Washing the dishes after a good meal with fraught with potential problems for the eco-warrior. While most environmentalists now agree that using a dishwasher can be more eco-friendly than washing dishes by hand, the environmental benefits are minor unless if you go about things in the right way. So how do you manage to balance your dishwasher use and love of the natural environment?
Prevention Is Better Than Cure; Cure Is Better Than Replacement
Ensuring that you use your dishwasher correctly is the first step in efficient dish washing and a regular maintenance routine which takes a matter of minutes each week will keep your dishwasher working efficiently for years to come. This efficiency is important; a poorly maintained dishwasher may require more water and electricity to do it’s job, or you may find that without it you need to wash your dishes several times to get them “clean”.
Secondary to this point is that if your dishwasher starts to fail despite correct usage and maintenance, many dishwasher faults can be easily fixed. Sites like Repair & Protect provide plenty of information on carrying out simple DIY repairs on your machine. By prolonging the life of your dishwasher through repairing your existing machine you’ll be saving yourself money on buying a replacement as well as reducing your carbon footprint.
Correct Dishwasher Use
Scrape Your Crockery
Once you’ve finished your meal it’s a good idea to scrape the worst of the food off your plates ready to compost or put into a digester. Doing so means less food residue inside your dishwasher which in turn means fewer potential problems with blockages. Not only will these blockages need to be cleared at some point, but also until you notice the problem your dishwasher won’t function as well.
Avoid Loose Cutlery
Dishwashers use jets of hot water mixed with detergent in order to clean your dishes. These jets of water feed out of a so-called “spray arm” that spins around at the bottom of your washer thus ensuring all your plates get a thorough clean.
One common mistake that people make is not placing cutlery into a cage but instead leaving it loose where it can fall down and prevent the spray arm from rotating properly. Not surprisingly this can lead to poor cleaning ability and in the worst cases a damaged motor.
Avoid Blocking The Water Jets
Since the clean water sprays up from the bottom of the dishwasher it’s important that you don’t unnecessarily block the flow of these water jets. This means placing plates etc. on the side at the bottom of the dishwasher while cups and bowls should be placed on the top shelf.
Eco-Friendly Dishwasher Detergents
There are numerous dishwasher detergents but consider buying an eco-friendly version like those made by Ecover to prevent unpleasant chemicals being sent down your drain.
In hard-water areas, limescale can be a serious problem that can lead to mineral build-ups and at the same time a shorter lifespan for your dishwasher. Commonly dishwasher salt is added to counteract this problem but another, more eco-friendly solution, is to use an anti-limescale ball which use magnetism to protect your dishwasher rather than chemistry.
Routine Dishwasher Maintenance
Check your door seals every few weeks to ensure there is no build-up of food grime which can cause the door seal to work less effectively. In addition it’s perfectly normal the the rubber seal around the door to break down over time but if the problem goes unnoticed it can lead to unfortunate leaks in your kitchen.
We mentioned the importance of the spray arm earlier on but one maintenance task is removing the spray arm altogether from time-to-time in order to ensure that the tiny water holes haven’t become filled with limescale or food deposits.
The final part of a regular dishwasher maintenance routine should focus on the main strainer at the bottom of the machine which ensures that your dishes get sprayed with clean water while food particles are filtered out. Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, sometimes the main strainer becomes clogged with food and so your machine has to work harder in order to do it’s job. Fortunately giving the strainer a quick clean under a running tap is an easy and efficient solution.