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  • Writer's pictureSusan Lawson

To have a dishwasher or not to have a dishwasher, is that a question?

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Earlier this week in my Daybook post I shared that we have a new dishwasher. I also posed the question, is it worth it - having a dishwasher at all?

I’m going to confess right up front that I feel a tad bit guilty about insisting for months that I needed a new dishwasher. I’m not sure what I envisioned would happen if and when we got it - maybe that it would somehow magically scrape, rinse, load, wash, dry, and put away all the dishes? I also confess that I suspect I am somewhat of a dishwashing snob. Can there be such a thing? I suggest to you that yes, indeed, there can be such a thing, and I am one.

I’m going to age myself a bit here, but when I was growing up we didn’t have running hot water in our house. We boiled water for baths (there was never a shower in my childhood home until well after I had flown the nest), and for whatever else needed hot water. This happened to include washing the dishes, by hand - the only dishwasher we ever had was me. My brother’s idea of washing dishes was stacking them, unwashed, in the strainer and hiding them under the sink, out of sight. 

This was the sink we had when I was growing up in our little midwestern neck of the woods in Iowa. This is my niece enjoying a bath in it :-) By this time (around 1981), my mom had convinced my dad that a hot water heater was a necessity, not a luxury. I sure wish I could get my hands on one of these sinks for my current kitchen!

My mom taught me to wash them in hot soapy water in a dishpan, stack them in a strainer where we would then pour boiling hot water over them to scald and sanitize them. Then they were dried with a tea towel, which didn’t require much after being scaled, and put away. There were never dishes left waiting to be air dried. 

When holidays or large gatherings happened, there was a crew that knew when it was time to step up and get the job done. The crew was my mom, my sisters and me. The men folk were busy folding tables and chairs, storing them for the next time. With everyone working together it was done in no time and nothing was left behind for my mom to do when the crowd exited the building. There was time to relax and enjoy the company that lingered behind for a while. It was good.

When our kids were growing up, they were assigned in teams to do the dishes and clean the kitchen. I’m quite certain there were interesting conversations happening as they worked side-by-side to get it done. I might have to ask about those conversations… Having a large-ish family, there was pretty much always more than would fit in the dishwasher in a single run. Pots and pans were hand washed, dried and put away. What we discovered was that the dishwasher often took hours to complete, and it was a rare occasion when all the dishes came out clean and dry enough to put away without some help with those same types of tea towels from my childhood. There were days, even with a working dishwasher, that I wondered if it was worth the space and time it was taking up to do a job that could have been done in a fraction of the time. I am left wondering that today.

Working besides one another doing the dishes always seemed to invite a little playfulness and conversation that might not have happened otherwise. Are we missing out on something we don’t realize by using the dishwasher? Wouldn’t it be better just to team up and wash and dry those dishes and get them put away without leaving them on the counter as the eyesore they are to my brain? A clear counter and sink (Flylady style) offers such peace first thing in the morning, can we agree on this?

In the process, we feel a little camaraderie with those standing with us in the battle against dirty dishes. For a while when our grand-littles were spending the nights regularly with us, I had them help with the dishes. They actually argued over who got to do them with Grammy. I always heard the advice to start kids doing these types of chores early while they still thought of it as fun rather than work. Perhaps we could just consider it quality time together. Perhaps I'm asking for a little too much?

While I’m here sharing my thoughts about the pros and cons of having a dishwasher, allow me to say this - I agree with a friend who once said to me,

“I’d rather do the dishes than look at them”

So to have a dishwasher or not to have a dishwasher, doesn’t really matter if the dishes are getting washed. :-)

My friend and kindred spirit shared her thoughts about dishwashing and the wise use of a dishwasher (along with five Pro-tips!) in her podcast at The Real Sisterhood. Have a listen!!

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