Life after the dishwasher

16 November 2010
I've had a dishwasher most of my adult life. One of the first household tasks I taught my sons was to unpack the dishwasher - a job they both hated. About a year ago, I looked at my latest machine and asked myself why I had it. I couldn't come up with a good answer, so we gave it away. That was a great decision.

Now I wash up twice a day. Breakfast, morning tea, bread making and lunch items are washed after lunch, then I wash up again after dinner, although often it's just two plates and glasses because I try to wash as I go when preparing the meal. I'm still not happy with my soap/detergent and am still testing various products. So far I've gone from my homemade soap, to my liquid soap, to phosphate-free detergent, to an eco detergent. I think I may settle on my homemade liquid - it cuts through tea stains in a cup like nothing else, but it's the consistency of water and I waste too much of it. I'd rather use soap than detergent, mainly because most detergents are petro-chemical based, many contain sodium lauryl sulfate and are often packed with questionable ingredients. The eco detergents I've used are too expensive. Look here for the ingredients in Palmolive dish detergent. I could go on about the hidden ingredients in detergents for hours but I'm sure you get the picture. I'll continue my search but I'm pretty sure I'll end up back with the homemade liquid soap.

I know many of you will cite the studies done on hand washing versus machine washing, but I discount those because the major studies were sponsored or carried out by dishwasher detergent or dishwasher companies, so I believe they're biased. Certainly the most frequently cited study done in Germany reported that handwashing uses more water than dishwashers - mainly because in their study the people washing by hand left the hot water tap running. I don't know of anyone who does that. Anyhow, I'm not trying to convince you to do as I do, I'm just recording what I do and hope to get a discussion going about dish washing soaps and detergents. I wonder what you use.

My home made liquid soap.

We have solar hot water here so apart from the pump that delivers the water to the sink, there is no electricity or gas involved in our hot water. Nevertheless, I fill one sink with hot water for washing, and one with warm water for rinsing and I'm sure the way I wash up would use less water than a dishwasher. My main concern with dishwashers is the extremely caustic detergents used in them. I shudder when I think what happens when it all goes into our waterways and I don't want to be a part of it.

Besides, plunging my hands into warm water is theraputic and soothing. I enjoy life after the dishwasher, I use the space it used to stand in to house my ever increasing supply of recycled jars and bottles. They stand in there with a couple of extra dish drainers for when we have visitors. Are you washing by hand? If so, tell me what you use - are you in the soap or detergent camp?

Interesting info about soap and detergents