Dishwashers and Other Kitchen Clean-Up Helpers

Dishwashers: What would we do without dishwashers? If there's any appliance in the kitchen that saves more time and effort, I don't know what it is--just load it up and go! With today's improved models, it is not even necessary to pre-rinse them before loading; in fact, they work more efficiently and save water by not pre-rinsing. Just scrape off large food scraps and load. Better models are energy efficient, use less water and detergent, clean and dry better and are quiet. There are two basic categories of dishwashers on the market today, and there is a lot of variance in each category as far as features are concerned. They are:

Semi-Integrated--This is your classic dishwasher with the operational controls on the outside. The lower door panel can be black, white, or stainless steel depending on model. Some models will accept a custom cabinet panel. These are generally less expensive that the fully integrated types, but still there is a lot of choice in the number of features, wash cycles and levels of quietness.

Fully Integrated--This type hides the controls on the top edge of the door for a sleeker look. Because the controls are concealed, the appliance usually emits a beep to alert you when the cycle is finished. The full height door can be black, white, or stainless steel depending on model, or some can accept custom cabinet panels. Price will depend on the number of wash programs, quietness levels and number of special features for a particular model. Some dishwashers are so quiet today that you can hardly tell when they are running. Some even have sensors that detect the amount of soil on the dishes and adjust the amount of water used accordingly.

Do look for the Energy Star label when choosing a dishwasher. Energy Star rated dishwashers use less water and energy--and you save money!

All dishwashers are a standard 24" wide, but Miele even makes an 18" wide model that is especially useful for bars, pool houses and butler's pantries. Brands to explore are Asko, Bosch, Fisher & Paykel, G.E. Monogram, KitchenAid, LG, Miele, and Viking.

Garbage Disposals: Garbage disposals have become very commonplace
in our kitchens, but there are pros and cons. The pros are convenience, and--convenience. The cons are more numerous. Garbage disposals are having an increasing environmental impact with their use of water, and the additional burden they place on sewage treatment facilities. It is suggested that it is even better to throw food waste in the trash than send it down the disposal. If you are on a septic system, the use of a disposal will build up the solids and sludge in the septic tank and it will
have to be pumped more frequently. The best way to dispose of
vegetable and fruit peelings, other plant material (not meat), egg shells, coffee grounds, etc., is in a compost pile in your garden. You will make black gold to feed your plants, and your garden will be the envy of the neighborhood.

What is okay to send down the disposal? Small food scraps scraped off plates, bits of meat without bones, fruit without pits, soft things like rice and pasta. There's controversy about putting egg shells and coffee grounds down disposals--some say yes, some no. Grinding citrus peels periodically will freshen it. What should you not grind? Bones, fruit pits as from peaches and fibrous foods such as celery, corn husks and cobs, pineapple, fat and grease, paint, and any toxic chemicals. I personally don't have one and I've never felt the lack.

If you want to have a garbage disposal, InSinkErator makes a good one. They even make a special model for septic systems called Septic Assist that releases additional microorganisms from a replaceable cartridge to help "eat up" the waste. If you have a disposal, consider installing a button called an "air switch" in your countertop to operate it. They are available in colors to match your faucet or blend with your countertop. Franke, InSinkErator and Mountain Plumbing are good sources for these. Also, remember that the disposal will take up a good bit of space under your sink limiting room for accessories like racks for towels and cleaning supplies or roll out trash cans you may like. If you have an unequal double bowl sink, usually the disposal will be attached to the smaller bowl.

Trash Compactors: Trash compactors are not as popular as they once were. More people are opting to install recycling centers to separate glass, plastic, paper, etc. from food scraps. And a lot of the food scraps (not meat) can be put to good use in a compost bin to turn into rich soil for your garden.

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