February 19, 2018

Underwear in Your Dishwasher – Versatility Only Goes So Far

Washing baseball caps in the dishwasher is old news; I’m quite familiar with the idea of sanitizing kitchen sponges there too, and we’ve written here before about cooking lasagna in the dishwasher, but washing your underwear?

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz of the Chicago Tribune writes of her adventures with her dishwasher:

One recent evening, I ran a variety of non-kitchen items through a dishwasher cycle, including flip-flops, baseball caps, hairbrushes, makeup brushes, dish sponges and, the test of honor, underwear. The computer keyboard was a risk I was unwilling to take.

I also, separately, made dinner in the dishwasher, the goal being a simple meal of poached salmon, steamed asparagus and baked potato. I avoided the dishwasher lasagna Florentine, for which there is a recipe online, and which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

The results, although not tragic, were unremarkable.

The baseball caps, two of which I placed on the bottom rack and two on the top, emerged after a normal wash cycle smelling far better than they had going in (thanks to the lemon-scented detergent), with no damage to fabric or shape. Some stains appeared to have faded, but were they immaculate? No. And they were soaking wet.

The plastic flip-flops, long smudged with dirt, still looked filthy when the cycle was over but were undamaged. The plastic hairbrush (hair removed) and an eyeshadow brush caked in Halloween makeup definitely looked cleaner, but not thoroughly. Perhaps the best outcome was for the dish sponges, which went in disgusting and came out looking and smelling almost new.
The two pairs of cotton underwear I draped over the prongs on the top rack had seen better days, poor things. My sopping wet skivvies, which had drooped down through the rack’s cracks like Dali’s melting clocks, were cleaner, but not perfectly, and the fabric looked as if it had been stretched out.

Perhaps the meal would be more triumphant.

Following a recipe for dishwasher salmon from Bob Blumer, author of “The Surreal Gourmet,” I greased the shiny side of a 12-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil with olive oil and placed two salmon fillets on top. I drizzled the salmon with freshly squeezed lime juice, added salt and pepper, then wrapped the aluminum foil tightly around the fillets, and wrapped another layer of foil around that. I prepared the asparagus the same way.

I had already run the potatoes through the dishwasher to clean them (a good time-saving trick). I wrapped them in aluminum foil, as well, hoping another cycle would soften them more. With everything on the top rack, I ran a normal cycle, high heat, no soap.

Dinner was meh. The salmon, while cooked, was a little rubbery and not flavorful. The potatoes weren’t cooked nearly enough. The asparagus, however, was steamed perfectly, to a crisp al dente, far better than the mushy spears I often end up with when I throw them in a pot.

Still, the meal was a colossal waste of water. Unless every other appliance in your kitchen has failed, leave your cooking to the stove.

Dish sponges, baseball caps, gardening tools and hard plastic toys are probably the best candidates for a dishwasher cleaning — the high heat sanitizes the items.

As for underwear, when times are desperate or it’s just too cold outside, I’d rather just hand-wash in Woolite — as my mom used to do.

A Unique Home Appliance Test Lab

Loading a washing machine may seem like a no-brainer, but the Contra Coasta Times’ Marni Jameson and her family can tell you differently.  Read on:

This week, our home laboratory revealed that a late-model washer would not withstand a cycle of hair-covered saddle pads. Our lab recommends that customers only wash multiple saddle pads — garments that sit between saddle and horse to collect hair — if they want to replace their basements.

Here’s how the experiment was conducted: One teenage daughter stuffed four quilt saddle

pads into a front-load machine. Soon after, the washer sloshed to a halt. I looked through the fisheye door and saw floating garments. I hit the drain/spin cycle. Nothing. The machine wouldn’t drain.I went in search of a neck to wring. The oblivious culprit was on the lam. I headed back to the laundry room where I was verging on a primal scream, when Dan, my husband, walked in. “Problem?” (He’s so intuitive.)

Our smart kids can discuss “The Odyssey” and replicate DNA in a test tube, I tell him, but don’t know not to cram hair-covered saddle pads in the washer.

He left the test center, moaning something about a repairman and $200.

Because $200 could buy one Stuart Weitzman stiletto, I rolled up my sleeves and pulled

on all the machine’s panels until one opened — a trapdoor. Inside was a gizmo, which I twisted. Water gushed in a promising way. A drain!I packed the area with towels, and yanked out the gizmo, a little cage contraption packed with — you’ll never guess — horse hair. I pulled out a wad the size of a Yorkshire terrier, then twisted the gizmo back in to stem the tide. I pressed spin. The machine whirled into action.

Feeling pretty dang proud (Who needs a repairman, or even a man?), I took the terrier to Dan’s basement office.

“You found the problem,” he said.

I fixed the problem, I said, a little too proudly.

