Dishwashers (related to thread on common meals clean up)
From: Joani Blank (
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2012 21:10:13 -0700 (PDT)
As some of you know I've visited 72 cohousing communities in addition to the two I've lived in for a total of 20 years! And I've looked at least cursorily the common meal systems of most of them. I always ask those communities that have a commercial dishwashers how long it takes their clean up person or team to "do the dishes" after a common meal. And this is how their dishwashing goes.

1. It takes*2 to 3 people between 20 and 40 minutes* to wash the dishes and put them away on the shelves (or in some cases on a wheeled cart or carts that can be taken out into the dining room to set the table for the next common meal)

2. Commercial dishwashers whether over or under the counter wash the dishes one rack at a time. So there's continuous loading and unloading of racks until all the dishes have been through the washer.

3. Under the counter commercial dishwashers are really hard on the backs of those who use them lifting the racks into and especially out (when they are very hot and steamy) of the dishwasher.

4. Cohousers are usually drawn to these dishwashers because the wash cycle takes only 2.5 to 3 minutes. BUT in addition to dealing with the loading/unloading that has to be done many times to get all the dishes done, especially when there are many diners at most or every meal, those short but multiple wash cycles are very noisy, which can discourage neighbors from hanging around to socialize after dinner (unless the dishwasher is in an area that can be acoustically closed off from the dining room).

So what's the alternative? In the two cohousing communities I've lived in we took Katie McCamant's advice and purchased high end residential dishwashers. At Doyle Street (12 units), one Bosch, and at Swan's Market (20 units) one Royale ?(Australian), and one Miele dishwasher. (The Miele is amazing with its unique design, having a very shallow shelf at the top for silverware, so no space is taken up on the two main shelves for a silverware basket or baskets. It holds complete place settings--less deep soup bowls--for 30 diners!)

1. It takes just *one of the cooks *(we have the same team cooking and cleaning up). *less than 5 minutes *to do the dishes start to finish! How can that be, you may ask? Diners scrape their own plates into the compost, run water over them to rinse off loose food particles, and put them in the dishwasher. [This does necessitate diners coming into the kitchen, but even when there are almost 26 to 28 people eating, there's never a line of more than one person ahead of someone waiting to get to the sink and dishwasher.]

2, When most of the dishes are in the dishwasher, one of the cooks will walk through the dining area picking up odds and ends of dishes that have been left on the tables, will put them in the dishwasher, take a minute to rearrange any dishes that have been put in the "wrong" way, put in the detergent, close the door and start the dishwasher(s). There's your 5 minutes or less)

3. These dishwashers are so quiet that unless you put your ear 8 inches from the door you cannot hear them, so it doesn't matter that the wash cycle is about 75 minutes. Usually the cook team finishes the other parts of the clean up well before the dishwashing cycle is finished so they can go home.

We leave the dishes in the dishwasher(s) (where they stay cleaner than they would be on the shelf in our gritty downtown environment--we are 4 short blocks from one freeway and 5 or 6 blocks from another). And the next common meal team sets the tables right out of the dishwasher(s) before the next common meal, putting away any extras, or grabbing extras from the shelves and drawers as needed.

4. Since most cook teams clean up as they go, the the food prep dishes are usually washed by hand before the cooks even sit down to eat. But pots and pans and cookware have to be washed by hand after the meal. That's true, of course, whatever kind of dishwasher you have. We serve meals buffet style so we have fewer serving dishes than a community that has family style dining, but we can easily fit the serving dishes into the second dishwasher, along with the overflow from the first one if it a particularly dish-heavy meal. If there are just a few serving dishes the cooks will often wash them up by hand so as to avoid running a 1/3 to 1/2 full second dishwasher.

So I say, depending on the size of your community, get yourselves one, two or even three residential dishwashers (and of course, use only as many as you need for a given meal.

Joani Blank
Swan's Market Cohousing
Oakland, CA

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