Life lessons learned from the death of my dishwasher

Le roi est mort, vive le Roi

Le roi est mort, vive le Roi

The King is dead. The Waste King, that is… the forty-some-year-old portable dishwasher that came with our house back in 1997, and that had been dying a slow death by entropy ever since.

First the spring on the door went, then the latch on the detergent compartment. A couple years ago, the King started make a loud grinding noise during wash cycles, and more recently had sprung a slow muddy leak. But up until a couple weeks ago, when it abruptly died mid-cycle, the King continued to get my dishes clean.

Since then, I’ve been washing all my dishes by hand, resulting in a bit of an epiphany. For example, I used to think I didn’t have enough mugs, as I tended to dirty all of my favorite ones (heavy, with a slight lip) before I was ready to run a full load. But now I realize I have too many mugs; in fact, for my personal use, all I usually need is one.

Likewise, my kitchen is stocked with two complete sets of flatware, yet I’d often run out of teaspoons between loads. But now that I have to wash every damn spoon by hand, well, let’s just say that I’ve learned to be a bit more frugal.

And that’s the curious thing about labor saving devices like dishwashers—their purpose is to clean the dishes we have, and yet they inevitably lead to us dirtying even more dishes. Similarly, imagine if you had to wash all your own clothes by hand; dontcha think you might wear your clothes more times between washings? And with fewer washings, your clothes would last longer, meaning ultimately, you’d buy fewer clothes.

In fact, there’s hardly an appliance, machine or device I can think of which doesn’t inherently demand increased consumption, just by the very nature of owning it.


All that said, if you know of anybody with a portable dishwasher for sale, in decent working condition, I’m in the market for buying one. Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi.


  1. 1

    Steve spews:

    I noticed a number of years ago that the more dishes I have, the more dirty dishes I have as well.

  2. 4

    rhp6033 spews:

    I’m still trying to figure out how we go through twelve laundry baskets a week, three of them just towels, washcloths, etc. I could fit my own laundrey into a half-load a week.

  3. 5

    Daddy Love spews:

    I don’t think Jevon’s applies.

    We should really remember that it was not that long ago that householders the world over, even in (gadzooks!) America, were cutting, splitting, and burning wood to cook. Drawing water by hand for indoor use. Feeding, housing, and tediously hitching and unhitching horses for any travel over a few miles. Hand-washing clothes, hand-beating carpets, and so on and so on. The amount of work expended in simple activities of day-to-day living was crushing.

  4. 6

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    I’d say you got your money’s-worth out of that dishwasher, Goldy. Don’t expect a new one to last 40+ years, though.

  5. 8

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    In fact, there’s hardly an appliance, machine or device I can think of which doesn’t inherently demand increased consumption, just by the very nature of owning it.


  6. 9

    Bruce spews:

    You make some good points — for example, I wear clothes a lot more when I’m traveling and have to hand-wash them or pay high prices to get them washed. On the other hand, when I do hand-wash them, they get a lot more worn (stretched, etc.) than when I machine-wash them. All in all, my clothes get less wear at home than when I travel.

  7. 10

    YellowPup spews:

    I was hearing somewhere that the US army on the battlefield in Afghanistan is among the most advanced models of fuel efficiency you can find these days. They have to truck in all the fuel they use, so to waste there is (as you might imagine) both incredibly expensive and extremely dangerous.

  8. 11

    notme spews:

    Goldy, as you are learning with the hand washing of the dishes, dishwashers actually have two very important functions- they wash dishes sure, but of equal importance is that they hide the dirty ones.

  9. 13


    Lowes, near you, has dozens of dishwashers anxious to work for you. Just stop as you drive in!

    Sorry, bad joke!

  10. 14

    rhp6033 spews:

    5. Daddy Love spews:

    … We should really remember that it was not that long ago that householders the world over, even in (gadzooks!) America, were cutting, splitting, and burning wood to cook. Drawing water by hand for indoor use. Feeding, housing, and tediously hitching and unhitching horses for any travel over a few miles. Hand-washing clothes, hand-beating carpets, and so on and so on….

    Good point. I remember vaguely as a young child visiting my grandmother’s farm in the early 1960’s, where even though they got electricity about 1939 (thanks to F.D.R.’s programs), my grandmother still had a wood-burning stove, a scrubboard and washtub, and a hand-cranked wringer instead of a dryer.

    The stove became the central point of the house, providing both heat and food (toast was made by simply laying the bread on the top for about fifteen seconds, then flipping it for another fifteen, and toast was done!). Of course, she warned me it was hot and not to touch it, which I promptly did a few minutes later. She also warned my sister not to get her hands caught in the clothes wringer, but she promptly had to test the theory as well, resulting in a painful but memorable lesson.

    Less pleasant was the trips to the bathroom at night, which involved a flashlight and shoes.

    I was just thinking the other day that one of the big differences between society today and that of the first part of the last century is the absence of household servants for the middle class. Back then, a prosperous middle-class consisted of store proprietors, professionals, and some educated or talented tradesmen, who hired domestic servants to take care of the cooking and cleaning. But this was changed by (a) minimum wage legislation increasing the cost of such labor; (b) restrictive immigration laws reducing the supply of such labor; and (c) labor-saving electric devices (washers, dryers, vacumes, etc.) making such hired labor unnecessary.

  11. 15

    enough is enough spews:

    Does this mean we will be treated to another “fund raiser” so you can purchase a new dish washer?

    tax free living…it must be great.

  12. 17

    Steve spews:

    “they wash dishes sure, but of equal importance is that they hide the dirty ones”

    I don’t have a dishwasher but in a pinch the oven conceals the dirty dishes just fine.

