Mother’s Day Special: The History of Modern Dishwashers

Image from

Making Women Happy since 1886.

The first modern dishwasher was designed and invented by a woman who had never washed a dish in her life. 

Josephine Cochrane, grand-daughter of the man who invented the steam boat, hand-built the dishwasher by making the racks out of wire and placing them into a copper boiler. To make it automated and save her servants the trouble (and saving her fine china), she attached a motor to a wheel that sprayed the water down on the dishes. In 1886, the first modern-day dishwasher was born. When her friends heard of the new contraption, they started ordering them from her, and in 1893, when Cochrane showcased the invention at the Chicago World’s Fair, it became a hit. 

In the 1920s, models became available with permanent plumbing installed, and soon after a man named William Howard Livens invented one small enough for use in regular households. Although his invention was not successful, in the 1940s electric drying elements were added to aid in heating the water and drying. 

Mostly restaurants and hotels picked up the automatic dishwasher at first, but by the 1970s, dishwashers were a commonplace domestic item in the United States. Over 60% of American homes have automatic dishwashers, and they’ve come a long way since their 1940s counterparts. Though the basics have stayed the same, dishwashers are now available with stainless steel interiors, hard-food disposals and better cleaning technology (like the Maytag MDB6769AW). 

The first dishwasher contraption by Josephine Cochrane.

The first modern dishwasher: I don't think this baby will fit underneath your countertops.

With the immense success of Ms. Cochrane’s invention, she went on to start the Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company, which eventually got acquired by KitchenAid and Whirlpool. Whirlpool is now one of the largest appliance manufacturers in the world, owning not just KitchenAid, but Jenn-Air, Amana and Maytag, as well. 

As an ode to the mother of dishwashers, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day with special discounts on dishwashers. Stop by your local Appliance Factory Outlet this week to check out what deals we’ve got going on, or sign up for our newsletter to get exclusive discounts.