Thursday, 26 July 2012

How to do the washing up

Water is amazing. After the alchemists realised that alkahest was not did not seem to be discovered, it was water that became known as the universal solvent.
Water created the grand canyon. Water carves waterfalls, (all of them!) Water is about 70% of your body, (what are you doing with the other 30%?)

The problem with most of the great achievements of water is that it took a long time and, as long as the sun can still shine on the ocean, an infinite volume of water.

So when I see people washing up with a constant stream of water, at first I'm irked and then I'm amused by their involuntary optimism. I imagine that their unconscious thinks along the following lines:

1. This isn't helping with my goals
2. I don't like doing work that I don't have to
3. !Water! yes let the water falling, (the few centimetres) from the tap do the work.

The problem here is that even lightly wiping with a sponge will

  1. Cover more area more quickly
  2. apply better and more even pressure to the dirt
So what is, "the dirt"?  Well that depends on what you eat and your level of sloth. With high levels of sloth your original stained cutlery, plates and pans are covered in dried on food and moulds and fungi. Unless you live in a special bubble the air around you contains spoors that will grow into mould and others that will grow into fungi, (mushroom family.) These spoors can plant themselves on your food remnants even before they, (the plates etc.) get to the skin. It is true that the mould and fungus will try to help you by breaking down the food that your waisted by consuming it for you, (see! _this_ is how to finish your plate.) The problem is that they can leave by products of their existence that are toxic and rather good at staining. (I have found that there is a black mould that is rather good at staining things like wooden-spoons that even bleach has a hard time cleaning off. Maybe I should try to get the mould to write my name on wooden things, for fun.)

So if we are prompt, (straight after everyone has finished eating) with the washing up then the dirt falls into three categories.
  • Things that can be recycled.
  • Things that are going to clog the drain
  • Things that have a strong adherence
Technically everything can be recycled but practically, anything that did not come from an animal, before it was food can be. So cheese is totally out, (it encourages rats to visit your compost heap.)

Next we have to make sure that nothing larger than a grain of rice goes down the plug-hole. Though it is worth mentioning that anything more than a drop of fat or grease should also be kept AWAY from the sink; The reason is that warm liquid fat may turn solid as soon as it is out-of-sight and block your drain. This can also be accumulative, leading to bad smells at best and a full of plumbing-job at worst.

[Fats can often be recycled, but those that have to be disposed of can be poured into news paper, (now you have a use for those phone books that they still insist on delivering) and then the soaked paper can either be dried and used as fire-lighters for garden bonfires, or just added to general {fail} rubbish {fail because if you use the bin-bin then you have failed}. ]

Technology does not have to be an object of device, even an idea can be technology, (well it can for me.) The evening when I gently burnt a whole pan of chopped vegetables, I was about start washing it up. I would have ended up with lots of bits in the sink to clean up afterwards and my father pointed out to me that I could just dump the majority in the lavatory, (toilet). I realised that this was brilliantly simple and that I would rather vomit in the loo than the sink, so why did I not think of that in this case? (At the time we were living in a small house in the middle of a city with no garden and had not built a compost heap yet.)

Can you now start the washing up? No. Because we want to not only do it quickly we want to do it effectively. By that I mean that washing up is not a isolated task. Kitchen could be designed so that as you wash up all of the items can be returned to their storage location AND dry at the same time. The classic is what I call the shaker plate rack. This is a bare wooden, (no paint of varnish) rack that lets you slot plates into it, that rests over the draining board and is attached to the wall. [Over the draining board so that its drips are caught and drain and NOT over the sink so that you don't bump your head on it as you wash up, (this depends on the depth of your sink and the width of the counter top within which it is located.) ]
  This may trigger the question in your mind, . o O ( then why do most people [the majority of domestic kitchen that I've been into] seem to keep plates in cupboards? ) The answer seems to be two fold.
  1.  It looks tidy
  2. To keep the dust off
I approve of the second reason because it reduced effort but the first seems rather subjective. 

