Monday, May 25, 2009

The Clean Dish Indicator Option

I have been doing my bit for the New Zealand economy - I've just bought a new dishwasher. Yes, I do use one, I've been using one for years. Yes, I know they are not very green. No, I never run it until it's full. And I always used to set it for the eco option in our old house. But the machine kept breaking down, and on his third visit the repairman took pity on me and told me the eco programme temperature on that model was set too low, so I shouldn't use it.

In our new house we moved up a notch on the washer and dryer (both much greener models than our old ones, and they do a better (though slower) job too). But we went backwards on the dishwasher, a cheap Italian eleven-year-old that just didn't wash the dishes very well.

So now I have the one with the drawers, and I can shove most of the pots in it as well as the china and cutlery. The glasses and big plates don't fit, but as every appliance-user knows, you can never have it all. And even on the eco setting, it washes and dries everything properly. So far.

The only problem is the manual. I have a master's degree in English, and a PhD, but I can barely understand it. It's not the English - that appears to be impeccable. The real issue is the determination of the manufacturers to (a) ensure that the user understands every possible issue that could arise and (b) provide as wide a range of options as possible to cover every conceivable dishwashing contingency.

The first three pages consist of important safety precautions. For a start, when using the DishDrawer, I am to keep no less than 13 guidelines in mind. For example, I am to load sharp knives with the handles up to reduce the risk of cut type injuries. Not only am I not to allow children to play in or on the DishDrawer, but I myself am not to abuse, sit on, stand in or on the drawer or dish rack. (My mind immediately sprang to improbable scenarios involving the DishDrawer and the Kama Sutra.)

My favourite page is the one showing How NOT to load your DishDrawer. I especially like the first picture: it shows a mad jumble of dishes thrown in by some despairing houseperson pushed to the limits of endurance.

The pages showing the controls are, as usual, fascinating. I was puzzled by the fact that there were only three tiny buttons on the outside, but the manual also shows a wash programme selector that I couldn't locate. It took me a while to discover that this is actually inside the dishwasher. You would think the manual writers might mention this, since they mention absolutely everything else.

In all my old dishwashers you poured in a bit of rinse-aid from time to time, and that was that. In my new one, there are five possible levels at which the Rinse Agent can be dispensed. But I am taking no notice of this. The instructions for changing the dispensing level run to an entire page, with diagrams.

Just putting in the Rinse Agent is quite tricky, because you have to pour it awkwardly towards you into a hole (sorry, circular opening) on the inside of the drawer front, after turning the plug anti-clockwise. The manual includes a stern warning about not spilling any Rinse Agent into the actual DishDrawer and wiping up spillages to prevent excess foaming. Failure to do this may result in a service call which will not be covered by warranty.

The most puzzling features are the Closed Drawer Option and the Clean Dish Indicator option. The first locks the DishDrawer when the drawer is closed. This is in addition to the Child Lock and the Key Lock options, as well as the very clear warning not to open the DishDrawer while it is operating, so I can't see why you would need it - unless you have a mad kitchen appliance fetishist on the loose, determined to abuse the racks.

The Clean Dish Indicator option is rather more of a worry. The manual helpfully explains when it might (I like that) be useful: when dishes have been left in the DishDrawer and you cannot remember if they have been washed (it does not say why you cannot tell just by looking at them, which implies either very inferior dishwashing performance, or frightening levels of compliance with the earlier instruction to rinse everything before it goes in). The second possibility is in situations where household members regularly remove only a few clean dishes without emptying the drawer. Ah, yes, I see.

But there is one problem: just in case this temptation occurs to you, they do not recommend using the Clean Dish Indicator option in conjunction with the Closed Drawer option.

Yes, I think I can understand that. After all, if the drawer was locked, and you couldn't get into it, it wouldn't matter if the dishes were clean or not.

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