Then we both heard an unusual sound. We rounded the corner of his office. I screamed so they could hear me in Taiwan, where workers are making washing machines this minute. Dan raced for a bucket. Water streamed through the basement ceiling, around the recessed lights.

All hands on deck, I shouted usefully.

My innocent daughter grabbed towels and met me in the laundry room, where water spewed from the trapdoor. I grabbed the gizmo, which apparently I hadn’t tightened all the way, (oops) and twisted. The water stopped, but a pond remained.

Later, Dan and I studied the water damage to the ceiling. Wonder what it’s going to cost to repair that, I said.

“More than a washing machine repair,” he said.

Murderous methods

Here are more ways to kill major home appliances, according to our test center and experts from Whirlpool, the world’s leading manufacturer of home appliances:

To kill your washer or dryer:

  • Pour detergent haphazardly into the washing machine. Don’t bother using those pesky cap lines to measure soap, and don’t put detergent in the right dispenser. Too much or the wrong kind of detergent (regular in an HE machine) makes machines work harder, and results in longer cycle times, poorer rinsing performance, and an odorous residue, says Monica Teague, Whirlpool spokeswoman.
  • Don’t check your machine’s hoses and traps. Let lint, missing socks and horse hair accumulate. The upside of a washer that overflows is a clean floor.
  • Don’t ever clean your machine. Leave the job of cleaning a washing machine (with hot water and specially designed cleansers) to phobics who worry that residue from dirty laundry could gum up their machines.
  • Ignore the dryer sign that reads, “Clean before each use.” Wait until the lint filter is so full you could stuff a pillow. Clogged lint traps can burn out a dryer, and even catch fire.
  • Remove the outdoor screen covering your dryer vent or don’t put one in. This creates a nice place for critters to build homes.To kill your oven or range:
  • Throw away your use and care manual. Or start the oven with the manual still inside. Consumers could avoid or resolve more than 50 percent of all appliance problems by reading the instructions, says Steve Swayne, technology leader for Whirlpool’s Institute of Kitchen Science.
  • Spray oven cleaner all over the outside of the appliance. If you’re after that distressed look, you’ll get it. Oven cleaning acid (intended only for oven interiors) can corrode the finish on knobs, and ruin control panels.
  • Run the self-clean cycle with stuff in the oven. The self-clean cycle heats up to 850 degrees, and can destroy pot handles, and cause greasy outdoor grills to catch fire. This cycle also ruins oven racks, which you’re supposed to remove, and keeps them from sliding smoothly.
  • Keep your oven filthy. This will attract bugs and other critters looking for warmth and food. Swayne once found a roasted snake in a range.
  • Appliance Repair Saga

    We all have to deal with this on occasion- here’s a lighthearted look at one woman’s recent experience with an appliance failure.

    Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair.

    Not long ago, the electronic control panel on our stove went south, mid-meat loaf. Where moments before had been a glittery display panel reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise was now the Black Screen of Death. An ominous notation appeared: “Error F5.”

    Instantly, I went into Denial. As in, this can’t be happening to me! This range is practically new! It had great ratings! I even went so far as to search online as to what Error F5 was. It was possible, I thought (see Denial, above) that it could be something innocuous. But basically Error F5 is code for “This is SO going to cost you.”

    Finding out that the first available repair appointment from the Authorized Dealer was going to be nine days away made an easy segue into Stage 2: Anger. Loads of anger.

    One teensy weensy component goes bad and the entire control board has to be replaced? This is felony design abuse! What was so wrong (caution: Luddite alert) with the old two-knob ranges, bake knob on the right, temp knob on the left? It is immoral! It’s un-American! It’s – no, no, I’m not turning down the appointment. But – and here we glide seamlessly into Stage 3: Bargaining – are you sure you can’t get me in any sooner? The kids and grandchild are going to be visiting next weekend and having no way to cook except a microwave is going to be really, really hard. Maybe you have a cancellation list I could put my name on? (Please?)

    Like dying, it only gets worse from there, because eventually the Authorized Dealer actually shows up. The kids had been very nice about it all when they came. It wouldn’t be their last visit, they said, consolingly. And it never hurts to remind oneself from time to time how wonderful warm food tastes on a cold rainy evening especially since they didn’t get any.

    But by this time, Olof and I are ready for some serious bakables. So it was with total shock when the Authorized Dealer mentions that control panels are a special order, usually 30 days. Stage 4: complete and total Depression, slams you right between the taste buds.

    But during that long month, a funny thing happens – Stage 5: Acceptance. You develop an inner peace, not to mention an intimate relationship with the pizza guy. Cooking is over-rated. Vast technological improvements have been made in microwavables. You can now often recognize the animal they were made from.

    So when the Authorized Dealer calls to install the new panel, you’re almost not sure you want him to come out. Especially when he tells you that the control board is $590 and labor to install $150. More, of course, than a whole stove used to cost.

