Who Invented The Dishwasher – The Female Inventor

Who Invented The Dishwasher – The Female Inventor

Dishwashing can be a frustrating task as it requires one’s concentration and the mechanical efforts of both hands for perfectly cleaned dishes and other kitchen utensils. It’s also time-consuming and sometimes dishes get damaged in the process.

Who Invented The Dishwasher
Photo credits: dackelprincess, Flickr.com

The advantages of a dishwasher can’t be overemphasized. It takes away the monotonous work of washing your plates and other kitchen utensils with your hands. We need to know who invented the dishwasher? This machine has made dishwashing more fun.

It saves time, money, water, and is the most hygienic way to do dishes. Also, you are sure only a few dishes get broken in the dishwasher.

We are forever grateful to the inventor who thought it wise to build the machine that washes so well and makes dishwashing a simple task after all. Let’s look at the history of dishwashers, shall we?

If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here.

Who Invented The Dishwasher?

First Invention Attempt

Due to the need to produce the machine that can wash dishes and the ever-evolving ideas inventors had during this time, Joel Houghton produced a machine made with wood that washes dishes in the year 1850.

This machine was the first attempt at making a dishwasher, but it wasn’t the best of the invention. It used a wheel that was manually turned with hands to sprinkle water on dirty dishes.

Joel Houghton got his patent for this work, but more work still had to be done to get a perfect design.

Second Invention Attempt

Using Houghton’s model, L.A Alexander developed dishwater that spin racked dishes through a vat of water using a geared mechanism in the year 1860.

Just like Houghton’s model, this model had its shortcomings and so wasn’t useful.

Who Invented a Workable Dishwasher?

The inventor of the first workable automatic dishwasher was Josephine Garis Cochran (She preferred her name spelled ‘Cochrane’) in the year 1886.

She didn’t like the traditional method of washing dishes with hands as it had a toll on her. She was said to have lots of china and had a lot of people coming to her house to party.

She later realized that the regular washing of her dishes by her maids damaged them in the process and so she was determined to make a machine that could wash dishes.

Cochrane invented the first workable dishwasher that is the mother of the modern-day dishwasher. This she did at the shed behind her house and called it ‘Cochrane Dishwasher’.

She got a patent for her work on 28th December 1886. Note: You can choose to dry washed dishes with hot air from the heating element or allowed to dry to save energy.

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Video: Who Invented The Dishwasher

This video will tell you more about the inventor of the dishwasher


Josephine Garis Cochrane was born on 8th March 1839 to father, John Garis, and mother whose name was Irene Fitch Garis in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Her grandfather was John Fitch the inventor of the steamboat. She later moved to Shelbyville Illinois to live with her elder sister, Irene Garis Ransom.

She got married to William Cochran a wealthy businessman on 13th October 1858 and lived in Shelbyville Illinois. Together William and Josephine had two children; Hallie Cochran (who died at age 2) and Katharine Cochran.

She shared her ideas of building a dishwasher with her friend, George Butters (a mechanic) who was her friend and together they produced her first dishwasher at the shed behind her house in 1886 and he later became one of her first employees.

She formed the Garis-Cochrane dishwasher manufacturing company and received a patent for her work on December 18, 1886.

Josephine Garis Cochrane died on 13th August 1913. She was buried in Shelbyville Illinois.

In the year 2006, Cochrane was initiated into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

How did the first Dishwasher Operate?

The first dishwasher invented by Josephine Garis Cochran operated with the help of a mechanical crank outside the dishwasher. The dishes were held in place by a wire compartment. The dimension of the wire compartment was determined by measuring common dishes in the kitchen. 

The dishes were washed by the action pressurized hot water coming from the dishwasher’s spray arm. Excluding the need for manual washing. The water is boiled in the dishwasher’s copper boiler.

The crank on the dishwasher helps to clean the dishes by dispersing the hot soapy water all over the dish. The machine could be run mechanically or manually. Another mechanism on the dishwasher sprayed hot water to rinse the dishes. 

