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The Author's Mug James DeLara
11-August-2014
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About the Conservation of Water

Here in the land of plenty, we are a nation of wasters. We waste fuel. We waste time. We waste food. We waste money. Wasters, we are!

But it doesn't always have to be that way.

Somebody's Great-Grandma (image)
Somebody's Great-Grandma

My grandparents grew up in a time where waste was most unfashionable, indeed! They grew up in an era when not a lot of people had cars, but boy did they have some chores, and they didn't waste anything. Every outhouse had a Sears catalogue (I think you know why), and water was something got by carrying a tub out to the hand-operated pump atop the well, pumping several times before seeing nary (old southern word) a drop of water. You didn't waste water — that would mean more trips out to the well, which wasn't always right outside the door. At least, aside from the cost of the pump and having to dig the well, the water was free. And plentiful. This is no longer the case.

image of hand-operated water pump
Water Pump

Water is becoming more and more scarce. More states and communities than ever are enacting water use restrictions as they experience draught conditions ever more frequently than in times past. In many areas, there are often restrictions on using water on the lawn, where homes with odd-numbered addresses can only water their lawns on odd days of the month, the opposite for even-numbered homes. I don't know how effective a measure this is, but it might cut down on per-day water use.

Much of California is under water restrictions because of the severe draught conditions we've experienced in recent years. We have restrictions, residential, industrial and agricultural, and these have powerful implications for industry, especially farming, that could have severe impacts on the state economy, and we are far from alone.

Enough justification for conserving water. Let's dig in and see how to save water. Lots of water.

Many persons whose water use I've observed are completely unconcerned about excessive water use, and they waste a lot of water, often just throwing the water on to full blast just because the wand that controls the flow makes it so easy, which is great for filling a pitcher full of water, but lousy for rinsing plates before putting them into the dishwasher.

I've heard that dishwashers use less water than people who wash their dishes by hand, and I don't doubt this — compared to people who aren't like me. People who aren't...

Water Misers!

I am a water miser. I am a water hoarder!

I haven't always been a water miser. It's just something that progressively came to be over the last year or two, and now, I am quite certain that no dishwasher on this planet uses less water than I do to wash dishes, especially when you consider how much water gets used from pre-rinsing dishes plus what the dishwasher uses, itself.

So, how do I do this? How do I conserve so much water?

For starters, unless I'm filling a pitcher or a bucket, I limit the water stream to a diameter of about ¼ of an inch, often ⅛ of an inch. You might be amazed what you can accomplish with a seriously light stream of water.

image of a kitchen faucet

My kitchen faucet, at full blast, will release about half a cup of water per second or, 1.875 gallons per minute. The ¼" stream requires 5 seconds to release half a cup, or 0.375 GPM, and the ⅛" stream will take, you guessed it, 10 seconds to release half a cup, or 0.1875 GPM. While your faucet may release more or less water than mine at full blast, depending upon your water pressure, your ¼" and ⅛" streams should perform as do mine.

Does it take more time to get the job done with a light stream? Yes, but not very much. In fact, it only takes a few extra minutes to just wash dishes than it does to adequately "pre-rinse" them and load them into a dishwasher.

The way that you accomplish adequate rinsing with light streams is to move whatever you're rinsing, whether a dish or your hands, such that the minimal water stream hits the soap or debris at the highest level, then to progressively move the object (or your hands, as the case may be) such that the running water is just slightly above the soap that's being rinsed. At higher water rates, you might be accustomed to a lot less movement because it doesn't take long for the water to flow all the way down a plate, so you're, more or less, moving the plate left and right until the soap or debris is gone. As a water miser, you'll also move the plate up, in addition to left and right, in order to more quickly get the water where the soap is. You won't be taking significantly more time to get the job done, but you will use very significantly less water. Nevermind how silly you might think this looks. You're saving water — a lot of water! Why use more water than necessary because you don't want to move in an unconventional manner?