    But then you think about your mother’s wonderful cassoulet and about the grandkids coming to refer to you as Grammy Nuke. So you fork over the money and fix the range, assuming this was just a fluke and you’ll have many more years of life out of this appliance.

    Talk about Denial.

    Dishwasher Lasagna

    If you read our post on cooking a turkey in the dishwasher and you tried it, we have a second cooking adventure for you: A Lasagna!

    A man named Pete at The Warp and The Weft has the whole project mapped out. We’ll share some of it here for you:

    The basic steps are as follows and can be found at wikihow.com:

    * 1/2 jar of favorite pasta sauce
    * 3 fresh lasagna pasta sheets (or ‘oven ready’ lasagna sheets)
    * 1/2 16.8 oz container of Ricotta cheese
    * 1/2 package of mixed grated cheese
    * 1 cup freshly chopped spinach
    * Garlic
    * Onion flakes
    * Fine herbs


    Cut three 24-inch x 12-inch sheets of aluminum foil and lie flat.
    Take first lasagna sheet and place flat it in the center of the aluminum foil.
    Spread a thick layer of pasta sauce over the sheet, covering the entire surface.
    In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese and spinach and layer half the mixture on top of the tomato sauce.
    Layer desired amount of grated cheese, along with fine herbs, garlic, and onion flakes.

    Top with second lasagna sheet and repeat all layers.
    Cut third lasagna sheet into strips about 3/8-inch wide and layer on top of lasagna in a criss cross fashion. Top with herbs and spices.
    Wrap lasagna tightly in the foil by taking the longest sides of the foil and bringing them to meet above the lasagna.
    Fold the edges of the foil together to make a ‘paper bag’ effect (like that you would when folding a brown paper lunch bag)above the lasagna. Begin to fold the edges together downward until you are just above the lasagna.
    Flatten the foil out above the lasagna and fold in the remaining sides like a present, first the sides, then the middle.
    Place the wrapped lasagna flat in your dishwasher on the bottom rack.

    12. Set dishwasher to normal cycle and select ‘heated dry’ and ‘sanitize; settings for maximum heat.

    13.Wait for the cycle to complete, then carefully remove lasagna from foil and let stand for a few minutes before serving.

    Pete ran into a couple glitches, let us know how yours turns out!

    Cook Your Holiday Turkey in the Dishwasher

    Here’s something to do while the kids are home from school and you have vacation-itis. Entertain the folks with dinner cooked in the dishwasher.

    Cooking Method & Considerations

    Allow one 50-minute cycle for every 2lb of weight. Hermetically seal a seasoned turkey inside several appropriate turkey-sized oven bags.

    Place the turkey in the dishwasher to steam-cook.

    When cooking a turkey, ensure that the temperature of the meat doesn’t rise above the recommended 145f by using a meat thermometer.

    Test Run

    As a trial run, a 5lb supermarket chicken was cooked in the dishwasher providing impressive results: firm, tender, moist breast meat.

    Two cycles were used, and the bird was finished off in the oven to brown and crisp the skin.

    Getting a whole turkey cooked this way might take all day, so Electrolux (where I found this wacky idea) suggests their Steam Combination oven as a quicker, (saner?) option.

    Disposable Appliances?

    It’s a complaint of a generation – “They don’t make ’em like they used to” It seems that appliances, both large and small, fall into that category. Mark Kinsler shares his take on this in his own home with their latest crockpot:

    We immediately learned its fatal flaw, which was it smelled just horrible. I’m an old electronics repairman, and whenever my spouse was cooking beef soup, I’d start looking for faults in our electrical wiring. The new crockpot, all stainless steel and dark ceramic, smelled like a streetcar motor with a burned-out armature winding, and despite the assurances of the factory that the rich aroma would dissipate with use, it did no such thing.

    The last straw came two days ago, when my beloved was cooking barbecued chicken. The entire house smelled as if we’d been grilling roulades of printed circuit board, and as good as the finished chicken was, our eyes would burn when we walked into the kitchen.

    Ultimately, as so often happens, we gave up. Feeling vaguely disloyal, we shopped yesterday for Crockpot III, one which we hoped had been improved since they manufactured Crockpot II. We found a nice new one with slick electronic controls, an oval shape and a clear, tempered glass lid that lets you watch things simmer. Thirty bucks.

    It’s all a bit disappointing, though. In another era, one in which appliances were expensive and somewhat repairable, I’d have taken the old crockpot, drilled out the rivets, found some nichrome wire and some sort of ceramic core and wound a new heating element. Matter of fact, were I actually living in such an era I’d probably still have my little repair shop and I’d have done exactly the same thing for other crockpots.

