Dear Home Ec 101,
Here’s a question for those of us in Nashville who are conserving water due to the flood, what’s the best way to conserve water while washing dishes? I know the dishwasher is out. Should we wash dishes individually, or do the whole fill-up-the-sink-with-water thing? Does that really get dishes clean? It always seemed strange that all the dishes were rinsed in the same water — wouldn’t it get too sudsy? Or what about the mesh bag method (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUvshdQruYI)?
Thanks for your help! I think we have several weeks of drastic water conservation ahead of us!
The Creek Did Rise
My heart goes out to those of you in Nashville and thank you for being conscious of your consumption, it does make a difference.
Many areas of Nashville will be under a boil water advisory for some time, but it’s interesting to note that this doesn’t apply to water used to wash dishes. That is as long as 1 tablespoon of bleach is added per gallon of rinse water used.
Actually, dishwashers are actually quite conservative with their water use, provided they are only run for full loads and loaded properly to prevent the need for rewashing. That said, if I need to hand wash a bunch of dishes, an open dishwasher makes a great dish drainer.
Reduce the number of dishes used overall.
Reuse water glasses or bottles throughout the day and wipe knives between vegetables. Don’t forget items used for food preparation must be sanitized after touching raw meat. Serve directly from the pan when possible, instead of using serving dishes. Sure it’s not fancy, but when half the city was just under water, how fancy do you need to be? Increase the number of sandwiches and raw vegetables. It’s not a permanent lifestyle, consider it part of the war effort.
Remove all food debris before starting.
This drastically reduces the amount of wash water and soap needed. Those nylon scrapers that come with a certain home-based business’ stoneware are incredibly handy for plate scraping.
Use the hottest water possible for the wash water.
This will help the soap break up grease. I know commercials show a sink full of suds, but that’s actually a wasteful practice. Add just enough soap to the water that suds begin to foam and during the wash process, add additional soap as they begin to disappear, if necessary. Also the soap wand thing, sure it’s easy, but it uses a lot more soap than necessary, which increases the amount of rinse water needed. I have the best results with a kitchen dishcloth – I don’t like sponges.
Rinse dishes in a basin of cool water with 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon.
To get the most mileage out of the wash water wash dishes in this order: glassware, flatware, plates & bowls, servingware, pots and pans.
I am suspicious of the mesh bag trick, first because I don’t own a basin large enough to dunk a dinner’s worth of dishes effectively and second, not everyone eats off of plastic. My cheap-o Corelle Dinnerware may be sturdy, but it isn’t going to withstand abuse.
Also grease likes to cling to plastic, so if I didn’t throw environmentalism out the window completely and switch to disposable for a few days, I’d stick with our glassware to keep washing as easy as possible.
Submit your domestic questions to email@example.com.