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The Dishwasher: A History

It's often that we associate things like science, technology, engineering, and innovation with the male specimen, and although it's true that men often like to dive deep in to these areas, it's crucial to not forget that women can also be extremely talented and handy in these fields.

Whether it surprises you or not, the inventor of one of our favourite household appliances - the dishwasher - was, in fact, a woman. Josephine Cochrane - granddaughter to John Fitch whom invented the steam boat - had engineering and inventing in her blood. As a rich, young lady, it was berating to often find her expensive crockery and fine chinas broken by her servants while they cleaned. Instead of throwing a tantrum, firing a few of her servants, then just buying new china, Cochrane just rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

And so, the dishwasher was born. Cochrane's mind concocted a machine to clean her dishes all the way back in the year 1886.

the inventor of the dishwasher

The invention was the first automatic dishwasher; a wooden wheel lay flat in a copper boiler, being turned either by hand or by a pully system. Josephine then inserted wire frames for her dishes to fit safely while being washed. This allowed the spinning of soapy hot water to be showered over the plates and dishes, cleaning her prized china without causing a scratch.

Fast forward to the 1920s, the dishwasher started to grow with the introduction of permanent plumbing. With Miele releasing the first, electric top-loading dishwasher, it was a shame that it was inevitably doomed. With the stock market crash looming in the 30s, people had no money to spend on the luxury appliance. And then war broke out.

World War 2 saw some tough times, however, it was William Howard Livens who managed to keep the dishwasher alive. In between designing chemical warfare, he persevered to create the dishwashers we know today. Finally, in 1960, Miele came forward with the first, fully-automated model that was front loading and included a drying element - just like the models we know today. However, it was still a costly endeavour, and usually would set a person back their entire annual salary.

Today

Today, the dishwasher is still a slightly more luxurious appliance, with only around 50% of UK households owning one. However, makes and models have come a long way since 1886, and there are a variety of styles, with smart dishwashers coming in to play this decade, with constant improvements to being eco friendly also a growing importance to both consumers and creators.

But how does a dishwasher actually work now?

Dishwashers follow a controlled sequence as follows;

story of the dishwasher

  1. First, water is added to the machine

  2. This water is then heated to the chosen temperature

  3. Once this is achieved, the detergent dispenser is then automatically opened at the correct time in the cycle

  4. Water is then pushed through the jets that also spin - just like Josephine Cochrane's model

  5. This dirty water is then drained

  6. A Rinse is then performed with clean water

  7. The machine is then drained

  8. The air inside is finally heated to dry the contents

  9. To control all of this, the machine contains a timer that regulates the length of each cycle, a sensor which detects the temperature of the water and air, a different sensor that controls the water level as well as activating the draining function, with even some machines containing sensors that can detect the dirtiness of the water so that when it's finally clear, the dishwasher knows the dishes are clean.

    Our Top Tips For Using Your Dishwasher

    • Don't overload the machine: if the water does not have enough space to spray onto your dishes, your load will not come out sparkly and clean

    • Don't stack items that fit together: this could mean water can not reach the dirty parts, therefore your dishes won't clean

    • It's best not to put wood, cast iron, fine china, crystal, or hand painted items into a dishwasher, as they can get damaged or even broken in the machine

    • Use slightly more detergent if your household supply is hard water

    • Use the dishwasher at a time when you have the highest water pressure available (so when no one else is showering, or the washing machine is on). This will allow your dishwasher has the highest water pressure, so the best cleaning power

    • Even if dishwasher proof, avoid putting plastic at the bottom of the dishwasher. This is where it's hottest, and so your plastic items are at risk of melting.

    • Make sure to clean filters regularly, and refill the salt when needed, to keep the machine working efficiently

      Don't have a dishwasher? No sweat, check out our list of great benefits for washing up by hand here:

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