The velocity of rinsing water is an issue. If you don't get adequate velocity of water flow on something that you just washed then you might just leave enough invisible soap in a glass that you taste it the next time that you use that glass. So, how to mitigate this?

You can duplicate velocity by manipulating the glass or plate or pot or pan or whatever such that the water is rapidly swirling within. Start by rinsing away the soap that you immediately see, then forcing the remaining, probably, new water to swirl. This is to ensure that the not-so-visible soap gets washed away without using an excessive water flow. I often increase the water flow during this interval, immediately shutting off the water as soon as it is no longer helpful. There is nothing to gain from an excessively low water flow when your objective is to get a glass half-full so that you can swirl it out. If it takes too long, then increase the water flow to where you need it to be, then reduce the flow or turn off the faucet when the flow is no longer required.

Any time I swirl water in a container, I try to dump that water, as best as I can, into another container (bowl, glass, plate) or across silverware, which reduces the amount of new water needed to adequately rinse those other items. Using the same water several times is an excellent way to conserve water.

Using water to wash peels and other food cast-offs down the drain is not the plan. I generally usher the debris along with my hands and push that stuff into the garbage disposal, or toss it into the trash in order to reduce the use of the garbage disposal, another modern convenience that no one needed until someone dreampt it up and made it popular. For stubborn debris stuck on an item, or the sink, itself, pressure and time are not the way. Instead, I'll rub or pick at the debris, usually using "used" water, then fling it off with my hand.

If I'm pretty certain that I can't be actively using the water for more than about a second, I turn it off. Every drop of water that goes down the drain not taking either debris or soap with it is a drop wasted, and we waste a lot of drops! Every drop of water that splashes off of whatever you're rinsing and onto the counter is a drop wasted.

Yes, it does take a little longer to be a water miser than to not be, and you have to decide the extent to which you can be can be a water miser. Your miserly tendancies are not contingent upon my "judgement" of you. They are based on your own judgement of yourself, what kind of time you have, your level of patience, and level of concern for the environment. I'm hear to teach, not to preach. I'm here to enrich — not to bi— ... nevermind.

Your own water miserliness is something for you to assess, on a per-basis. The extent to which you can be a water miser will be determined by your will, and your time. Conservation, in and of itself, is something that you do for your fellow humans, who are, hopefully, doing likewise for you.

Personally, I am more miserly when I've the time, and less miserly when I do not, and I expect nothing different from you. I can tell you how much water I think is too much, but this is, really, something for you decide for yourself.

Sooo, I think that every drop of water that goes down the drain not carrying something with it is wasted. Every drop of water that splashes onto the countertops around the sink is a drop wasted.

image of hot water tap

Now, there's the issue of hot water use. Hot water is only needed for greasy dishes, buttery knives and such, so I use the hot water but I don't wait for the water to get hot before I start using it. I wash all of my not-greasy dishes first and, usually, by the time those are rinsed and out of the way, the water is adequately hot to rinse away grease, at low velocities, of course. If I must have hot water now, then I'll put a pitcher under the flow to catch that water and either use it for plants, out in the garden, or just dump it into the clothes washing machine, reducing the amount of water that it will have to add at the start of the next cycle. If you have a front-loading high-efficiency washer, be careful not to allow the water level to exceed what you normally see during the wash cycle.

That 120° hot water coming from your tap isn't hot enough to have a significant impact on germs, so why waste it? Hot water is water that you paid to heat.

To every extent possible, I try to wash everything before rinsing anything, because every time I have to rinse my hands, more water gets used, so the fewer times I have to rinse my hands, the better.

To some extent, I recycle water. That is, while preparing meals, I will often have a bowl, or a glass, or a pot, something that needs to get washed and needs to get out of the way, so I'll place it in the sink such that the next time I run the water, usually to wash grease or food goo off of my hands, that miserly stream of water is slowly filling the receptacle that I placed beneath it, and that water will be used for rinsing dishes later. Once that receptacle is filled, I'll move it aside and place the next dirty dish, glass, bowl, or pan, or whatever, such that it can catch any subsequent water used, up until I've collected more water than I could possibly re-use, which doesn't happen often.

