How a Dishwasher Works

With six people in my family, we always had a mound of dirty dishes. Back then, we had a different type of dishwasher, mainly me. Now, you hardly see a home without a dishwasher. When I got married, I retired my dish towel and quickly adjusted to just putting soap in the dishwasher and turning it on.

Let’s look at the history of the dishwasher and how this amazing machine works.

The first patent for a dishwasher was granted to Joel Houghton in 1850. Made of wood, you hand turned a wheel that caused water to splash on the dishes. Not surprisingly, this machine didn’t work very well.

In 1886 in Shelbyville, Illinois, a wealthy woman named Josephine Garis Cochran was looking for a machine that would wash dishes faster than her servants and without breaking them. When she couldn’t find one, she built it herself.

She measured her dishes and then made three wire compartments to hold her forks, spoons, and knives. The compartments were then placed inside a wheel that lay flat within a copper boiler. As a motor turned the wheel, hot soapy water squirted from the bottom of the boiler and then sprayed down on the dishes. Her invention worked and she went on to found the company, Kitchen Aid. Although Josephine was granted the patent in 1886, dishwashers did not start appearing in homes regularly until the 1950’s.

Before you buy a dishwasher, make sure it is compatible with your dishes. If you have irregular size plates they may not fit in the dishwasher.

Most dishwashers are wired underneath and to the back of the unit. Since cold water is less effective, only hot water lines are connected to the dishwasher. Once you close the door latch, it activates the door switch, and the machine can now operate. When you choose the desired cycle, the selector switch signals the various components to operate. The length of each cycle is regulated by a timer.

The inside of the dishwasher, called the tub, can be made of either plastic or stainless steel. The steel dries dishes faster by preserving heat and dampens sound while the machine is running. The dishwater tub fills with water from the inlet valve. The float in the tub keeps the water from overflowing. Tubs are available in standard or tall sizes.

Most dishwashers have several different wash cycles. More options allow you to tailor the amount of energy and water for a particular load. At the end of the rinse cycle, an electric heating element is generally used to dry the dishes

Detergents can be scented, anti-bacterial, or even contain moisturizers. Biodegradable detergents are more environmentally friendly than conventional detergents. Ecover dishwasher tablets come pre-measured and don’t contain phosphates, chlorine, or other chemical residues. One tablet will clean a moderate load of dishes.

Use the amount of detergent recommended in your user’s manual, adjusting for load size, hardness of water, and soil stains. The harder the water is, the more detergent you need. Be sure the dispenser cups are clean and dry before adding detergent, to prevent caking.

A dishwasher needs cleaning just like any other appliance. To clean around the door and rubber seal, use a small brush dipped in soapy water. Pay special attention to the crevices. A household sponge and soapy water can be used to clean the insides of the dishwasher. Pull the bottom rack out and clean around the drain area. Place a cup of plain white vinegar in a cup and run the dishwasher through a cycle. This helps remove any musty odors or lingering dirt and grime.


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