Low-Maintenance Appliances: Dishwashers

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The number of home appliances seems never-ending, and people who are low-maintenance minded forever try to draw a line of defense: I will buy this one, but then no more. But Christmastime leadeth us into temptation, so we buy one more. Everyone else has one, and friends are beginning to give you that queer look reserved for hermits and lepers. At least that’s what has happened to us because we don’t have a dishwasher. I am branded as being unkind to my wife, although I wash dishes, too. I have little regard anymore for the harried mother who rolls doleful eyes at me and moans that there is nothing for her children to do around the house to teach them the discipline of work. At the same time, she would sooner part with her husband than her dishwasher.

Most people are going to have a dishwasher, come what may, and there is little use discussing the possibilities for family life and even congenial party conversation when everyone pitches in and does the dishes by hand. It’s just one of those hateful jobs no one will do if he (especially he) can get out of it. Even though you must still scrape the dishes and rinse them, which is half of the hand-washing job, people still insist on the dishwasher to do the other half.

Dishwasher Do's and Don'ts

One plus is that dishwashers don’t waste as much as they used to. And if you will rinse the dishes before putting them into the washer, the machine will last longer. There’s a little timid disposal in the newer washers that feature a “pre-rinse cycle” but to depend on it to take the place of manually scraping and rinsing the dishes is to invite breakdowns due to plugging up the water outlet. There are two materials you should be especially wary of. Unpopped popcorn kernels go right through the grinder and plug the outlet. So will twist-ties, which can inadvertently get into the dishwasher because of careless scraping and rinsing. Little bits of bone can also plug the outlet.

Various types of food residue also work their way into the holes in the inner door where wiring, etc., come through. The residue is then exceedingly hard if not impossible to clean away. The best you can do is to keep the buildup at a minimum by rinsing dishes manually before putting them in the washer.

To save money and possibly repairs, don’t use the supplemental heat elements to dry dishes. Most times, you aren’t going to need the dishes until the next meal, and they can dry slowly with ordinary room air. Just open up the washer door, roll out the racks, and let the dishes dry by themselves.

Dishwashers that heat their own water usually save money since it is cheaper to have properly heated water just for the dishes than to keep all your water that hot. Most dishwasher detergents call for water at about 120° to 140°F.

If you run out of regular dishwasher soap, DO NOT use a laundry detergent. Don’t even try to use “just a little bit.” In the dishwasher, Tide will turn into a real tide of suds, and you’ll have to rinse the dishes by hand to get it all off.

Where well water is used, even though softened, it may still contain minerals that play havoc with the plastic-covered wire baskets in your dishwasher. Some water deteriorates baskets more than others, like the water in our neighborhood. Our neighbors just have to replace baskets periodically—and that’s $60 a crack. This is another reason wise country dwellers should have cisterns, though few do. Rainwater saves plumbing, saves softening costs, saves soap, washes hair, skin, and dishes better, saves appliances, and saves dishwasher racks.

Electronic timers on dishwashers allow you to save money in a way that few thought of before the rise in electric rate prices: They allow you to program the wash cycle in the middle of the night. Good idea. Utility companies have to gear up to serve customers at their highest electric usage—the peak hours, which are usually about 5:00 P.M. until 9:00 P.M. Demand for electricity is much lower from about 1:00 AM. to 5:00 AM., and in some states utility companies charge much less for it during these times to encourage use in off-peak hours.

Some manufacturers are making it easier for homeowners to do their own minor repairs on washers, dryers, and kitchen appliances. GE has a “Quick-Fix System” of easy-to-follow repair manuals and color-coded parts. Toll-free hotlines can also bring needed advice (see the box “Appliance 800 Numbers”). These are steps in the right direction. There’s no reason a society that can journey to the moon can’t make an appliance with easy-to-replace parts. It costs $20 to $30 just to get a repairman to step into your house.

Appliance “800” Numbers

Several manufacturers provide toll-free numbers for locating parts and service for their products. In addition to service help, some hotlines also handle consumer inquiries about the company’s products, plus general questions on appliance selection, use, and care.

Admiral Home Appliances

(800) 447—8371

(800) 322—6302 in Illinois

Carrier Corporation

(800) 227—7437

Emerson Quiet Kool Corporation

(800) 447—4700

(800) 322—4400 in Illinois

Fedders USA

(800) 972—5855 in Illinois

General Electric Company

(800) 626—2000

Hamilton Beach Division/Scovill, Inc.

(800) 334—2785

(800) 672—5872 in North Carolina

Kelvinator Appliance Company

(800) 245—0600

(800) 242—0580 in Pennsylvania

Patton Electric Company

(800) 348—1930

Roper Corporation

(800) 447—6737

(800) 323—7778 in Illinois

Tappan Company

(800) 322—4400 in Illinois

Whirlpool Corporation

(800) 253—1301

(800) 632—2243 in Michigan

(800) 253—1121 in Alaska and Hawaii

White-Westinghouse Appliance Company

(800) 245—0600

(800) 245—0580 in Pennsylvania

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