As for hand washing, I tend to use dish liquid instead of hand soap, and I'll try rinse it off into whatever's catching water at the moment, out of a, probably, irrational tendancy on my part to want to rinse any accumulated hand soap off of dishes before washing them. Everyone is a little nuts, right?

When it comes time to wash the dishes, I'm not going to use fresh water from the tap to dislodge food particles stuck to my dishes. For light rinsing, I'll dip a hand in the already used water, then rub it across the surface of dishes or utensils until any debris is dislodged and I can shake or sweep it away. For larger items, say, a frying pan, then I'll dump a quarter cup or so of that already used water into the pan and rub at any debris until I can whisk it away into the sink. This works very well, and doesn't use any new water. Of course, where grease or oil is involved, we need hot water, so those items will have to be rinsed with fresh water from the tap at low, low velocities, after the hot water arrives, after all of the cold water dishes are done.

My kitchen sink is cleaned at least once per day, and it goes like this. I don't use household chemicals in my sink. I use dish liquid and the very scrubber that I use on my dishes, for the sink is just another dish. Generally, I put all of the dirty dishes into the left sink, then put some soap into the scrubber and give the right sink a good scrub down. Since this is a daily ritual, it doesn't take very long, for the sink is never very dirty, hence the lack of need for cleansers or other marvy cleaning products that television has convinced us to "need" — do we really need Swiffer Sweepers? Is that toilet cake that we drop into the tank really doing anything useful?

Once the right sink is clean and rinsed (at low, low velocity), I start washing all of the non-greasy dishes, stacking them into the clean sink until the dirty sink is empty. Then I wash and rinse (at low, low velocity) the left sink. Then, I'll rinse each item in the right sink and place it in the left sink once it's been adequately rinsed. While the left hand is putting aside something that just got rinsed, the right hand is grabbing something and getting it into that low, low water flow. As I mentioned earlier, if I can't use the water within a second, it's getting turned off. Once all of the dishes are rinsed, I stack them into the dishwasher so that they can drip dry. Then, I wash any greasy items in the same manner, except that I don't scrub the sinks a second time.

image of a dishwasher with a dog in it

The average dishwasher uses 6 gallons of water per cycle, 4 gallons for an Energy Star unit, and they use anywhere from .87 to 1.59 kWh of electricity per load. This doesn't include water used for pre-rinsing in the sink. So, let's look at some numbers.

I can wash all of the dishes per average meal and clean the sinks in this two-person household using about 2~3 quarts of water. If I do use the dishwasher, it will replace about 5 handwashing events, but I still have to clean the sinks. 5 hand-washed loads is 10-15 quarts of water, or 2.5 to 3.75 gallons, so I win! I used less water and less energy, and it only took slightly longer than just rinsing the dishes and placing them into the dishwasher. And I didn't need any help from the dog.

In the event of a very greasy event, I might need a couple extra pints.

Using full-blast water flow as a reference and factoring in reduced rinse times, a person washing a similar size load will use about 3 gallons of water per session, about 2.4 gallons more than I do if they are as diligent about turning off the water as I am, which is not consistent with my observations. Now, doing 3 loads per day for a year, this comes to 650 gallons per year for me and a whopping 3285 gallons for for the full-blasters. Using the dishwasher once every couple of days comes to 730 gallons for an Energy Star-rated unit and 1095 gallons for a regular dishwasher, not including pre-rinse. If you add that on, figuring about a third of the water that it takes for a full-blaster to just wash the dishes, we can tack on another 1095 gallons per year in pre-rinse, bringing the Energy Star-rated dishwasher to 1,825 gallons and the normal dishwasher up to 2,190 gallons.