Her dishwasher was an improved version of the earliest invention. 

Firstly, she measured the dishes and all kitchen utensils and built wire compartments for each item to hold them safely during spinning. The compartments were placed in a wheel that was fitted inside a copper boiler. 

In 1893, during the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, she unveiled her model and got visitors amazed at the functionality of this machine that relied solely on water pressure.

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Check out other related dishwasher articles:

Parts of Cochrane’s dishwasher

Washing compartment

This is where the dishes are loaded into a rack. She called it ‘the grate’.

Water Tank

This is the lower part of the machine.

Water Filter

This removes food particles from the dirty dishes to prevent it from blocking the pumps and pipes.

The handle

This was operated manually and had two pumps; one used to pump hot water and soap up towards the washing compartment to wash dishes and the other to pump clean water down to rinse dishes.

The handle was in turn connected to the wheel.

The Wheel

The wheel rotates the grate around during the cleaning process.

General Acceptance

At the time Cochrane unveiled her dishwashers, there was little awareness by the public so, it wasn’t generally accepted. Only hotels, restaurant owners and wealthy friends who saw the need to purchase this valuable machine patronized her to her dismay. 

Her company, the Garis-Cochrane dishwashing manufacturing company and was incorporated into the Hobart Manufacturing company under the brand name ‘KitchenAid’.

In 1949, KitchenAid produced a dishwasher using Cochrane’s model for the design.

It was until the 1950s, dishwashers were now a popular household name and plumbing was done to supply homes with hot water and it has become a globally accepted kitchen appliance to date.

KitchenAid is now a part of the Whirlpool Corporation and Cochrane is regarded as the founder.

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Modern Dishwashers

Modern dishwashers are not so different from the original model produced by Cochrane.

This is how it works:

i. Coldwater is pumped from home supply to the dishwasher.

ii. The heating element at the bottom of the machine heats the water to a very high temperature of about 86-140-degree Fahrenheit.

Note: Some dishwashers use hot water from the home supply instead and so do not require a heating element. A detergent dispenser opens automatically.

iii. An electric pump located at the bottom of the machine pumps water up the machine.

iv. Spray arms sprinkle hot water mixed with dish soap around the dirty dishes in the machine.

v. After the first cycle, the water goes back to the bottom of the machine and gets drained through the inbuilt drainage and another wash cycle begins.

vi. In the same mechanism, warm water is pumped around the machine and the dishes are rinsed with clean water.

vii. Water is drained again.

Major Parts of Modern Dishwasher

The major parts of a dishwasher include:

  • Upper Rack
  • Lower Rack
  • Third Rack
  • Silverware Basket
  • Tines
  • Macerator or Filter
  • Drain
  • Heating Element
  • Thermostat
  • Lower Spray Arm
  • Upper Spray Arm

Upper Rack

This rack accommodates dishes of varying sizes. It is adjustable.

Lower Rack

This rack holds larger dishware close to the heating element.

Third Rack

This rack holds silverware and smaller dishware.

Silverware Basket

This is located on the lower rack or door of the dishwasher. It accommodates kitchen utensils.


These are extensions that can be adjusted. They hold dishware and other kitchen utensils to be washed in place during wash cycles.

Macerator or Filter

This is the part of the dishwasher that shreds large particles of food to tiny bits. This prevents the dishwasher from becoming clogged from accumulated food debris.


This aids proper drainage in the dishwasher. It removes water from the tub and prevents any water from leaking out of the machine.

Heating Element

This is a circular tube located at the bottom of the tub. It is powered electrically. It heats water and regulates temperature. It also heats dry air for drying dishes.

Upper Spray Arm

This helps to sprinkle water on dishes located at the upper part of the machine. 

Lower Spray Arm

This helps to sprinkle water on dishes located at the lower part of the machine.


This is located below the tub at the bottom of the machine. It regulates the temperature of the water.

