Dishwashers that don’t fade your dishes are important, because some people keep a lot of plates and cups. And if you leave them in the dishwasher for a month and put them back in the cupboard, they lose their color. I’ve recently started to notice this myself. It seems to be a problem with general consumer electronics.
I suspect that both dishwashers and consumer electronics are subject to some kind of diminishing returns effect once you start getting above a certain number of features, such as dishwasher energy efficiency and consumer electronics build quality, respectively.
The problem with most dishwashers is that they look like dishwashers. The problem with non-fading dishes is that they look like dishes. They are just too dull and grey. It’s hard to find a dishwasher that looks good in your kitchen.
That’s why I settled for a dishwasher that doesn’t fade your dishes. And it was worth paying extra for, because I got something else too: a dishwasher with a really high capacity. One of the reasons I bought the High Capacity Dishwasher was to make dinner easier…
It isn’t that hard to find a dishwasher that doesn’t fade your dishes. The problem is that they’re expensive, and you don’t know what you’re looking for until you’ve spent hours in the store trying to figure out whether it will.
After all, how do you know what “doesn’t fade your dishes” means? Well, if it doesn’t fade them at all it’s a good thing. If it does fade them, but not as much as other dishwashers, it’s OK. If it fades them a lot more than other dishwashers, that might not matter so much–but if the “more” is enough to make the difference between a fancy dinner party and a disaster, well, then you really want to avoid it. And so on.
(Originally published 2006.)
I’ve been using the same dishwasher for the last 13 or 14 years. I don’t know how old it is, because I never bothered to find out. It’s a Whirlpool model AO3AA, which is one of the best-selling dishwashers in the world. I got it in 1997, when I moved into a house with my then-boyfriend. And since then, as far as I know, there hasn’t been any new model of dishwasher that’s worked any better than this one does.
But it’s definitely getting old. There are lots of little parts inside that have rusted solid and are no longer usable: the racks, the glassware rack, all the rollers and wheels and metal rods. The motor and heating element are starting to show their age too: we’ve had to replace them twice in recent years because they get hot enough to burn you if you touch them.
I was hoping our new house would have a dishwasher that didn’t fade my dishes, because our current one has never done so – but there was no such thing on offer at our local appliance store (Home Depot) or in their online catalogue.
So what is still working well? Well, there’s the heating element:
A dishwasher is a fairly low-tech piece of equipment. It doesn’t require the same level of engineering that we put into, say, televisions or washing machines. It’s not surprising that it will fade your dishes, because it’s a machine—just like most machines, it’s not built to last forever.
Someday when you stop running the dishwasher, what will happen? There are two main causes of failure in dishwashers: material fatigue and mechanical wear. Material fatigue is caused by tiny cracks in your dishwasher’s metal parts.* Mechanical wear is caused by friction between the plates and the washer racks.
Dishwashers are an example of a product that has been improved so much that it is hard to remember what life was like at the start.
Although the dishwasher has been around for a long time, most of us don’t have one. In America right now every fifth house doesn’t have one, and in Europe almost as many do.
Why not? They’re expensive, and they take up a lot of space. When you first got your new dishwasher, you probably met someone else who was just getting their new dishwasher, and the two of you were talking about the parts and how easy it was to put it together. You were excited by all this tech talk; you were imagining how cool being able to wash dishes with just water instead of soap would be! But then a few weeks later you found yourself using the same dishes again, and you realized that the new dishwasher wasn’t washing some of them quite as well as it used to.
Chances are, you don’t actually like your dishwasher. Because dishwashers don’t do a very good job cleaning dishes.
You may have owned a dishwasher for years, and you might even be quite happy with it. But that doesn’t mean your dishwasher is doing its job well. A professional test kitchen can wash the same plates in 15 minutes that it takes to wash the same plates in an ordinary dishwasher, but most people never bother to check.
Most dishes come out of the dishwasher looking less than clean, and they don’t look dirty enough to keep from getting more stains on them than you could ever get just by hand-washing them (and most of us aren’t washing our own dishes anyhow). It’s as if you were buying tires for your car that were so worn out that they didn’t even make them anymore: the treads looked fine, but the ride was terrible.