Dishwashers are a staple in most homes. They help keep the place clean while keeping down on chores, saving you time, energy, and yes, money. While it might not seem like it, dishwashers actually use significantly less water than hand washing does, up to around 27 gallons more, depending on the size of the dirty dish pile. When you’re out camping, you just can’t afford to lose that much water. With an RV dishwasher, you can save water, money, and time while keeping your rig nice and clean. Even in a house or apartment, having a smaller dishwasher can be a plus. If you’re renting, don’t have a lot of space, or don’t have a way to pipe water to a new appliance, these are for you. You won’t have to pipe it up to a water source like your sink or laundry machines are. Instead, you can use the water from your sink. For small dishwashers that are not directly connected, there are two main types: countertop and portable.
Countertop Dishwashers vs. Portable Dishwashers
To find the best dishwasher for your rig, it’s important to know how often you want to wash dishes and what kind of space you have available. Make sure to consider size, location, and water consumption as well. For countertop and portable dishwashers, the countertop model sits on the countertop next to the sink and the portable model can be stored in a cabinet or pantry and stored when not in use. While there are several pros and cons of each, it all depends on your RV setup and capabilities.
Portable Dishwasher Pros and Cons
Portable dishwashers are best for people who don’t have a lot of countertop space to spare. They can wash almost as much as a built-in dishwasher, depending on the size of course, and can work in almost any home as long as you have a faucet. Because it can be stored in a cabinet or on a shelf, you can keep your counter space open and keep it out of sight when it’s not in use. It can preserve any custom cabinets you might have, add counter space, and help you avoid expensive kitchen renovations. And even with the small size, they clean very efficiently.
On the other hand, there are fewer options per brand to choose from with portable RV dishwashers. There are also the disadvantages that come with the portable nature of the piece, namely noise and durability. With built-in dishwashers, there is the cabinet and the larger exterior of the unit to insulate the sound and keep things a little quieter. Because portable dishwashers don’t always have that insulation, they sometimes sound a little noisier. As for durability, it comes down to the design of the piece. Because it’s designed to be moved around, there are more points of vulnerability available. Just like any portable appliance, if you want it to work well in the future, take care to handle it well in the present.
Countertop Dishwasher Pros and Cons
Countertop dishwashers are great if you don’t have the space to store a portable dishwasher, as they sit on your countertop next to your sink. You don’t have to store it out of sight when you’re not using it and some even come with a usable top on it so that you don’t lose as much countertop space. They’re easy to use and connect straight up to your sink faucet or anywhere you have water. They’re affordable and great for a DIY project. If you are thinking about moving it about from countertop to countertop, though, make sure to chose a lightweight model, as they are not all designed for frequent movement. And of course, make sure to measure your countertop before purchasing one, as they are not designed to overhang it and are generally best if there is space around it.
On the other hand, however, there are a few cons. First is the obvious: countertop space. Because they are not meant to be stored in a cabinet or other space, your countertop can get smaller, especially if you have a model without a useable top. Next, they are typically heavier and difficult to move or store when not in use. Because they are generally designed to stay in one place, they weigh more than the portable counterparts. Finally, they may only be able to wash a few place settings at a time with no room for larger pots and pans. While this might not be a problem if you don’t have a lot of dishes, you will need to know how many dishes you are wanting your dishwasher to wash before you buy.
No matter which model you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind. They will both need a water source as well as enough water in your freshwater tank to clean the dishes and enough space in your gray water tank to handle the amount of gray water coming from it. This might not be as important to consider if you are camping at a resort or campground, however, it needs to be considered if you are going to be boondocking. Also, check to make sure that your generator and/or inverter can handle the addition of another appliance. While they don’t take as much power as some other larger appliances, it’s still important to check to see if your electrical system can handle it. And finally, be sure to prepare it for winter as you would any other water-consuming unit in your vehicle, as dishwashers can freeze if the water is left in them.
Have you ever heard the story that dishwashers are a waste because hand washing your dishes saves more water? Well, that’s just not true. At all. Unless you’re running your dishwasher with a single spoon in it and nothing more, then the opposite is actually true. In fact, the amount of water saved by using a dishwasher is staggering. With a difference of up to 27 gallons of water between handwashing and using a dishwasher, the water adds up, leading to a higher water bill, more water used (and wasted), and less space available in your gray water tank. Once you see the numbers laid out, the answer is clear; dishwashers win. But is there a way to increase this efficiency? The answer to that is of course! There are a ton of tips to get the most out of this terrific appliance.