    But we live in 2009 USA, and so we will just go on being materially wealthy in a world where everyone has a color TV with a remote control and a cell phone that takes pictures whether you want it to or not, which is why I have a lot of pictures of the inside of my pocket, and where you can buy appliances without having to save up for them.

    She has processed a test-load of baked apples in Crockpot III, and now the kitchen smells like apples, with nary a hint of microprocessor flambé.

    And I am grateful: for baked apples, Natalie and even our era.

    Here’s my quick barbecue chicken recipe for the crockpot:

    Place 4 potatoes cut in quarters, 5-6 peeled and cut carrots and one onion, quartered, in the bottom of your crockpot. Place a chicken, cut up however you prefer, on top and add one bottle of barbecue sauce and half a bottle of beer.

    Cook for about 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high, depending on how well done you like your chicken. It’s hard to overcook this dish.

    The Appliance Bermuda Triangle

    Most of us have at least one- you know yours- the appliance you were sure you needed, used once or twice and relegated to the back of a closet. It disappeared into your home’s own appliance Bermuda Triangle.

    Tamar Haspel who blogs at starvingofftheland.com writes about her’s and her mother’s appliance mis-purchases.

    A Champion juicer is a big, heavy powerful appliance that reduces fruits and vegetables to their constituent parts: juice and sawdust.

    A Champion juicer is not inexpensive. These days, they retail for a little over $200. Although other juicers cost less, other juicers do not have the power to juice the furniture.

    When my mother got it, we tried it on everything but the furniture. I even wrote about it, in an article entitled, “How to Make the Most Mess with the Fewest Appliances.”

    But it didn’t take. Before long, the Champion was relegated to the Closet of Appliance Mistakes, where it nestled up against the gelato maker. (First, of course, my mother offered it to me, but I’m not stupid enough to take a big, heavy appliance destined for the Closet.)

    I’ve learned many things from my mother, and one of them should have been not to buy a Champion juicer. But when I saw a barely used one at a yard sale for $12., I couldn’t resist. Twelve dollars! That’s five percent of its retail price! Besides, I don’t live in a tiny apartment any more. When you have an entire Basement of Appliance Mistakes, you can branch out.

    Still, I wasn’t sure. “I’m not sure,” I said to Kevin as we contemplated the juicer.

    “If you don’t like it, you can put it on Craigslist and you’ll probably get your twelve dollars back,” he said. Although this was true, I think he just wanted to make sure I went home with something substantial, since he had just bought a windsurfer that came with three sails, two masts, a boom, and a harness.

    I should mention that the Basement of Appliance Mistakes is also the Basement of Water-sports Mistakes. If this windsurfer joins the other two that are already down there, there won’t be much room for the Champion juicer.

    The gist of starvingofftheland is that Ms. Haspel and her husband are attempting to feed themselves at least one food a day that they have a direct connection to. They might have grown or raised it themselves, or possibly fished, hunted or traded for it. In this spirit, the couple has begun raising chickens.

    The chickens clinch the juicer sale. “What pushed me over the edge was the thought that the vegetable pulp, which still has considerable nutritional value, could be fed to the chickens. Everybody wins.

    I forked over my twelve dollars, and took my juicer home. All the parts were there, and it hummed smoothly when I turned it on. We had half a bag of carrots in the refrigerator, and we used them for the test ride.”

    We ended up with two glasses of carrot juice. It tasted exactly like the carrots it came from — fine but a little bitter. We also had a nice plate of carrot crumbles for the chickens, and we headed out to the run.

    We expected an enthusiastic reception, but the chickens wouldn’t touch the stuff. They gave one or two experimental pecks, and then looked reproachfully at us. “This isn’t carrot,” they were obviously saying, “This is sawdust.” This, from birds that eat rocks, charcoal, and tree bark.

    Apparently, you can’t drink your carrot and feed it to your chickens, too.

    I’m not giving up on the juicer just yet. I’m very fond of beet juice with ginger, and I’ll give that a whirl. And if anyone out there has any brilliant uses for it, I’m all ears. But if you’re in the market for a Champion juicer, you might want to keep an eye on Craigslist.

    What to do with Your Old Refrigerator – or Not

    Here’s a blast from the not too distant past – FridgeHenge. Adam Horowitz created the public art work in Santa Fe, New Mexico, composed of over 100 used refrigerators. In the Spring of 2007, after it had been around for about twelve years, it had become an eyesore and was torn down.

    When it was first constructed, it was a statement about American consumerism, but it became a tourist destination and drew visitors from around the world. Time and strong wind took their toll on the sculpture which was dismantled when it became a public health and safety hazard.

    It started out as a statement about American consumerism and waste, and then it sort of became waste itself,” City spokeswoman Laura Banish said.

    Exactly, Horowitz said.

    “I always had debated with the bureaucrats who would ask, ‘Is it art or is it garbage?’ and I’d say, ‘Yes, that’s the point,”‘ he said.