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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Washing dishes: Too Much Detergent or Too Little Phosphate?

Funny About Money is a constant source of inspiration. She was complaining about the poor job her low-phosphate dishwasher detergent did. It left a yukky film.

I rolled my eyes. Easy for me, since Mr. FS does the dishes. I recalled reading a New York Times article about how a lot of the gray in washed clothes comes not from dirt, but from detergent residue. Could dishes be the same? NYT to the rescue! Some think we DO use too much detergent.

But then, using the killer research skills honed in graduate school (not really--no computer searches in those days), I discovered an article wherein many complained about the low-phosphate (and greener) dish detergent.

Who knows? As usual with me, I am able to remain GREEN AND FRUGAL by virtue of my low housekeeping standards. Oh yeah, also because Mr FS does the dishes.

I've written about my dishwashing fantasy before. When I stayed in a humble abode in Italy, I adored the dishwashing system. A cabinet over the sink with a dish drainer built in. You washed the dishes in the sink, then put them in the rack, which served both to dry and to store.

Compare to the convenient dishwasher. First, most people rinse. Then they start filling the dishwasher. Then they wait till it is full (Mr. FS), which takes a long time. OR they run the dishwasher when it has a mere handful of dishes (mother of FS). Then you have to put the stuff away. More steps than in the Italian system.

In search of a picture, I discovered that the Italian system is also the Finnish system.

Interestingly, my brother-in-law--like Mr FS--does the dishes. When he and my sil redid their kitchen, they took out the dishwasher. He is a scientist and decided that dishwashers were space hogs and not terribly efficient anyway.

Several years ago, I read the autobiography of Isabella Rosselini. It turns out that she, like her mother Ingrid Bergman, is an obsessive neat freak. She had a long section on her housekeeping habits, including a section on la vaiselle, dishwashing.

Amazingly enough, I just found this excerpt for you!


Duchesse said...

I will run a thin stream of hot water and wash dishes under that stream,using a tiny dribble of liquid soap per item or two (soap stays in brush), and a brush like Isabella's. (Will not use the brush on the end of the snake thing on the faucet!) Then they go into a drainer to air dry. This method, called "the American way" by my family, was the way my mother washed dishes, I suppose to preserve her hands. The hand never touches water.

Experimenting as a result of certain people's criticism has shown this uses no more water than a deep sinkful.

We used the dishwasher w/ a family but in the new condo have reverted to this method.

Linda said...

In March I stayed in an apartment in Seville, Spain and admired exactly the same dishwashing system. Very clever!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--My husband was thrilled to hear that you don't use a dishwasher. He feels vindicated!

@Linda--Why don't we have them here???????

Anonymous said...

Vinegar in the rinse cycle... perfect.

I grew up being half the dishwasher, my sister being the other half. I will (probably) never give up my electric one. I love it.

The method we used was the same one used by the Gilbreths (in Cheaper by the dozen). Pile dishes in one side of sink, silverware in cups. Let water splash over. Wash dishes, piling soapy in left sink. Rinse with running water in left sink, one dish at a time. Put in draining rack. Wash cups and mugs, putting soapy cups and mugs in left sink. Wash silverware, putting in soapy mugs in left sink. Rinse, filling cups with water as you go.

Fast and efficient and environmentally friendly. I still love my dishwasher.