me stay healthy. I thoroughly wash my hands before beginning and feel all that hot water and anti-bacterial dish detergent certainly helped my hygiene and health.


Living in the Midwest, the heat is on for at least 6 months each year. Even with a humidifier on my furnace, the inside humidity can still be low so allowing the dishes to dry on the counter for a few hours (or overnight) adds a little moisture back into the kitchen. It's not much, but it's an indirect benefit to allowing the dishes to dry on the counter.


Over the years, I've grown accustomed to using very hot water when cleaning dishes. Years ago, my mom would remind me to use hot water when cleaning, I sometimes thought she was too extreme with the water temperature. It's taken some time to get acclimated to that temperature but I've come to adopt her principle and even though she has passed several years ago, still pay homage to her while filling up the sink with hot water.


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