Now, let's tack-on some electricity. A years worth of electricity for a dishwasher isn't going to break the bank. At 15¢ per kilowatt-hour, the electrical use is between 159 kWh per year and 290 kWh per year, or between about 24 and 44 dollars, which isn't much. But, imagine if millions and millions of people stopped using dishwashers and became water misers? If only 10 million people give up their dishwashers, that's somewhere between 1.6 and 2.9 billion kWh per year of electricity that won't need to be generated.

It's rather like eliminating vampire energy waste on TVs, cellphone chargers, game systems, microwave ovens. At the individual or family level, it doesn't amount to much, but when millions and millions of people stop wasting energy, it means power plants not being built, because they aren't needed. And this is a good thing.

I encourage you to be water miserly, but it's up to you to decide how much water is too much for you. If you are in California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, you need to know that every drop of water that you waste is a drop too much, and you need to give a rip, even if you are very well-off.

What else can you do to conserve water?

image of a lush, green lawn

Stop watering the lawn! Or, if you live in an area where this is just not possible, then a sprinkler system might be in order, set to water minimally and in the early morning. My home is surrounded by trees, so getting a full, lush green lawn is impossible, so much of this lawn is just dirt. We don't run the sprinkler system, and the lawn just does what it does, and gets mowed once per week with an electric lawn mower.

So, aside from frugally washing dishes and not watering lawns, what else can we do?

Washing the car at home? Unless you've a miserly mind, you're likely to use a lot of water! You're also going to release oils, soaps, and other toxins into your local environment, and possibly sewers. Many professional car washes have water recycling systems which treat and re-use washwater, then perform the final rinse with fresh water. They'll use up to forty gallons of fresh water rinsing each car, probably less than you would at home.

Unless, of course, you are a water miser!

drawing of a soapy car

For washing the car at home, the same rules apply as for washing dishes. Splashing is bad, so you'll want a low flow. I use the Gentle Shower setting on the multi-function spray nozzle for a gentle, not very splashy water flow. Washing the vehicle from the top down reduces water being used to rinse. That is, you don't want to wash a car from end to end. You want to wash it from the top down, this to avoid having to rinse any suface more than once. Unless dirt is caked all over the vehicle, there will probably be no need to pre-rinse. Why pre-rinse if nothing is being dislodged? It's a waste of water.

Using a hand to sweep away soapy water while rinsing can increase the efficiency of the event. Washing the car in a shady area is beneficial, so that you have time to get all around the roof of the vehicle with the soap before rinsing. You don't want soapy water to dry onto surfaces, as more water is required to re-wet the soap before it's going to move along.

But, if you really want to conserve water, you might consider using soap for only the greasy areas of the vehicle — like the wheels. If you can wash and rub away simple dirt from surfaces of the vehicle without using soap, then you'll use less water. You'll also release fewer toxins into the environment. Soap doesn't make the dirt move much better — it just gives a nice visual indication that you're getting the job done. It's not going to make the finish any shinier, or make wax do a better job. You're probably not planning to eat off of car, and you're not prepping it for surgery, so do you really need to use soap?

You want to do the tires and wheels first, so that you don't splash dirty tire water onto surfaces that have already been washed, thus requiring another rinse. I use scrub brush and a toothbrush for the tires and wheels, the toothbrush for where scrub brush won't work. I spritz the wheel for half a second to get it wet, then squirt about an inch of dish liquid at the top of the tire. A little water onto the scrub brush, then around the rubber we go. Then on to the wheels, using the toothbrush once the scrub brush becomes pointless, retrieving soap from the scrub brush onto the toothbrush, as needed.

Once all the wheels are washed and rinsed, I just grab an outdoor rag, squirt a little water onto the roof and rub it with the rag. I've also done it without the rag — just using my hand. You can feel debris that you otherwise might not notice while using a rag. You can scrape at some debris with your fingernails and dislodge it. Fingernails are fairly soft, so you're unlikely to scratch the paint.