  13. 18

    enough is enough spews:

    Goldy….try using a rag, some Joy, and some elbow grease…..who knows, a little real work might actually do you some good.

  14. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Geez, Goldy, are you gonna hold a wake for your dishwasher? It’s only a dishwasher. Although I see your point, anything that lasts 40 years probably deserves a funeral, and the bad news is it’s irreplaceable because nothing is made that good anymore. Do you think Waste King could still be in business if the stuff they make today lasted 40 years? Where would sales come from? How would they keep their Chinese factory busy? No, nowadays, a $1,000 refrigerator is history when a $2 plastic part breaks, because they design the frig so you can’t replace the $2 plastic part and so it won’t work without the $2 plastic part. I have a Whirlpool Gold frig and the repairman who charged me $350 to replace a 50-cent plastic part told me I was lucky to get 3 years out of the frig before I needed that $350 repair, and he also told me that when the $2 plastic part goes I might as well buy a new $1,000 frig because it costs $1,200 to replace the $2 plastic part. He said most of them last only 5 years so I’d better plan on buying a new frig in 2 years. They don’t make stuff the way they did 40 years ago. If they did, all the appliance companies would be out of business, all the appliance salesmen would be unemployed, and 10 million Chinese appliance factory workers would starve. Think of humanity, for God’s sake! How many Chinese children starved over the last 40 years because your damned dishwasher kept running? Have you thought about that? How can you sleep at night knowing your dishwasher lasted 40 years? How do you live with yourself?

  15. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    My 3-year-old Whirlpool dishwasher still works, and so far has only needed two repair service house calls, but the dish rack that used to be white is now a lavendar color. It looks like the 130-degree water coming out of our hot water tank, which we had to replace six months ago, burned it.

  16. 22

    CC "Bud" Baxter spews:

    They used to build refrigerators that would last twenty years or longer. The latest ones are shit in my opinion. Everything is being built to stop working in a few years so you need a new one.

    If you have a good older appliance that is still working good, I say milk the hell out of it and work it until it drops. Chances are you’ll never get another one to last that long.

  17. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 And don’t forget the Bush administration paid $100 a case for Coca-Cola for the troops.

    (Cue Republican “waste, fraud, and abuse” chorus to appropriate tune.)

  18. 26

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @15 Would you prefer that Goldy charge you 25 cents a word to post your insipid comments here?

  19. 28


    Your parents just sprung for a plane ticket back home. Soon you’ll be asking them to pay your property taxes. Now they have to send your money for a dishwasher?

    Poor Goldy’s parents.

  20. 29

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @28 Why work for what you can get free? As a Republican I’d expect you to understand that credo. It’s the guiding light of all Republican philosophy.

  21. 30

    LD spews:

    Do you idiots have a clue what debt is: You could have replaced every F’n home and dishwasher in America for 4 trillion in the last 2 yrs

  22. 33

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Great opportunity to teach your daughter how to do some domestic chores.
    When I was a kid with my brother & sister, we took turns.
    One cleaned the dishes off the table and scrap the big hunks into the garbage.
    One would wash.
    The other would dry.
    My mom would supervise and put the dried dishes away.
    It was a social time together.
    We didn’t have a dishwasher….we were the dishwashers.

    Screw the new dishwasher Goldy!
    Be a Luddite.
    Joy, a scrub sponge, dishcloth & towel.
    A new Goldstein tradition.

    Besides that 40 year-old machine probably didn’t do as good a job as you and your daughter could do anyway. Just glued chunks to the plate…right?

  23. 34

    Rujax! spews:


    Condescending freak…what Goldy chooses to teach his daughter is none of your fucking business.

  24. 35

    Bill spews:

    It’s usually the same with roads, expand them or build new ones and you end up creating more traffic

  25. 36

    Mark1 spews:

    Better take some handouts for a new one Goldy, under the guise of a “fund drive” of course. God forbid you actually have to work & earn money to pay for things like new appliances yourself. I see a phone call to Mommy in Philly in your future….thanks for the hearty laugh as always you clown. :)

    Good day all.

  26. 37

    doug spews:

    This reminds me of something I learned in one of my college history courses. Back in the 1920s, when the “Modern Home” movement really started taking off, all of these miracle devices were sold to households as labor saving devices. Merely vacuum the carpets, rather than hauling them into the backyard and hitting them with a stick for twenty minutes! And so on.

    However, the time spent on housekeeping work did not actually decline as these supposed labor-saving devices became more common. This is because the expectations of cleanliness increased at the same time. What was clean in 1910 was filthy in 1925. And so on to the modern day, where using forty gallons of fresh water every day to clean an already rather clean body is a prerequisite.

  27. 39

    rhp6033 spews:

    Doug @ 37: In my experience, the expectations of household cleanliness probably reached it’s peak in the mid-1960’s. This was the era of the predominately stay-at-home housewife among the middle class, and with vacume cleaners, electric (or gas) ovens, canned or frozen food, and spray-on window cleaners and furniture polishes, housework was supposed to be relatively “easy”.

    My own mother was a teacher, and she was quite concerned that visitors would see that our house wasn’t quite as clean as others where the wife stayed at home. So we had a detailed daily chore list designed to make up the difference. This involved cleaning our rooms daily and making our beds, helping with the dishes, etc. Weekly my sister and I vacumed the house, changed the sheets, dusted all the furniture, polished shoes, etc. As I grew older we added laundry chores and mowing the grass as well. All in all, it was pretty good training for living life on our own.

    But today many of the homes of people I visit would make even my mother cringe. I think that the move of wives into the workplace in the mid 1970’s changed expectations considerably.