Saving Thanksgiving: The Evolution of the Dishwasher

While we often take the dishwasher for granted, it bears an interesting history. Let’s take a look at how one of America’s most commonly used appliances came to be.

There’s a Keystone in every great invention. As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re starting to look forward to the large meals with family and friends. One aspect that we don’t look forward to as much, however, is the aftermath of this beloved holiday. Meals prepped and served will result in piles of dirty dishes in households across the country. While we often take the dishwasher for granted, it bears an interesting history. Let’s take a look at how one of America’s most commonly used appliances came to be. A Mechanical Evolution The invention of the first functional dishwasher came in the mid-1880s, but its function was not originally to reduce the burden of cleaning. The idea sprung forth because socialite and inventor Josephine Cochrane got tired of servants chipping her dishes during manual washing. John Houghton patented the first dishwashing appliance in 1850, but his design proved impractical. Cochrane, the daughter of a civil engineer, fine-tuned Houghton’s design, leading to a patent of a machine in 1886 whose basic mechanical functions still exist in the dishwashers we still use today. Cochrane’s dishwashing machine utilized a wire rack to support cups and plates, laid flat in a copper boiler. The dishes were cleaned by blasting pressurized water into the chamber. What started as a growing interest among her friends lead to orders from Illinois restaurants and hotels after a successful exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In the 1950s, dishwashers really began to grow in popularity during the post-war boom. Permanent plumbing in homes and electronic motors on the devices took this once-simple technology to the next level. Dishwasher technology has been evolving ever since. In the 1990s, dishwasher manufacturers started to incorporate energy conservation features that improved cleaning power while saving water and energy. Soil sensors were employed to measure food particles removed from the dishes – when no more particles were released, the sensors would deem the dishes clean. Variable washing times were incorporated based on how dirty dishes were, saving time and energy by only running the device as long as necessary. Dishwashers Today As of 2012, over 75% of American homes owned dishwashers. Modern dishwashers have built upon the technological advances throughout the device’s history to deliver the convenience and energy efficiency features we rely on today. Today’s dishwashers are designed to fit into a space within standard kitchen cabinetry. They feature a drop-down, front panel door which gives the user access to the machine’s interior. Dishwashers contain two or three racks, also called baskets, which hold the dishes. This design offers greater convenience versus machines of earlier years, where the entire tub had to be pulled out and dishes were unloaded from the top. More convenience features were added, such as cutlery baskets featured in the dish racks or even on the door panel of the dishwasher. Modern dishwashers are made using stainless steel or plastic tubs that are resistant to hot water and hold heat for dish drying. Earlier models used enamel or steel tubs with vinyl coating. Using a dishwasher offers many advantages versus handwashing. Dishwasher use is better for the environment, as these appliances use less water and conserve fuel used for the constant water heating associated with lengthy manual washing. Still, handwashing can be the more sustainable option if only a small amount of dishes need washing. Consumers today enjoy the many conveniences modern dishwashers feature. Pre-soak cycles and improved rotating sprayers make for cleaner dishes. Removable racks and trays allow the dishwasher’s configuration to be altered, accommodating more items. Supporting the Consumer Appliance Industry Over nearly 200 years of existence, dishwashers have evolved to become convenient, commonplace appliances in American households—and they certainly make Thanksgiving cleanup a much simpler task. Modern dishwashers couldn’t operate without electronic components for a variety of functions, from sensors to motors. So, as you enjoy this festive holiday meal and watch the dishes pile up, remember the thoughtful inventor that made your post meal chore just a little bit easier. And don’t forget you can find many Keystone products in most modern dishwashers electronics and housings, such as: LED Spacers & Lens Caps, Anti-Vibration Grommets, Test Points, Screws & Panel Hardware. and multi-purpose hardware. We are a leading manufacturer of precision electronic components and hardware, all well suited for use in today’s dishwashers and numerous other appliances and applications. To learn more about our products and services for dishwashers and other machine equipment, please contact us. In the meantime, we hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!