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Pacific Specialty Blog

How dishwashers work

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You may not know this, but for many woman around the Globe Josephine Cochran is a hero! Thanks to her, from 1886, people stopped to scrub old food off dirty dishes and started loading them in a magic box called dishwasher.

Dishwashers didn’t change a lot since 1886 and today we want to tell you what happens when you close the door and turn on the machine.

A dishwasher begins its job by letting in cold water from a hose. When the right amount of water is sitting at the bottom of the machine, the heating element (a metal bar that gets hot when the electricity passes through it) starts to warm the water up. At that point, an electric pump aspires the hot water from the bottom of the dishwasher and let it circulate in the machine through two spinning paddles (sort of sprinklers!) that are located under the bottom and the top rack. The hot spinning jets coming from the paddles, hit the dirty dishes taking out the food residues from them and fall down again at the bottom of the dishwashers where the water is heated again and the whole cycle start from the beginning.

Dishwashers need also detergents and salt to work properly.

Detergent: The two primary active ingredients in dishwasher detergents are bleach and enzymes. While bleach eliminates most of the big stains like coffee and tea, the enzymes wash away proteins and solids. Both are important components, and you’ll find them in powder and tab detergents.

Salt: Contrary to the general belief, dishwasher salt does not clean or fight hard water stains but it’s necessary to reset the unit’s built-in water softener. Some dishwashers, especially those manufactured overseas, feature water softener baskets filled with small resin balls. These resin balls absorb calcium and magnesium ions – two compounds commonly attributed to hard water stains – from the water, promoting clean, spot-free dishes.

The resin balls have a negative atomic charge and the dishwasher salt has a positive atomic charge. When dishwasher salt is used, the resin balls attract the sodium ions; that allows to reset the resin balls so they are more effective at absorbing calcium and magnesium ions in a process known as ion exchange.

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