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Is a Dishwasher useful? My thoughts after using one for 5 years

After owning a dishwasher for well over 5 years, I thought I should share my experience owning one and pros and cons to consider if you are thinking of getting a dishwashing machine. Just a bit of a background, when we got the dishwasher, most of them were full scale size. Only two brands in the market offered a more compact sized dishwasher. Nowadays it seem there are many more brands in the market offering the compact version, and even mini versions. Are the mini dishwashers worth buying?

Does a dishwasher actually save time?

A lot of people get dishwashers because they want to save time and effort by avoiding the troublesome task of hand washing the dishes. A dishwasher does obviously help you to save time, although perhaps not as much as you might expect. You will still need to stack the dishes into the dishwasher, as well as take them out when they are done. Stacking is relatively fuss free if you have a big dishwasher. However if you have to maximise every inch of space in the dishwasher, you might find yourself spending a fair bit of brain power and mental gymnastics before all the dishes can fit into the dishwasher.

And because I’m so bothered about whether there is any detergent residue on my dishes, I hand rinse them quickly under a running tap. I don’t bother to wipe dry as I get a good breeze at my place. These actions potentially add additional time.

If you entertain often, you might find it useful to have a dishwasher. You don’t want to be running out of dishes midway through your party nor slaving away in the kitchen when you would want to be with your guests.




Does a dishwasher save effort?

With a dishwasher, you are freed from having to do the actual washing of the dishes. However, loading the dishwasher takes some mental effort as you have to plan which dishes go in first and where. It’s not as simple as mindless washing of dishes by hand. There is also the effort of having to scrape large bits off your dishes at the sink or dustbin before you can then load them.

Does a dishwasher save water?

Most dishwashers will tell you that they are more environmentally friendly than to wash the same amount of dishes in a sinkful of water. The reason a dishwasher can clean so efficiently is because they use high powered tiny jets of water to remove all the grease. With the high powered force, it is not necessary to use the same amount of water as you would washing dishes by hand.

Is it clean?

In my experience, if the dishes are stacked properly (which they usually are), the dishes come out spotlessly clean when on a full 2 hour cycle. However, if we try to do the dishes on fast mode which takes 1/2 hour, I find some stubborn bits of food might still remain and the dishes may still feel greasy. This is probably because the enzymes in the detergent has not had its time to work fully. Also, I feel like there is also a slight slippery feel to it, which means that the detergent has not been fully rinsed off. That can be solved by putting it on another rinse cycle if you have the time to spare. For me, just to be doubly sure, I manually rinse off all my dishes when they are out of the dishwasher, yes even if we have done it on the full 2 hour cycle. Yes this does add to the amount of time and effort needed.

It’s definitely also more hygienic to use a dishwasher as compared to a sponge. This is especially so for dishes and utensils that have touched raw meat products. Instead of using the same sponge to wash all these dishes, and potentially spreading any pathogens around, you just load them all into the dishwasher. You can easily wash your hands after that. Some studies say that once a sponge is contaminated, it is very hard to remove all the bacteria. It seems even microwaving the sponge might not completely do the trick, not to mention deteriorate its quality eventually.

Bacteria aside, have you noticed that your dish sponge or cloth might be ruined after it has cleaned a particularly greasy pot? Grease is stuck on the sponge despite several rounds of rinsing. Again, no such issue if you just have the greasy pot washed in the dishwasher.




Bonus advantage – It saves your hands! And also good for odd shaped items

Washing the dinner dishes has never caused any problems to my hands until I gave birth and had to wash more things, the milk bottles and pumps! The additional washings caused my hands to breakout with bad ezcema. If I had a dishwasher then, it would have helped to save my hands. Thankfully for my 2nd kid, I am able to wash the bottles and pumps in the dishwasher. This really saves a lot of time because unlike dishes, bottles and odd shape pump parts are much easier to wash in a dishwasher than by hand.

Are the mini or compact dishwashers worth the money

If you are cooking at least once or twice a day for a small family of 4 or less, you might be able to get by with a compact dishwasher. However, based on personal experience, if you have frying pans, pots or bowls, it can be quite difficult to fit all these into a compact dishwasher. A compact dishwasher is probably useful for a family of 2? Or if you use plates mainly as those require the least amount of space.

Other things to consider before getting a dishwasher

Don’t get a compact dishwasher if possible or you will be stuck with the hell situation of having to cram your pots and pans into a tiny box. Having to adjust the dishes to fit in actually takes more time than you think. And you might end up with extra dishes that you have to wash by hand. Ideally, get a dishwasher which has a half-load function. This way, if you have less dishes on selected occasions, you simply stack them on the lower rack and activate the washing just for the lower rack.

Buy dishwasher friendly pots and dishes, not forgetting dishwasher friendly kitchen tools, knives etc. One of the things I used to abhor washing by hand was the multi grater. How do you even wash that thing without it ripping bits of your sponge (or finger) off?

Even better, buy standard sized plates and use as few bowls, pots and pans as possible. Plates are the easiest to load into the dishwasher and they take up the least amount of space. You can fit more things into the dishwasher if you use mainly plates. Yes get your family to eat rice from plates instead of bowls….




Our actual experience

My husband who swears by the dishwasher estimates it could take up to 10 minutes to load and unload the dishwasher, whereas it could take up to 30 minutes to wash a full load of dishes by hand. So there is an estimated savings of about 20 minutes. The problem is, I find it a pain to stack the dishwasher. You’ve got to bring the dirty dishes to the sink to scrape off the large bits. You’ve got to deal with the big items like pots and pans and where to put them. You’ve got to then move away from the sink to put them in the dishwasher. If your dishwasher is small, you have to mentally visualise a sequence of which dishes go first. Sometimes I get so put off by having to think about what needs to be done that I simply wash the dishes by hand. Even though it takes longer, it is mindless and I feel less stressed about it.

That is not to say that I think a dishwasher is completely useless. On the contrary I am still thankful to own a dishwasher. Prior to getting one, I would be on dish-saving mode. I would absolutely try to cook with the least amount of dishes and utensils used. Woe betide anyone who used an additional plate if everything could be crammed onto one plate. Having a dishwasher has freed me from the nightmare of dish over-usage or getting upset if people used fresh spoons for dessert. Interestingly, one time the dishwasher broke down and we were quoted an exorbitant fee of $100 just to get a minor part fixed. We mulled over the cost for a month but ultimately caved in because life was unbearable having to tackle a mountain of dishes everyday by hand.

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