Once all the dirt has been rubbed on the roof, I'll give it about 5~10 seconds of the Gentle Shower on the nozzle to lead the debris off of the roof. Then, I do the windshield, windows, rear window, etc., all around. I squirt a little (not a lot) of water onto the surface from high up so that the water runs down and into the rag that I'm already rubbing against the surface. Then, on to the hood...

The idea is to start up high, and proceed around the vehicle several times, starting with the upper sections and proceeding downward, so that no surfaces need to be rinsed more than once.

Once the cleaning is complete, I grab another, dry outdoor rag and wipe the vehicle from top to bottom, occasionally wringing out the rag. The objective isn't to dry the vehicle, but just to turn large drops of water into a thin film instead, touching up any spots that got missed with the rag that had been used to wash the vehicle. Once that's complete, I use a third outdoor rag to dry the vehicle.

Only a couple of gallons of water were used for the whole project, some 38 gallons less than would have been used at the car wash.

image of a lady in the shower

Now that the vehicle is clean, it's time to get you clean. How much water do you use while showering or bathing?

First off, if your daily bathing regimen includes a bath, where you are filling a 50-gallon tub full of water, then enjoy your bath in luxury, but know that you used 40~ish more gallons of water to get clean than you might have with a low flow shower.

With a low water flow, you can completely clean your entire body with about just a gallon or two of water!

How?

First, by ensuring that your shower's water flow never exceeds what is necessary to get you wet, and get you rinsed. If water splashes off of you, then you are using too much water. If the floor outside your shower is wet after your shower, then you are using way too much water!

Second, when the water is not actively needed, turn it off.

I used to use body wash from a bottle in the shower, but now I use bar soap, usually Irish Spring, because I like it, but mostly because it takes much less water to rinse the washrag after washing. Using Irish Spring liquid body wash products requires many rinses and wringings before the washrag can be considered rinsed, while about 3 iterations will suffice for the bar soap. I suspect that the difference would be the same regardless the choice of brand of bar soap vs. body wash. Another benefit of bar soap? Less packaging, and less plastic to recycle or end up in the ocean.

When starting a shower, I'll rinse myself off at a low, low flow, then turn the water down to just a trickle, which I use to re-wet the soap bar while I rub soap all over my delicious body — sorry, a little levity considering how personal this is getting. Only the pits, torso, abdomen and back. Then, I'll wet the washrag, and rub enough soap on it to get my face and neck adequately washed, then I turn the ever so slowly trickling water off until it's time to rinse. Then, I use the rag on my shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen and back, by which time the rag is adequately soapy to get the legs done. I just rub the rag over the rockin' bod until the job is done, with the water off the whole time.

image of soapy feet

Now it's time to rinse. I set the washrag aside and rinse myself off first, because I want my feet to not be so soapy as quickly as possible. Low flow, just enough to gently hurl the water toward the centre of the shower while I gyrate and contort, as needed, to get that water to where the soap is, starting up high and working my way down 'til the deed is done.

Now for the washrag. Experience has demonstrated to me that wringing out a soapy washrag before rinsing away soap from the surfaces is a great way to force soap deep into the fibres, requiring more rinsing and more water use. So, I position the rag on my hands and let the water wash away all of the visible soap, rotating the rag in ¼ increments until I no longer see soap. Then I flip it over and do the same thing, then wring it out. 3 or 4 iterations of this and the job is done. Contrast this to 10 or more iterations using body wash, and always giving up before the rag was fully rinsed.

Total water used? 2 or 3 gallons. Of course, your mileage will vary, and you might need another gallon or 10 if you're washing your hair, something that the hair care industry has done a marvellous job of convincing us we must do every day.

I read an article in which the author stated that showering with a low-flow showerhead uses 25 gallons of water, which, in my humble estimation, is about 22 gallons too many. Water flow should be just strong enough to keep you from having to bump into the wall as you rinse yourself, and you don't even need a "low-flow" shower head.

