Which came first – the dishwasher or the rotten egg white?

By Patrick Heisenburg

Over my increasingly long and pointless life I’ve seen many changes.

– Australian cricket has continued to find an ever-increasing amount of ‘ways to die’

– The price of fuel has sky-bombed upward to decadent levels since right around the time I got a car/licence

– $5 of chips at your local snack bar gets you the potassium levels equivalent to one of those mini alarm clocks that run on a single, withered potato

All extremely important, world-changing events I’m sure you’ll agree. But one item can be added to that list:

– The increased frequency of homes owning an electronic dishwasher

I’m all for this as, fetishists aside, nobody likes soaking their hands into the liquefied remnants of dinner. Who would knowingly choose to risk a floating and half-eaten lamb chop entering your body via osmosis as the pores within your withering flesh open up in this sodden nightmare?

But the dishwasher, marvellous as it is, comes with an unexpected and horrifying by-product if not used carefully and correctly. I’m talking about those times you grab a  ‘clean’, dry glass from your machine, pour an ice cold drink and, as you go to take that first sip, are shocked with a horrific, baked egg-white smell. As you gag uncontrollably due to this unexpected, and frankly undesirable, fragrance you ask yourself ‘how is this happening, the machine is clean!?’

To clarify my point here, the ‘baked egg-white smell’ is not one of meringue or something of similar delight, it is a horrendous, almost warm smell that roars down your nose with reckless abandon and clings to your smell receptors like a particularly enthusiastic leech.

‘It must be that particular glass’ you say, lying to yourself openly, and you pour the contents of the ‘bad’ glass into another. You take another sip in the ‘new, good’  glass and have to fuse your mouth shut by making your fingers imitate a pair of tweezers in order to prevent launching a technicolour yawn all over the kitchen bench.

The chances are that, if it is on one glass, it is also on every item within this cycle of your ‘newly finished and clean’ dishwasher run.

Other times this rancid smell has attacked me on porcelain plates. Sometimes in clay coffee mugs. No experience is more or less awful, it is an equally dreadful and off-putting experience that makes me ill just thinking about it.

So, back to the smell. This is what it smells like to me – crack 5 eggs that are already on the borderline of their use-by date. Separate the whites and the yolks, discarding the yolks. Pour the egg whites into a large, flat baking pan and leave in the QLD sun for 9 hours. Pour this glue-esque, baked-esque and snot-like substance all over the crockery you wish to eat/drink from, then sit that back in the sun for 3 days. After 3 days, put your favourite meal/drink onto the item in question and then give yourself a big olde helping of it.
I know not what causes this as such, but have found that there are ways to give yourself the best chances of avoiding this trauma, namely:

1. Always pour an absolute tonne of dishwashing powder into the machine

2. Ensure the machine is never packed beyond ¾ capacity

3. The second you hear the ‘I’m finished’ ding from the dishwasher, open it to air it out until the contents are OK to touch without becoming a burns victim (the air should be a fresh, clean smell)

4. As close as your nose will allow, do a smell test to ensure the dreaded ‘baked-egg’ smell isn’t discernible

5. Do a test run with a glass of water or something neutral that won’t block out the smell by offering its own flavour/masking agent

If at any point during this 5-step process you encounter ‘the baked horizon’ then restart from step 1.

If you don’t have time to wait for an entire repeat of the ‘5 steps to sanity’ then you can rinse individual items in warm, soapy liquid then apply the ‘smell test’. This is foolproof but more manual in terms of labour so I avoid like the plague unless absolutely necessary.

These steps will help, but they are not fool-proof. Sometimes this horrendous odour shall rise in spite of all your best efforts and intentions. Sometimes you’ll forget to do one of the 5 steps above and get away with it (if so, buy a lottery ticket that very same day as you essentially just escaped death). Sometimes the smell may be tolerable to you if you are battle-hardened or brave. Sometimes cups just stink.

– Patrick Heisenburg – a ‘very aware of the rotten baked-egg conspiracy thing in dishwashers’ kind of guy.