Dishwashers and washing machines are the kind of mundane, everyday household appliances that are taken for granted in many homes, but it is only relatively recently that they have become a mass-market staple. Three-quarters of Americans now have a dishwasher, but it took many years for what is now seen as a necessity to become commonplace.
The Ladies Take Charge
There were numerous attempts made to design a machine that would wash clothes, but the forerunner of what we would recognize today as a washing machine was invented by Margaret Colvin in 1876. The history of the dishwasher can be traced back to the 1850s when Joel Houghton invented a basic water splashing machine for crockery. It didn’t work very well, and it wasn’t until Josephine Cochrane unveiled her creation at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 that the world started to take notice. Her automatic washer combined a rotating pan in a boiler fitted with wire racks, meaning the hot soapy water could effectively clean the dirty dishes.
The machines we use today are in many respects very similar to the ones Cochrane and Colvin invented all those years ago. Research was primarily focused on making the machines more effective and developing better detergents and drying functions. The dishwasher was subject to a lot of criticism for its energy and detergent use and water consumption at the turn of the last century, but scientific and technological advances have resulted in today’s machines being far more ecologically sound.
How much water do our appliances really use?
One of the environmental concerns that is often touted about dishwashers and washing machines is that they use vast amounts of water. There are lots of ways in which populations waste water when it is easily accessible to them. From lawn sprinklers to irrigating agricultural land, this is a genuine worry for anyone who cares about the environment. Although an exact figure is hard to pin down, and varies according to manufacturer and mode of use, on average a modern dishwasher set to a standard cycle uses around ten gallons of water. By comparison, if you hand-washed the same dishes you would probably use at least 20 gallons of water.
Did you know?
- You can wash a variety of things in the dishwasher, not just the dirty dishes. Household items that need sterilizing in addition to being cleaned such as toothbrushes, vases, hairbrushes, baby toys, sponges and dishcloths. Footwear and sportswear that clunks annoyingly in the washing machine like sneakers, flip-flops, shin guards and knee pads. Car enthusiasts may like to try washing their hubcaps for a set of sparkling rims!
- Next time you need to scrub potatoes, try putting them in the dishwasher on a rinse cycle, and for the more adventurous cook, experiment with using the dishwasher for steaming vegetables or poaching fish. There are some great recipes to try, including lasagne and home-made bagels.
- The washing machine played a big part in the rise of the Women’s’ Liberation movement, as women were freed from the time and labour-intensive domestic chores
Manufacturers are continually working on how to improve their machines; recent innovations include:
- Dishwashers with two independent drawers for doing loads that require a different wash cycle at the same time.
- Washing machines with settings for steaming and pre-ironing.
- Remote control
- Machines that operate using sensors, selecting the best wash cycle automatically based on the sensors calculating the soiling levels.
Shopping for appliances
With the extensive range of models available in retail outlets now, the question is which one to go for? First, ask yourself some basic questions to help you compile a shopping list:
- Where will the dishwasher be situated? When you’ve decided where it will go, measure the space to ensure you buy a machine that will fit.
- How quickly will you fill the machine up? Dishwashers are usually sold by the number of place settings that can fit in the machine, so if you have three members in your household, you need to calculate whether an eight-setting machine will take all your crocks or if you generate enough dirty dishes to make a sixteen-setting machine worthwhile. Do you want a washing machine that can dry your clothes as well, or have you got room for a separate tumble dryer?
- How important are energy ratings and ecological credentials to you? Federal standards have drastically reduced the amount of energy and water appliances can consume and still be considered for a coveted Energy Star. Put this on your list as a priority if it’s something that matters to you.
Once you’ve thought about the essential requirements for your household and worked out a budget, it’s time to browse the web or take a trip to your local household appliance sales center. Retailers like ajmadison dishwashers are the kind of helpful service you need when you embark on your shopping trip. Have a browse through the information a good website will provide to see what models tick the boxes on your list, and then discuss any queries you have with staff who know what they’re talking about. A knowledgeable service will give you good advice rather than just trying to sell you their most expensive model.
Using your new kitchen helper
To get the best from your new machine, don’t get it home, fill it up and press start until you’ve read the manufacturer’s instructions. For those who are old hands at using a dishwasher it may seem obvious that bowls and mugs should be placed upside down, so they don’t fill with water, but why should a newbie know that without being told? On the other hand, don’t assume you know it all because you’ve had these machines before. Advances in functionality and buying a different manufacturer’s machine will all mean you’ll need to refresh your knowledge. There is plenty of information online about getting the best from your appliances, so don’t be afraid to do a bit of research so that your machine gives you the best possible results.