Of course, when it's cold outside, it's real easy to just relax under that wonderful, warm water, but now that you know how much water you're using, you might factor that into how long you need to do that.

I'm not saying that a more luxurious bathing event should never occur, but for the random shower before going to work, for example, it couldn't hurt to save some serious water.

Consider placing a bucket in the shower to catch water while you're waiting for the hot water to arrive. This should be a clean bucket that has either never seen household chemicals, or has been well-scrubbed. You can use this water to water plants, or toss it into the washing machine, although, again, if yours is a front-loading unit, then be watchful not to add more water than you're accustomed to seeing in the wash tub under normal operation.

It's worth noting that if you're using a tub with a shower, you can use a rapid flow from the tub spigot, but in a shower, you'll need a minute or two of low flow into the bucket, or not all, or even not much of the water that you're trying to catch will make it into the bucket. Either that, or you'll need to hold the bucket under the shower head, bearing in mind that water weighs a little over 8 pounds per gallon.

image of a man shaving

It might interest you to know that a pea-sized blob of shaving gel is sufficient to shave a face, rather than the golf ball-sized blobs that you see them use in the television commercials. Whether a face, a pit, or a leg, every little bit of shaving cream that you end up rinsing from your hand after lathering up is pure waste, and anything on the skin beyond the thinnest of coatings is excessive and unnecessary.

Same deal with toothpaste. The size of a pea is sufficient — no need to cover the entirety of the brush like you see them do in TV commercials, because they want you to use it up fast so that you can purchase another tube. But if you brush your teeth with baking soda, like your grandparents or great-grandparents did, then you won't need toothpaste, and baking soda is dirt cheap. And it works great. You can re-purpose a small jar (olives?) to hold baking soda, this being a bit less icky than poking a toothbrush into a cardboard box. Unlike toothpaste, baking soda isn't poisonous — you can swallow it and it won't hurt you. Toothpaste has a warning on the label to not swallow it. Gotta wonder the long-term impacts of using a product in your mouth for decades that you can't swallow? Ahh, the power of media, to convince us of a non-existent need for all of the modern conveniences!

Which brings us to cleaning.

Dish liquid, baking soda and vinegar. That's pretty much it. Well, laundry detergent and bleach, because I haven't yet tried any of the home-made alternatives (to detergent), but I'll get round to it. Generally, bleach is a more effective disinfectant than vinegar, but unless there is a compromised immune system in the household, or someone who is about to undergo surgery, or just did, vinegar is an excellent general purpose household cleaner, with a lesser environmental impact than bleach. Click here for an interesting article on why bleach shouldn't be part of your life.

image of a paper mill

I don't use paper towels very often. I've used probably a half a sheet in the last month, and I don't even remember why that was. It takes a lot of water to make paper, and if you've never been in close proximity to a paper mill, a popular phrase amongst the employees is smells like money, a reference to the awful, putrid aromas encountered there. They often have drainage ponds for the now-filtered, formerly seriously nasty water that was part of the process of making paper. One paper mill that I used to visit on a fairly regular basis even had a drive-through car wash for employees and visitors to use upon leaving to keep the nastiness of the surrounding air from eating away at the paint on their cars! Who knows what it does to the workers' lungs, or to the residents of the surrounding community?

So, I avoid paper towels. Instead, I use dish towels and scrubber-sponges in the kitchen, and outdoor rags for outdoor projects. I use a scrubber-sponge in the bathrooms. If I spot a dead roach, gone are the years where I'd grab a tissue or a paper towel to pick that up. Nowadays, I use a dust pan and a broom for that. Eliminating paper towels from your cleaning and drying routines saves a lot of water that you don't see.

Window cleaner? Surface spray cleaner? Replaced by vinegar. Cleanser? Replaced by baking soda. Toilet cleaner? Vinegar. Shower cleaner? Vinegar. Floor cleaner? Vinegar, except on hardwood floors.