That being the case we are going to have to put things away after they are dry. If you are like me, (then [self deprecating joke here]) you wash up each folk and knife and spoon individually. As these are going to be stored in separate sections of a canteen, (or cutlery tray) then it makes sense to sort them as you wash them rather than doing it later. This is the first reason why I do not like the X-shaped draining-board rack "Magasin": No cutlery slots. Ikea seem to have noticed this problem and will sell you an "Ordning" cutlery holder or an additional wooden "cutlery caddie" which is terrible. Even the "Flundra" dish drainer fails for me, because it only has one cutlery holder. [I imagine that it might work if I never had an visitors and lived alone - more on that later.]

I'm all for elegance and design, but why oh why add more potential energy and reduced stability to the design?

{The only good use for an Ordning, that I have found, is as a component in a portable camp stove.}

This plastic dish-drainer covers all of the bases. Lowest potential energy for all items stacked into it. Not metal or stone as they make it easier to chip or break glass and other brittle items. HAS TWO OR MORE containers for cutlery, and it costs less than a fifth of the wooden one.

Why are two compartments important to me? Well ideally there would be three. As I wash each knife,fork,large-spoon,tea spoon I drop them into their own container to dry. This enables me to skip the drying stage, (no bacteria covered damp rags being smeared over my clean plates) and then grab them in bundles and drop them into the cutlery draw.

With just two compartments I mix the forks, (prongs up, or rather end-of-the-handle-down-and-in-contact-with-the-draining-rack) with the tea-spoons. [Did you know that the French generalise small spoons as coffee spoons where the English would generalise the same thing as a tea-spoon, even though coffee spoons do exists separately - they are even smaller than tea-spoons. (I don't feel that I can blame the French, as they seem to perpetually be short of words for everything except 'things' - though this never seems to limit their ability to legislate on more and more ludicrous things e.g. It is not obligatory to have your own field sobriety test in your car!)]
 The other compartment is for large spoons and the knives are laid flat at one end of the rack with "misc" implements being laid flat down the middle length of the rack just outside of the plate/bowl slots. [This way knives are not pointing up providing the added challenge of 'not stabbing oneself' while removing the dried items.]


It takes me three movements to rotates each cup and glass rim within the folded sponge, (though for daily-use items I prefer the green-scratch-attached-to-sponge type implement), and three more with the sponge stuffed inside to remove everything else, (unless there is dried milk/coffee/tea then it can take two whole rotations.

Always cup the handled-items in your hand as the handles can be fragile and are deigned to be used during consumption. With many weaker pan designs the handles seem to break off in time, (welds give or bolts/screws tear out), so extend their life by holding them by the edge. That said some glasses, (with or without handles) and many fine china cups have delicate walls and holding them in a pinch grip will lead to destruction either by snapping a chunk out or by dropping the soapy item on the floor; If the item is resting on your upturned palm it should not be able to fall anywhere. 

Clean the things that clean the things

Washing-up is not complete until the sink is clean and the items used to clean have been rinsed of food/dirt. I'm not against leaving excess washing-up liquid inside of the sponge.
After a while, (I'm still to determine how many washes/weeks) the sink sponge is relegated to 'the floor sponge' under the sink and a new sponge is installed.

I only use rubber gloves for bee-keeping and only use washing-up liquid on things that are greasy. The french-press coffee device, for example, is a mono-culture. I rinse that with cold water and no soap. The coffee may change, but so far I have not found one delicate enough that the previous occupant revealed itself after a light rinsing.

I've tried pan brushed and even a fancy gadget that held washing-up liquid in the handle and dispensed itself through a small hole behind a sponge: Right now I prefer a 5x4x1 sponge.

Lets talk about soaking. The limit between soaking and sloth is one day at most! 

This outlines the best and most efficient way to wash up that I have found for my present, urban environment. I'm sure that other environments will have changes that will better match the limits that they provide, (feel free to add your suggestions, but include the location/environment for which you are describing.)

This brings me to my closing point. I have been told, "You think too much!" and I would like to suggest that I don't. We all think about things and depending on education, natural talents and the present mood the 'much' will change. I suggest that we borrow the idea of a cast system to motivate ourselves to improve. There is nothing wrong with doing the washing up at the Harijan level but you can always aspire to a Brahmin level, (though obviously the Brahmin may consider washing up as a Harijan task, I'm extracting the names and terms to label an idea of personal progress that can change with mood/external pressures/times of the day/periods in your life/ as the original cast system starts to become less meaningful as the planet becomes more democratic and capitalist.) 

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