The Dishwashing Water Smack-down

My husband and I have a recurring “discussion” (I wouldn’t classify it as an argument or even disagreement, really) about proper dishwasher use. When we first had a dishwasher installed over two years ago now, I did a lot of research. These wonder appliances clean better and more efficiently than even the most frugal hand washer, my sources told me.

So I wrote all about greening your dishwasher. It turns out that using a dishwasher is only more efficient than hand washing if you avoid extra rinse cycles and the heat dry options. Further, if you rinse dishes in the sink before placing them in the dishwasher, you probably won’t see any water savings. That’s right: Don’t rinse your dishes! (Sadly, I did not see any water savings after one year of dishwasher use. Read all about it in this startling post: Do dishwashers save water? Hmmmm.)

Twist 100% Biodegradable Sponges

This is a quick drive-by post to recommend Twist biodegradable sponges. I picked up the Twist loofah scrubby on a whim at Whole Foods and used it until it fell apart after about eight months. (I realize this may sound extremely gross to some people . . . but it dried out completely between dish-washings and never seemed to smell or look bad.) When I was done, I put it into my compost bin. I recommend it!

I see Twist makes other biodegradable sponges and rags, too. Check them out!

Twist European Sponge Cloths

Twist Naked Sponge

Twist dish dumpling scrub pad

Twist natural kit

Twist naked kit

Don’t Rinse Your Dishes!

We hear this tip again and again: don’t rinse your dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Still, from my observations, most people do rinse dishes, potentially wasting hundreds of gallons of water each year.

Today’s dishwashers and detergents are designed to whisk away food bits and leave your dishes sparkling clean. I have tested this with my own new dishwasher and Biokleen Dishwashing Powder. I’ve put in yogurt containers with ½ cup of expired yogurt still in there. (I know I should be better about not wasting food, so I did feel bad about this!) Pans with cheese and bits of pasta still baked on. A dish full of old whipped cream. Spoons coated in dried-up rice. Jars with the peanut butter scraped out.

Eco-friendly Dishwasher Detergents

There are a lot of eco-friendly dishwashing detergents out there—but how do they work? It can be frustrating experimenting with so-called green products, only to spend extra money on products that don’t function nearly as well as their toxic counterparts. Believe me—I struggled through all of this during my liquid dish soap search.

Luckily I hit the jackpot with the first dishwashing detergent I tried: Biokleen automatic dish powder. I wrote all about it here: Best eco-friendly dishwasher detergent: Biokleen! So should everyone rush out and buy my recommendation? Not so fast. What works for me here in Portland may not work somewhere else with different water. We have very soft water here.

Do Dishwashers Save Water? Hmmm.

As 2010 drew to a close and everyone around the world celebrated with fireworks and noisemakers, I had just one thing on my mind: Did my dishwasher fulfill its green promise? As I reported last January, we welcomed our trusty Energy Star appliance to the family after an entire adulthood of hand washing dishes.

Oh how wonderful these last twelve months have been! No more hours hunched over a sink full of dirty dishes. Just stacks of sparkling clean plates, forks, pots, and pans. And the best part is–the dishwasher saves water and energy over even the thriftiest hand washer!

Or so I’d heard. After a year-long study (sample size: 1), we ran the numbers. Did we save water in our Year of the Dishwasher compared to the previous year? The answer: no. We used almost the exact same amount of water both years. How could this be? Were we thriftier than the thriftiest hand washer after all? Maybe the dishwasher couldn’t compete with that.

Green Baby Guide’s Most Popular Posts of All Time

Happy birthday to us! We’re celebrating three years of blogging (as of last Friday) by reviewing our top ten posts of all time here on the Green Baby Guide. Now, according to our stats, A Fan of Fans has the most views of any post, but we chalk that up to a Googling fluke. So how to do we measure the success of a post? By the reception it gets from you, our dedicated readers! Here are the top ten most-commented-upon posts of all time!*

Four of our most popular posts were about . . . you guessed it: diapers

#10, tied with 23 comments each:

Green Dishwasher Detergent and Rinse Agents

We have a magical contraption at my house.  You put dirty plates and cups onto its gleaming white racks, push some buttons, and they come out clean!  Well actually, they’re often a bit filmy with bits of goo here and there.

Having a dishwasher is a huge life change after eight years of hand washing, but we were sad to see that our dishes don’t come clean when using Biokleen Dishwasher Detergent.  Rebecca is also the proud owner of a new dishwasher, and she wrote a great post about the merits of Biokleen powder over even traditional detergent, but we were only able to find the liquid locally.  And shockingly, it didn’t work as well for us as other cleaners.  Should we chuck the rest of the bottle and give up on our dreams of gleaming dishes, or invest in mainstream rinse agents that may or may not work?

Green Your Dishwasher!

As a proud dishwasher owner for the last four months, I obviously qualify as an expert. I’ve even learned a few more tricks since my initial dishwasher post. According to the Energy Star website, an Energy Star dishwasher uses 5.8 gallons of water or less per load. Most studies indicate that using the dishwasher will save money and water compared to hand washing. However, remember that  this is not the case if you pre-rinse dishes (wasting up to 20 gallons of water per load!) or use the heat dry option! The estimated energy usage that you see on that Energy Star tag are based on running loads on the normal cycle and letting the dishes air dry.

Earth Day Sins Confessed

It’s official. Lately I’ve become an environmental slacker. Yes, I still compost, recycle, cloth diaper, and shop secondhand. Yes, I get a certain thrill out of using cloth grocery bags and buying in bulk. But lately I’ve committed some eco-transgressions that I feel I must acknowledge as Earth Day looms.  It isn’t quite like I’ve taken a match to the planet, (as the dramatic photo would suggest) but it doesn’t feel great to share my shortcomings.  Here goes…

My sin:
We remodeled our kitchen. In a way this seems like a good thing–but it also means that we ate lukewarm microwaved dinners off of paper plates for a few weeks. (Chinet, of course, because they’re 100% recycled!) We tried to salvage what we could of our old kitchen, but most of our built-in cabinets had to go to wood recycling. There are some heaps of stuff in the landfill that we recently added. (Ugh!)

The Best Eco-friendly Dishwasher Detergent: Biokleen!

Okay, to be honest I haven’t tried that many dishwasher detergents. The reality is, I didn’t have a chance: the very first detergent I tried after getting a dishwasher two months ago worked miracles! My mom recommended Biokleen dish powder to me after  trying a few different brands with little success. She actually thought she had a subpar dishwasher because her dishes came out caked in food particles. Once she started using Biokleen, however, her dishes emerged shiny and clean.
biokleen automatic dish powder

With that promising testimony, I bought the canister of Biokleen. It seems expensive at $11.99 for 32 oz., but you use just one tablespoon per load, and one canister promises 64 loads. (So that’s $.187/load.) I wish it came in a cardboard box instead of a plastic canister, but I’m guessing that one canister will last over half a year. I’ve been using it for over two months now, and my dishes are spotless.