Typically, we have half a dozen or more different cleaning products in our homes, each created using copious amounts of water, each a bit more caustic and chemical-laden than the others, each having a detrimental impact on the environment. Vinegar doesn't harm the environment, and works just as well as any commercial cleaning product for general-purpose cleaning. Baking soda isn't harmful to the environment.

If I have greasy stovetops or countertops in the kitchen, then I'll wipe up as much of it as a I can with my hands, because it's faster and easier to rinse grease and debris from hands than from sponges, Then, I wet my scrubber, the very one that I use on the dishes, put a little dish liquid on it, and wash the greasy surfaces with that. When I'm done scrubbing, I'll set aside the scrubber, then collect as much soap off the surface with my hands, which I then rinse (at a very low flow). After 2 or 3 iterations of that, I'll grab my kitchen scrubber-sponge and wipe off the stove a few more times, rinsing the sponge as needed, until there is no more visible soap. Then, after it dries, I'll spray some vinegar onto the surface and wipe it around with that well wrung out scrubber sponge, then wipe off the controls, the top of the stove, the range hood and its controls, the oven door handle, then I'll pop open the oven door and wipe the horizontal surfaces just inside the door, then I'll grab a dish towel and wipe off the stove surface until it shines. Clean, and disinfected.

Water used? Maybe a cup or two. Paper towels used? None. Time? 3-5 minutes, and the most "nasty" household cleaner on my hands is just vinegar, which, did I mention, is wicked cheap?

Generally, I'll run wet hands over the countertops to collect debris and to moisten dried substances, repeating until about all of the loose debris is gone, rinsing my hands periodically. Then, I'll moisten and wring out my scrubber-sponge and use it to remove any remaining debris, or just because. Then, I'll rinse off the sponge (under a low, low flow), sweeping away any debris from both sides and all four edges with my thumbs or fingers before squeezing it under the water and wringing it out. Once it's nice and wrung-out, I spray the countertops with vinegar and wipe it around with the sponge, then I'll wipe the drawer pulls and the cabinet pulls. Since the countertop isn't a shiny surface, I don't wipe it dry like I do the stove top. Not nesa.

Are you washing your clothes in hot water because you think you're killing germs? You're not. Just as you can't get the water hot enough to wash your hands and kill germs, neither can you accomplish this in the laundry room. You're not likely going to boil your clothes, right?

image of a water heater

Now, what about the temperature setting on the hot water heater, itself? Here, you're going to want to strike a balance between efficiency and disease prevention. Then there's scalding risk. You don't want set the water temperature higher than about 135~140°, this according to the American Society of Sanitary Engineering, which doesn't seem to have a web presence. Having the temperature so high doesn't have much impact on killing germs on your hands, dishes, or clothes, but it can kill Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire's Disease, this coming from upstream in the water distribution system. A tank temperature of 140° will kill off 90% of your tank's Legionella pneumophila in about 2 minutes, while a tank temperature of 120° will take from 80 to 124 minutes to do this. Personally, I live in an area where we've never had an outbreak and we (in this household) don't use a lot of hot water, so we've opted for a lower tank temperature, about 120°. Given that the tank spends about 90% of its day at temperatures above 120°, we considered that the bacteria are being adequately killed off that our risk is low. The more people in the household, the more important it is to use higher tank temperatures. Your mileage may vary.

I think you probably get the idea. You can get your house all kinds of clean using the most basic cleaning ingredients and, mostly, using unheated water. Sometimes, if a stain has been in the sink for years, you might need more firepower than you can get from vinegar and baking soda, but for general, everyday cleaning, vinegar and baking soda are most sufficient, indeed, and you can get a lot more done with a low water flow than you think.

There are lots of ways to conserve, literally, everything, and you'll think up lots of ways on your own, but not unless you perceive a need to do so. Hopefully, by now, you do.

Now, let's talk about driving! What's up with the puppy?



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