On Sunday, the New York Times social editor woke up and, as the saying goes, chose violence. An article that was published over a year ago but tweeted again yesterday morning received replies like, “Insane take,” “No.,” “I refuse to believe this,” and “You go to hell, The New York Times.” Was it a questionable political take? No. Perhaps Ross Douhat’s latest column? Again, no. The article that prompted such emphatic anger was from Wirecutter, the Times’ product review vertical, making the claim that one does not have to rinse off their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Hell hath no fury like a person emotionally attached to pre-rinsing their dishes.
The article, “How to Use Your Dishwasher Better,” was originally published in July 2021 and didn’t initially instigate a lot of online buzz. It received a few retweets but was left mostly untouched by the Twitter mob. Probably because July is a paper plate month. Who has time to be outraged about washing dishes when you’re eating to-go hot dogs on the boardwalk off of a small cardboard dish. But that Times social editor knew exactly what sort of chaos they were choosing to upend by pushing out the story again in peak soup season, right before peak casserole season. We’re in prime pan-soaking season entering the holidays, and the Times is playing with fire.
“Good news,” the article smarmily kicks off, knowing that it is about to ruin people’s lives, “Your dishwasher should get every dish completely clean, almost every time you run it—without pre-rinsing the dishes before you load them.” The Times is not alone in its recommendation to not pre-rinse dishes: Every dishwasher company and the motherfucking EPA also advises you to just plop your dirty-ass dish, caked with crumbs and crustiness, right in the washer, press “start,” and then walk away like you’re the Queen of England (RIP).
The piece claims that good detergent is more important than a good dishwasher and that the key to spotless flatware or bowls or serving plates is a detergent with enzymes in it. But clearly, science will not explain away people’s devotion to swirling their sponge around the inside of a cup before placing it on the dishwasher rack.
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Still, with the information that pre-scrubbing your dishes might endanger baby pandas or whatever, riots erupted in the Twitter streets. Users were adamant that their specific dishwasher could not handle the food residue left on plates. Other folks demanded the Times address the horrific side effect of not pre-rinsing your plates: the smell of food sitting in your dishwasher for a day or two. Others, still, were infuriated at the mere suggestion that they own a dishwasher. (Note: New York City’s living standards need to be reckoned with.)
This suggestion, which I’m sure is “technically” “correct” has touched a nerve with the masses, myself included. I clenched my jaw so firmly when I first read the Times tweet that I briefly wondered if I was having a stroke. In June my partner and I moved in together and the issue of pre-rinsing our dishes has been our largest point of contention. I am pro pre-rinse, while he, it seems, is a New York Times apologist. He’s brought up the “true” “fact” that handwashing the dishes is a waste of water and time. I’ve argued back that handwashing dishes connects me to my matriarchal lineage! Just kidding. But pre-rinsing my dishes does satisfy some, like, old wives’ wisdom buried deep inside of me. I don’t know, just let me do my little domestic rituals, NY Times. Dirt be damned!