ERROL CASTENS: Dishwasher dimwits don’t get it



Not sure how I gained the reputation of Dishwasher Nazi – especially how that reputation spread outside my household. I do not aim to intimidate – merely educate.

The chasm between those who understand and care about the proper use of a dishwasher and those who stumble mindlessly through life making a wreck of everything is vast but not unbridgeable.

Some of those in the latter camp approach dishwashers with a mixture of false hope, belief in magic, the wearing of ruby slippers and the assumption that dishwasher detergent is made of nuclear-charged unicorn sprinkles.

Others have a primitive, irrational fear that the dishwasher must be occupied by an ogre that eats any organic material fed it, from caked-on grease to human arms. Correspondingly, their inclination is to randomly dump armloads of plates, knives, glasses and pots on the monster and lock the dishwasher door before it can escape the machine.

In the real world, dishwashers are designed neither by Pixar nor by Stephen King. They are subject to the same laws of physics that protect poodles from spontaneous combustion and keep paint from climbing down off the walls and smothering us in the night.

Despite the hopes and fears of the unthinking, there are but three mere, plain, simple, elementary, straightforward and uncomplicated guidelines that define the proper use of dishwashers. Each is aimed at nothing mysterious or devious – just safety and thrift.

1. Dishwashers are not sand blasters.

2. Everything dirty must get hit by water.

3. Water must not be left standing.

The first rule means giving a few licks with a stainless-steel scrubby to the former streusel topping now baked into abstract art on a steel muffin pan or using a nylon scrubby on the caked evidence of yesterday morning’s eggs-over-easy stuck on the “no-stick” skillet.

The second rule requires space for water to flow. As satisfying as it might be for some compulsive organizers to grab a handful of identical teaspoons out of the sink and jam them into the silverware basket, too much likeness is a bad thing. Turn some up and some down. Mix them with forks and knives.

Rule three means loading anything with a lip or a concave bottom in a leaning position so it’ll drain and securing light items like measuring cups so they don’t flip and catch water that will inevitably spill back onto clean, dry dishes. Manually wash and dry egg cups, tea cups and other items that are almost as concave on the bottom as up top.

That’s it.

No unicorns needed.

No monsters lurking.

No ambushes from “Dishwasher Nazis.”

Errol Castens washes dishes in and reports for the Daily Journal from Oxford. Contact him at or (662) 816-1282.

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