To rinse or not to rinse: What is the right way to load a dishwasher?

The government might want us avoid pre-rinsing to save the planet, but Sophie Gallagher and Saman Javed still can’t agree on whether we should be doing it in the first place

Thursday 29 July 2021 15:50

Another day, another political figure starting a culture war to divide the good people of this nation: and they’ve finally come for the white goods. Although under 50 per cent of households in the UK have a dishwasher, Cop26 spokesperson Allegra Stratton said on Wednesday that one way of tackling the climate crisis (along with freezing bread and voting for the Green Party...) would be to forgo the pre-rinse stage before putting dirty items in the dishwasher.

Now maybe we’ve all been washing too many plates in the last 18 months – the day a constant rotation of sleeping, eating, and standing at the sink – or we all feel the maths doesn’t add up to make this minor adjustment while studies show a third of carbon emissions are caused by just 20 huge fossil fuel companies. But this has gone down like a cold bucket of sick.

Perhaps, not least, because it has shone a light on an already divisive rift between the washers and the don’t-washers. The rinsers and the unrinsed. Who among us will rinse a plate when it is about to be given to a robot designed specifically for that? Turns out, quite a lot of people.

Here non-rinser and rinser meet to present their case. Marigolds at the ready.

Sophie Gallagher: Don’t rinse

Before we start, in my defence, I do scrape food into the bin. The plate doesn’t journey straight from the table into the dishwasher. And if there are particularly stubborn food products – we’re thinking the cement-like-Weetabix or scrambled eggs of the world – then it might take a cursory splash under the tap. But on the whole plates do not need to be rinsed before the dishwasher.

I have not had a dishwasher at home for years now (perhaps you’re thinking as punishment for my non-rinsing misuse) but was raised in a house of rinsers. I have heard all the lines – “you’ll clog the filter”, “it doesn’t run as well”, “you’ll only have to put them through again” – and still I can’t quite find the patience to do the dishwasher’s job for it.

The sweet thrill of rebellion does feel dampened now I know Downing Street are cheering me on

If the dishwasher is going to position itself on the spectrum of household utilities as a luxurious option that only half of the country can afford (or have space for) then it needs to be pulling its weight. If I’m going to scrape all the food off, rinse the plate under the tap, and still do a big soak for the heavy duty numbers, I might as well just finish the job and wash it all by hand. I thought the dishwasher is meant to alleviate household chores, not multiply them?

Perhaps we can conclude it is some pathetic personal protest against the mountain of life admin that modern living requires, and while I can just about keep up with the ever-present laundry, bills, lateral flow tests, Whatsapp groups and buying birthday cards, the final straw is the rinse.

Although I have to say the sweet thrill of rebellion that this position might have once held does feel dampened now I know Downing Street are cheering me on.

Saman Javed: Rinse

While I agree that not every plate needs rinsing – a few crumbs from the sandwich I ate at lunchtime won’t do any harm – it simply doesn’t make sense to not rinse your dishes.

When washing dishes in the sink, most people will have a strainer on top of the plug hole which catches all the bits of leftover food, which can then be easily thrown away. Rinsing your plate before you put it in the dishwasher means you can still do that. Otherwise, where is all that food that you’re sticking straight into the dishwasher actually going?

I simply don’t want to be hit by a waft of this morning’s breakfast when I’ve just finished dinner

Judging by this Go-Pro footage, which captured the inside of a dishwasher, there actually is no specific catch for the food. One expert told HuffPost that the food is “pulverised by the washing process and goes down the drain”, which must be an added strain on water recycling. At least by rinsing my plates and catching the odd bits of food before I put it in the dishwasher, I can ensure that the waste ends up in my designated food recycling caddy.

Additionally, my plates are much more likely to come out pristine if I help my dishwasher out a bit and remove sticky sauces and food remnants. Even dishwasher tablet brand Finish’s argument for not rinsing your plates is that if your plates come out streaky, you can just spend more money and buy its “Finish Rinse Aid” to clean out your dishwasher...

And lastly, let’s not forget the stench. Unless you live in a big household, more often than not, it can take up to a day to fill your dishwasher. I simply don’t want to be hit by a waft of this morning’s breakfast when I’ve just finished dinner.

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