I remember our family's first electric dishwasher. That in itself is quite a feat, since it was about 1956. Anyway, I do remember it - the brand was "James," it was a boxy contraption with a glass lid, into which dishes were loaded from the top, resembling to some extent the freezer in which some stores still keep ice cream bars and popsicles near the checkout register. Further, since most kitchens at that time did not have this breed of labor-saving device, it had to be tucked away in a corner, rolled to the sink, and connected to the faucet when you wanted to use it. Here's one in action:
My memory of this appliance was jogged by a web-page filler item pulled from the This Old House/Bob Vila website, entitled "Five Reasons to Quit Washing Your Dishes by Hand." You can read the whole thing if you want but the reasons are (1) handwashing does not kill germs, (2) sponges harbor germs, (3) handwashing uses more energy, (4) handwashing wastes water, and (5) handwashing takes your time.
Reasons 1 and 2 are really the same, as are reasons 3 and 4. And each of these points is only partly true because a lot depends on your lifestyle, how you do dishes, and how you serve meals.
So it's a curiously weak list, weak enough to make you wonder why it was written. Do you ever see articles dedicated to persuading you to buy a refrigerator or a stove? No. People see those items as necessary. But pity the poor makers of dishwashers, whose product has consistently been deemed the least necessary major appliance in the kitchen.
It's really much easier to list reasons NOT to own this device. Here are a few:
- They don't get dishes clean. If you've heard that you can put dishes in the newer ones without rinsing, and they're supposed to come out clean, I suggest you have a few grains of salt with that advice, especially if - like most couples and singles, I suspect - you don't have enough dishes to run the machine immediately after each meal.
- We own a dishwasher and use it for everyday plates, coffee mugs, and tableware. But we also always have dishes to do by hand after nearly every meal because many items we use regularly will be damaged by frequent washing in a dishwasher. Crystal, glass, and china will be clouded; good knife blades will be dulled; some plastics will melt.
- Large or odd-shaped pots and servers won't fit well, or at all, and need to be hand-washed.
- Their average life, at 9 years per Consumer Reports, is far less than that of refrigerators (13) or ranges (13-15).
- If you decide to do without a dishwasher, you'll have a lot of extra space freed up for storage.
Mankind has been washing dishes for a few eons now, and we long ago learned to coexist with a few little bacteria. Meanwhile, a small subset of mankind have been making dishwashers for at least 70 years now, without having been able to perfect them or to make them seem necessary. They are a nice convenient supplement to hand washing, but who really needs 'em?