Other parts of the modern dishwasher are:

The control panel is located above the door panel (depending on the design). It houses the cycle selector, door latch, and timer.

The pump pumps water around the machine and drainage.

The detergent dispenser door holds the detergent for good circulation around the machine.


Finally, what do you say to a strong-willed woman who saw a need and looked for a way to solve them? Washing dishes is no longer such a big chore. More people are beginning to appreciate Cochrane’s work and making the dishwasher a must-have appliance in the kitchen.

Most companies are producing better models to serve families. There’s a dishwasher that suits your budget and your needs, get one, and each time you use it remember there was a time people didn’t have access to this luxury.

Who Invented The Dishwasher — Related FAQs

What Did People Use to Wash Dishes Before Soap?

Before the invention of soap, people made use of different items to wash dishes. These items include:

  1. Sand
  2. Ash
  3. Fats
  4. Alkaline salt
  5. Horsetail
  6. Cuttlefish bone
  7. Mare’s tail
  8. Horse tail
  9. Hay mixed in ash
  10. Running water
  11. Wire scrubbers
  12. Hot water
  13. Cloth
  14. Baking soda
  15. Sugar sand

You should however note that in the medieval times, cutleries were reduced to only knives and spoons. Plates were made from breadcrumbs. So, the plates were also eaten with the meal. Knives were regarded as personal items and were wiped clean with a cloth after each meal.

How Much Did the First Dishwasher Cost?

The first dishwasher made was never sold. It was designed by Josephine Garis Cochrane for her personal use and built by George Butters. However, after modifications were made on the dishwasher, the first set was sold for $150 in the early 1900s. The major clients who bought dishwashers in the 1900s were hotels and big restaurants.

Dishwashers did not become an instant hit in households. This was because a lot of homes did not have tanks large enough to hold hot water required to run the dishwasher. 

When Did The Dishwasher Become Common?

After the invention of dishwashers in 1886 by Josephine Cochrane, it took an extra 64years before the dishwasher made its way into homes. In the 1950s, during the post-war boom, dishwashers slowly began to make their way into the homes of very few wealthy families. At that point, the dishwasher was seen as a high-end luxury item.

In the early 1970s, dishwashers began to make their way into homes of many European and American families. At this point, more than 70% of families in America owned a dishwasher. The introduction of the standard-sized, wall to wall cabinets prompted the mass production of standard-sized dishwashers. This made them popular. 

How Did the invention of Dishwasher Change the World?

The invention of the dishwasher revolutionized the way we wash dishes today. Before the invention of dishwashers, dishes were washed with hand. Hand washing of dishes takes a lot of time; it is also inefficient. The bulk of water required to clean dishes by hand washing is wasted during rinsing.  

The invention of the dishwasher ended this water wastage, cut down the time spent washing dishes, and washes the dishes at a very hygienic level. This is a feat that cannot be achieved by hand washing. 

Is An Expensive Old Dishwasher More Efficient Than A New Model Dishwasher?

Your expensive old dishwasher is not more efficient than the new models of dishwashers. New dishwashers have features that let them wash the dishes better, faster, with less detergent and water. Older dishwashers consume a lot of energy in heating and maintaining the hot water used to wash.

New models of dishwashers employ door seals and heavy insulation. This ensures the hot water inside the dishwasher does not lose its heat. These improvements not only save you energy bills but also makes the dishwasher less noisy.

The introduction of soil sensors helps to determine how long a wash cycle runs. In contrast, old dishwashers without this sensor, you need to manually pre-wash your dish before inserting them into the dishwasher. 

Will You Save More When You Run A Dishwasher Half Filled?

You will not save either water, detergent, or energy when you run the dishwasher half filed. You also risk breaking your dishes as they bump around inside the dishwasher washtub.

To save more, ensure that the dishwasher is fully loaded. The dishwasher will use the same amount of water and detergent required to run a full load wash cycle to run a partially filled load cycle. If you do not have dishes enough to fill up your dishwasher, purchase a small-sized dishwasher.