I've not done a Prepper Post in a while, but the Mercury Retrograde having thrown me some lemons, it's time for blog lemonade.
You see, along with the other things that have screwed up, my dishwasher decided to start leaking. Not a small leak, either - it rather resembles the tide coming in. So until the ordered gaskets come in and we install them, we're doing dishes the traditional way. By hand. By MY hand(s), to be precise. For the record - I HATE doing dishes. When the husband and I first started housekeeping together, it was supposed to be his job. I got bathrooms and laundry. Which meant that within a month husband had gotten a dishwasher. But none of that actually pertains to this post..... Sorry for that digression....
In fact, sanitation issues around dishes are going to be pretty critical in times of crisis. The paper plates we'll all use at first will run out, and we're going to have to actually start using and washing real dishes. Which means we have to do it WELL to prevent illness and we have to to it EFFICIENTLY because we might be hauling the water and heating it in pots over fires.
History Time #1
Disease and dishes: I hope it's already clear to everyone that re-using dirty dishes can easily cause food-borne illnesses, so I don't have to go into that. I read somewhere - without attribution even then - that automatic dishwashers have lead to a huge reduction in food born illness. Certainly one of my instructors in college (my degree in is public health) felt that the hot water used in the final rinse of a dishwasher was important and hotter than folks use when hand washing.
Practical Application of History: Heat the water - especially the rinse water
Washing dishes in hot water makes soap more effective, more quickly softens dried on foods, and melts fats so they are more easily washable. So, absolutely, washing in hot water is good.
But if you have limited hot water .... concentrate on rinsing the dishes in as hot water as you can get, to sanitize them as much as possible.
History Time #2
Back in the day, when I was in middle school Home Economics class, the teacher carefully taught us to wash things in the Proper Order. That order was: first - things that touch your mouth like flatware and glasses; second - things that cooked food sit on, such as plates and serving items; finally - everything else.
But those were the days before common use of plastics. Plastics are picky - they are both harder to dry and grease/oils really stick to them. If you wash them after you've washed knives with butter on them, or plates with meat fats, you're not going to easily be able to clean them. Remember those Dawn dish detergent commercials, where after the greasy pans are clean the last glass is found and washed? Notice that it was glass, not plastic? There's a reason for that!
A Modern Dilemma
So tonight as I face the mountain of dishes should I first wash the pesky plastics or the things that touch my mouth?
Practical Application of History: Gravity Always Works
I've let gravity make the decision for me.
Look, if I do the dang plastics first, they will fill the drainer AND be hard to dry. If I try to do the glasses after them ... the glasses aren't going to fit well in the drainer. They are likely to obey the Law of Gravity. They will shift. They will fall. They will find a way to fall onto the floor and break.
Therefore, it's glasses and china plates/bowls/etc first, followed by flatware. They are then topped by the washed plastics, and finally the pots and pans.
History Time #3
Hauling water is hard work. Heating water takes rather a lot of energy, and a not inconsiderable amount of time.
Practical application of History: Minimize the water needed
Amazingly enough, the best way to conserve water is by having 3 water tubs.
First water tub, with as little as a half gallon of water, is for first rinse after eating. Get off what you can, fast! If you're not doing the dishes at that time (maybe you're washing dishes once a day, to conserve the number of times you haul and heat water, eh?) save that water for pre-wash moistening of dishes to prep anything dried on.
Second tub, the washing tub. This is warm or hot, and has dish detergent in it. I use about 6 cups for this (family of 3, washing after dinner). The water CAN get stone cold by the time I'm done washing, but I don't really care if the cat dishes are washed in cold water!
Third tub, rinse tub. Six to 8 cups of the hottest water available and safe to use. I wear plastic gloves at this point of time, so it's probably 160 degrees F.
One trick - the rinse water does NOT get dumped after I'm done with dishes. This is saved and used for the 'first tub' the next time I wash dishes. It is also used to wash out the sink before I do dishes, and wash the other tub before filling it with soap and water. Obviously it gets washed between being used as prep water and rinse water!
There you have it. This is how I do dishes, conserving water and energy for heating water, while doing my best to make sure that we prevent dish/etc related food born illnesses.