The best chefs are not only the best because of their cooking skills – they also have a deep understanding of how to use the tools and appliances that surround them. We surveyed 1,007 Americans about their approach to using their own kitchen gizmos and gadgets. We started off by assessing all things dishwasher-related, like what items they put on the top and bottom shelves, what they tend to wash by hand, and how often they clean the machine.
Then, we ventured into wider territory, tackling respondents' kitchen habits as a whole – for example, do they rinse their fresh produce before eating it? Do they put condiments and sauces in the fridge after opening them? How do they know when meat has gone bad? We then finished off by assessing general household habits and gave respondents a little quiz to see how knowledgeable they are about certain housekeeping concepts. Curious to see how you stack up? Read on to see the results!
What goes where?
Like all other housekeeping tasks, people have a specific system when it comes to loading the dishwasher. Seeing as 84% of respondents own one, let's take a look at how they're filling them. Most people put their drinkware on the top shelf, namely their coffee mugs and cups (glass or plastic). Just over half also placed their tupperware on top. The bottom half was reserved for utensils, as the majority of respondents put their forks, spoons and knives there. Three quarters of them put their glass plates down low as well. Generally, the bottom shelf consisted of a bigger assortment of items.
Two-thirds of respondents did not put their cast-iron skillets in the dishwasher at all, and they made the smart choice – dishwashing detergents can ruin the nonstick surface of the pan and increase the risk of rusting. In terms of gender, more women (71%) than men (61%) kept their cast iron out of the dishwasher. Fifty-four percent of all respondents also opted to hand-wash their wooden cutting boards – good thing because very hot water may crack the wood. When it came to blades, 40% kept their chef's knives out of the dishwasher for fear of dulling the edge.
Doing things the old-fashioned way isn't as uncommon as one might think – 53% of respondents who own a dishwasher still sometimes wash at least some of their dishes by hand, and just over a quarter admitted to doing it often.
Reaching your kitchen's highest potential
Respondents were also asked whether they believe the dishwasher dries items better when it's full, and they were on the fence about it. Dishwasher experts recommend leaving some space between dishes to improve water and air circulation, consequently improving the drying process. Also, while the dishwasher cleans dishes, the machine itself needs to be cleaned too. Just over a third of respondents said they cleaned it sometimes, but more than a quarter rarely did, and a fifth had never scrubbed it down. When cleaning, make sure to keep the racks in pristine condition, otherwise the machine won't wash dishes as well as you'd like it to.
Shifting gears toward the general kitchen landscape, we assessed respondents' habits within it. There were three habits that were agreed upon by over 70% of people – putting food away in storage containers, placing various spreads and condiments in the fridge after opening them, and washing fruit and vegetables before eating them. Generally, refrigerating spreads, sauces and condiments can extend their shelf life by a significant margin. Also, washing fresh produce is highly recommended to get rid of potential bacteria and pesticides.
Generally, women were much more responsible than men in terms of keeping their kitchen shipshape. The only habit that men acted on more than women was putting hot food in the fridge - ironically, people should refrain from doing it anyway. It's important to wait until food is room temperature, at least, before putting food in the fridge, as hot food could lose most of its nutritional value and is more likely to spoil. When analyzing by generation, baby boomers and Gen Xers used storage containers much more than younger generations, and millennials were least likely to use plastic wrap for leftovers. By living situation, being with a significant other resulted in better kitchen habits, whereas people living with roommates were not as meticulous about keeping their cooking space in tip-top shape.
Regarding meat habits, just under 60% of respondents defrosted red meat at room temperature, a higher statistic than for chicken (35%) or fish (23%). Fifty-five percent of respondents opted for the smell test to assess whether their meat had gone bad, but just looking at it was enough for over a quarter of people to come to their own conclusion. Not many were keen on actually tasting it to see if it was still edible, but men (9%) were more likely than women (4%) to say they would.
Besides smell and taste, another way to determine if meat has gone bad is to check its texture – spoiled meats tend to be sticky or slimy to the touch. Rotten meats will also usually change slightly in color, so make sure to keep an eye out for any noticeable differences. Any unused or leftover raw meat can be stored in the freezer to vastly prolong its expiration date.
Tending to the appliances
Overall, respondents reported doing their dishes around once a day, although women did them slightly more per week than men (7.5 times versus 6.3 times, respectively). That being said, not many people cleaned their dishwashers, and even fewer said they cleaned their refrigerators (15% rarely did it). To maintain refrigerator integrity, homeowners should keep them relatively full, wipe down the doors ever so often, keep it at a moderate temperature, make sure the vents aren't blocked, and vacuum underneath and behind the fridge. People cleaned their ovens a little more often, as 2 out of 3 of them tended to this task at least once every six months.
Respondents stayed on top of their air-conditioning units as well – almost half replaced the air filters every three months or less. Although, renters weren't in as big a rush to change them as homeowners. Eighty-five percent of respondents also felt it is important for kids to learn about kitchen basics in school.
Respondents were asked to grade themselves based on their level of housekeeping, and many gave themselves favorable scores. Just over 46% felt that they deserved anywhere between an A+ and an A-, and just under 43% were among the B notations. Very few scored lower than that. By generation, Gen Zers were the most likely to give themselves a big pat on the back.
Respondents were also given a quiz about various kitchen-related topics – ironically, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers collectively failed the quiz. Only baby boomers passed, with an uninspiring 60% average. The statement that stumped most people suggested that large pots and pans should be placed on their side when loading the dishwasher (otherwise, they might block the water stream and prevent it from cleaning the other items). This is true, but 64.3% of respondents thought it was false.
It's all about maintenance
While many may think loading a dishwasher is straightforward, there are clearly some important things to remember about the process, such as understanding the best ways to load it and knowing which items should be kept out for preservation purposes. People also had their own specific kitchen habits, like food storage preferences or different ways to test whether meat has gone bad. Generally, women were more careful and conscious with their habits than men.
Also, respondents cleaned their various appliances relatively often, but their household-related quiz scores proved that they weren't as knowledgeable on the subject as they may have thought. Taking care of appliances, knowing how to use them properly and tackling any issues as they arise is a big step in maintaining not only your kitchen space, but your house as a whole. The professionals over at Cinch Home Services can quickly and effectively provide a solution to all your appliance-related needs, keeping your living space in optimal condition. Head over now to see how you can get the most affordable and reliable protection in the country.
Methodology and limitations
We collected 1,007 responses from employed Americans using the Amazon Mechanical Turk survey platform. Forty-nine percent of our participants identified as men, 49% identified as women, and roughly 2% identified as nonbinary or nonconforming. Four percent of our participants were Gen Z, 57% were millennials, 25% were from Generation X, and 14% reported being a baby boomer or older. It is possible that with more participants from Generation Z, we could have gained better insight into this population.
The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, selective memory, telescoping, attribution and exaggeration.
Fair use statement
There's clearly lots to learn about the do's and don'ts of dishwashing and general kitchen habits. If you know someone who might enjoy reading about our findings, feel free to send this article their way. We just ask that you do so for noncommercial use only and to provide a link back to the original page so contributors can earn credit for their work.