Humble History of the Dishwasher

Humble History of the Dishwasher

Meet the dishwasher. A humble household appliance designed to clean dishes and utensils. You load dirty dishes, utensils, and cookware into the dishwasher. Dispense your detergent to the appropriate compartment drawer. Make sure there is an inflow of water, usually heated, press START, and the detergent is released, the water is pumped and circulated, the temperature rises, the dishes and glasses are rinsed with cold water, the cycle ends, you open it up, and your household chore is complete.

Pretty neat, huh, like a washing machine, for your dishes and kitchenware – fast hygienic, and time-saving. But where did this technology begin and how has it evolved over the years?

History of the Dishwasher

The first dishwasher was invented in America in 1850, and patented by Joel Houghton. This simple wooden machine had a hand-turned wheel that splashed water on dishes, wasn’t much to look at, or use, and to be fair, hardly workable. But it was a start.

Fast-forward slightly to 1865 and we can take a glimpse at the L.A. Alexander patent utilizing a hand crank and gearing system that spans a rack of dishes through the dishwasher. Again, not much of a success, but remember we are still in the Victorian Industrial Revolution era and the dishwasher is often looked at as a somewhat modern kitchen appliance.

Dishwasher History and Features
Dishwasher History and Features

A couple of decades later American inventor Josephine Cochrane invented the first successful hand-powered dishwasher after uttering “if nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.” And that she did. She unveiled the machine at the 1893 World Fair, but the only interested buyers were large restaurant and hotel chains.

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It wasn’t until 1924 that engineer William Howard Livens received confirmation from the patents office for his machine geared more towards domestic use, and it took another twenty-five years until the concept caught on with the general public. The electrification of households in Europe and North America began in the early 20th century in major cities and in areas served by electric railways and increased rapidly until about 1930 when 70% of households were electrified in the U.S. By the 1950s most homes were set up to include an electric dishwasher but it was still seen as a somewhat luxury kitchen appliance.

By the 1970s Several of the main producers that are still around today had their own version of the dishwashers that could now be produced cheaper and built to more compact sizes. Most of the first dishwashers were of the portable tabletop type. Electrolux’s D10 model of 1959 (nicknamed the Round Jar) was so popular it even spawned a knockoff version in East Germany. By the 1990’s it was out of the question not to leave a space for one when designing a new Western kitchen. Dishwashers are now a common appliance, especially in homes with large families leaving housework with one less chore to be undertaken in our hectic modern lifestyles.

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