Wash the dishes with a full load. There’s no rule about what time of day to wash your dishes, however, there is a rule about how full you should let your dishwasher get before running through the wash cycle. It’s best to run it when it’s full or close to it and it’s okay to leave the dishes in there for another day as long as there are no chunks of food on them.
Don’t let it get too full, though. If the dishwasher is too full, though, the efficiency can drop. Make sure to load the dishwasher properly, with smaller cups, glasses, mugs, bowls, and the like on the top shelf and plates, skillets, serving dishes, and such on the bottom shelf. Try not to place large items on the sides, as this can prevent the water from getting to all the dishes in turn. Dishwashers work with a spray arm that sends water all around the dishwasher and piling up the dishes and stuffing the dishwasher can prevent the water from circulating, leading to still dirty dishwashers and frustration.
Don’t pre-rinse the dishes. Yep, you heard that right. While it’s a good idea to scrape them off, don’t rinse the dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. Many dishwasher detergents are made to attach to the food particles on your dishes to clean stronger and better. Without the debris on the dish, however, there is nothing for the soap to latch onto, which can actually lead to a less effective result. And that’s not even mentioning the waste of water from rinsing the dishes.
Use the right detergent and make sure your rinse aid reservoir is full. This will make sure that the water sheets over the dishes rather than beading up and causing spots to occur. And if you have hard water, make sure to clean the dishwasher with vinegar to remove the build-up inside.
Let the dishes air dry. Many dishwashers have a heated dry option and while it’s a nice and convenient option, it’s not the most effective. For a more energy-efficient method, use the air dry mode or prop the door open and let them sit to air dry.
Keep an eye on the other appliances. Don’t place the dishwasher close to something like the refrigerator, as the heat generated by the dishwasher can cause the refrigerator to work harder than it needs to and try not to run it during the warmest part of the day, as the heat can warm up the interior of your RV, causing your RV air conditioner to work harder to compensate for it.
Common Dishwashing Mistakes To Avoid
While dishwashers are a terrific tool, there are certain things you should avoid doing, whether it’s due to sanitation reasons, keeping your cookware in better shape, or other reasons.
There are several things you shouldn’t put in your dishwasher. Wood items should be kept out, as the abrasive detergent can cause the wood to become worn over time and the heat from the drying cycle can even cause it to become damaged such as warping or cracking. Cast iron should also be kept out, as it needs to be seasoned, and washing it will remove this barrier, potentially causing the pan to rust. Aluminum cookware can technically be included, however, it will eventually lose its shine and become dull. Copper or other precious metals should be kept out, as they could dull or discolor in the washer. In the same vein, fine china, crystal, or painted plates (also anything made with carved antler or bone handles) should be kept out, as they are delicate and can become dull, chipped, or can lose their finish. Nonstick cookware should be kept out, as the nonstick coating doesn’t hold up to turbulent water. There are, however, items that are labeled as “dishwasher safe” by the manufacturer, and you can make an exception for these. Certain soft plastic items should be kept out as well, however, you should check with the manufacturer for these, as some are okay. Kitchen knives should be kept out as well, as the detergent will dull the knife and the hot water could loosen the knife’s handle.
Don’t let the dishes pile up. Though letting them sit for a day is generally okay, if there are a ton of stains and food bits in there, then the bacteria that may be there can spread, not to mention the difficulty of cleaning a crusty plate of food built-up.
Don’t use too much soap. Not only is this wasteful, but it can also lead to cloudy dishes.
If you are using a towel to dry the dishes, make sure you are using a clean towel. Using a dirty towel can lead to transferring bacteria, spills, and other things onto your just-cleaned dishes.
Don’t forget to empty the food trap. This is something that many people forget to do. Lift up the arm at the bottom of the dishwasher and you’ll find the food trap. This bit collects any extra food particles that are left and can get clogged if you’re not cleaning it out, which can prevent the dishwasher from running smoothly.