Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Me and My Dishwasher

My dishwasher is working again. Just after Christmas it tanked: the fill cycle kept repeating itself without ever doing any washing or draining in between. It wouldn't shut off, either. I finally just gave it up for lost and Eric and I each spent some time sucking water out of it and then I irresponsibly forgot all about it. I bought myself a drying rack and a drip pan and in the intervening months I think I've actually gotten a lot better at keeping up with the dishes.

Around the same time the dishwasher broke an awful odor overtook our kitchen. It was a distinctive rotten-lettuce smell and it seemed to be coming from the refrigerator though I always had a nagging suspicion that it was dishwasher related. After a few weeks of horrible stinkiness Eric and I took an evening and emptied the refrigerator. All the food was inspected and wiped down. The shelves and drawers were removed and washed. Everything was neatly replaced. The smell persisted. Our ice took on the smell and was too gross to use. Our cheese and butter took on the smell. And I kept thinking, I hope that the smell isn't really, somehow, the dishwasher. Every once in awhile I'd open the unused dishwasher and see a roach scurrying away. We didn't bother complaining to our landlord about the dishwasher because Eric is convinced that we are going to lose our entire security deposit because so many things in our apartment are broken. Our apartment is beautiful but it was renovated on-the-cheap. The cabinets are falling apart, the plaster crumbles if you stare at it for too long, and mold grows on our walls because the original brick walls can no longer breathe properly. The dishwasher really seemed to be the least of anyone's worries.

I'm embarrassed to admit that we put up with the fridge smell for a couple of months until a couple of weeks ago we got the brilliant idea that maybe the smell was emanating from our jar of homemade fermented garlic. That might seem like a no-brainer to an outside observer but we had smelled the garlic lots of times and it didn't smell a bit like the rotten-lettuce odor that had overtaken our apartment. We pitched the garlic and sanitized our garbage disposal and the smell disappeared. My mom was due to arrive the next day so it was with intense relief that I found myself living in an odor-free apartment again.

We started in on several days of torrential rains that day and by the next afternoon a new odor had arisen. This one was much, much worse than the rotten lettuce smell. What could it be? My mother is as sensitive to smells as I am and confirmed that the smell was quite foul, indeed. Oh, no, I thought. It is the dishwasher. I'd meant for weeks and weeks to scrub it out with baking soda and vinegar and dry it thoroughly and I'd been putting it off because I'm afraid of meeting roaches and now it was going to be awful. I was trying to come up with a creative and not overly-manipulative way to talk Eric into doing it for me when he casually suggested that I run the dishwasher just to see . . .

It worked like a charm and, oh, did it stink. I ran two consecutive sanitizing cycles and had a sparkling clean appliance again. And the smell persisted.
We decided by the end of the weekend that an animal had sought refuge from the days of steady rain by crawling into our wall and had then died in our wall. That's what it smells like. It's been a little over a week and the odor is finally gone and I can finally write this without convulsing in disgust.

As for my new dishwasher, well, I have mixed feelings. I'm not really sure if my improved dishwashing habits are the result of a method that works better for me or just a more improved character. I used the dishwasher for the first time last night and it saved me a lot of time and stress. I'm such an all-or-nothing person. Maybe this will be good for me.

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