There are certain tools that are ubiquitous in commercial and residential kitchens today, and dishwashers are one of them. With all the technology available to end users, it's relatively easy to find a unit that will save space, deliver a quick, deep clean, and do so with conscious energy and water usage. But that wasn't always the case.

The dishwasher, like all things, developed out of a curiosity and a desire to fix a problem. The following blog will uncover its history and show how far it has come over the years.

L.A. Alexander's patent drawing from 1865[/caption]

When was the first dishwasher made?

In 1850, a man named Joel Houghton created a patent for a device that is now credited with being the origin of the American dishwasher. It was a hand cranked wooden tool that sprayed water on dishes, but was known for its slowness and inefficiency. There was another patent created in 1865 by L.A. Alexander, yet that model turned out to be largely inefficient as well.

[caption id="attachment_5004" align="aligncenter" width="180"]The Cochrane Dishwashing Machine The Cochrane Dishwasher[/caption]

So who created the first functional, practical design?

Josephine Cochrane was a wealthy Illinois socialite born to a family of engineers. An avid entertainer, Cochrane noticed that her family's fine china, which dated back to the 17th century, was chipping after perpetual hand washing. As a result, in 1886, she decided to come up with a design that would eliminate the problem. She measured out all of her china and manipulated wire racks to keep the dishes in place. These compartments were then set into a wooden wheel, which rested in a copper boiler filled with hot water. With a crank or the activation of a small motor, the wheel would turn, splashing the hot water onto the dishes. Word of her design spread fast. After getting a patent and going into production, she decided to formally debut her Cochrane dishwasher at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. While there, she won the highest prize for her design's durability, adaptability, and mechanical construction. Soon, restaurants and hotels were buying it up. Cochrane then started the Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing Company which would eventually become KitchenAid, and later, Whirlpool.

[caption id="attachment_5002" align="aligncenter" width="260"]Josephine Cochrane Josephine Cochrane[/caption]

Then what?

Until her death in 1913, Cochrane continued to update her dishwasher designs, adding centrifugal pumps, drains, revolving washing systems, and other features that have carried over into modern day equipment. At the turn of the century, various other innovators and engineers worked to create a more efficient dishwashing system, utilizing plungers, dish cradling techniques, and propellers, to name a few. They also began to utilize sprays of water, an early version of water jets, which are commonplace in dishwashing equipment today.

What were some of the challenges the dishwasher faced over the years?

Commercial Dishwashers are one of the largest energy and water consumers in the back of the house. Water was a huge obstacle in the evolution of dishwashers, and even still, it is a key issue for manufacturers when designing new models. The large size of early dishwashers was also something that people had to deal with, and manufacturers today continue to strategize how to maximize output while minimizing the physical footprint. The introduction of detergents in the mid-1900s replaced the fatty soaps priorly used for cleaning. These helped usher in an easier, quicker, more efficient means for washing dishes.

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What features do modern commercial dishwashers have today?

Since Cochrane's inception all those years ago, manufacturers like Hobart and CMA to name a few have been creating new standards of innovation and excellence in the dishwashing industry. Modern day commercial dishwashers are loaded with features and benefits, sleek aesthetics, and water + energy saving designs thanks to ventless technology, Energy Star ratings, and more. It's also easier than ever to find machines that cater to a wide range of dishwashing needs, from delicate glassware to heavy, grimy pots and pans, and for all different dish volumes.  Machines today are also quieter in operation, more conservative spatially while utilizing strict sanitation elements, like high heat cycles that ensure the deepest clean. There are also more sizes and models to choose from than ever, including conveyor dishmachines, door-type dishmachinesundercounters, and glasswashers.

Images via Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, Neatorama.com, Engines of our Ingenuity