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Hot Water! A Dozen Ways to Use Your Hot Water Dispenser

Updated on November 10, 2009
My hot water dispenser.
My hot water dispenser.

This article presents creative ways to use your dispenser. For some info on how these units function, see by Gredmondson.

Pull the lever, and zowie! There it is. Two hundred and eight degrees F of steaming hot water with no delay. For a tea drinker, it's bliss. It's indispensible.  My hot water dispenser is easily one of the best amenities added during our recent remodel. You don't drink tea, you say? I'm here to tell you that there are so many other uses for it, you want one anyway.

Perhaps you don't have a hot water dispenser, or can't install one, or you rent? Lower in this article are some options for portable units that require no installation.

My list keeps growing, but so far, I have used my hot water dispenser for:

  • Preparing hot beverages: tea, coffee, and soup;
  • Pre-heating vessels for hot beverages;
  • Jump starting hot water cooking processes;
  • Washing greasy dishes;
  • Cleaning knives;
  • Softening honey and syrup;
  • Rinsing lids;
  • Heating baby bottles;
  • Removing lables;
  • Dealing with funk;
  • Cleaning drains and other yuck;
  • Cleaning paintbrushes; and
  • Quick laundry fixes.
  • Melting stuff.

More about each of these below. Before I continue, let me just put in a reminder about conservation. Using a hot water dispenser requires not only water, but energy. Keep this in mind and look for ways to use your hot water more than once. I'll throw in a few "double duty" ideas along the way.

Esspresso maker by
Esspresso maker by

Beverage Applications

Yes, tea, of course, but also coffee. The recent foray of a large-yet-shall-remain-unnamed coffee company into instant coffee purveyorship notwithstanding, you can use your hot water dispenser in concert with preparation of real coffee, whether French press, drip, or espresso. While your drip pot is brewing, use hot water to preheat your mug. While you're at it, preheat your carafe or thermos or travel mug. Your coffee will stay hot longer. My dream guy rises before me in the morning, preheats the carafe and my mug before filling them, and wakes this night owl up with a steaming hot mug of French roast. Best of all, this prince charming is real . Back off; he's mine.

If your prepping espresso, a little pre-heating can make the difference between tepid and "just right" for the some that like it hot. I have this snazzy espresso maker/exercise machine that provides better results if preheated.

Instant soup or buillion is a snap with instant hot water. Get yourself a nice, preheated mug, pull out some tasty, low sodium, high nutrient bullion, broth, or miso, and feel instantly virtuous.

Conserve: Use the water from mug preheating for washing dishes, or (after cooling) for watering plants.

Jump Start your Soup

Slow food rocks. We love it. Sometimes the kids aren't so wild about the concept, though, so when the remedy (you know what I mean) is some macaroni and cheese, you want it fast. Drain the 2 liters of hot water from your dispenser into a sauce pan, place it on the stove, and before you know it, it's boiling and the mac can go in.

Whether boiling water is part of the dish or part of the process, your hot water dispenser can jump start the whole thing. If you don't have 15,000+ BTU of power on one of your burners, perhaps you would like it if the pasta water didn't take quite so long to heat. So, you can also placate the hungry adults that want their mostaccioli with spicy veggie sauce soon, before they stuff their hard-working tummies with pretzels. With one can of hot water, your condensed soup is a couple of minutes closer to done. Or perhaps you just need to blanch and peel your tomatoes now? Jump start with instant hot water.

Cut the Grease

Handwashing super greasy dishes is a pain in the patoot. My special favorite chore is cleaning the butter dish, a process that leaves everything nearby covered in a thin film of butter.  A quick rinse with the hot water dispenser makes this chore go quickly.  Mind you, only a quick rinse is required, and as always, watch your fingers!  If you also have messy pans to wash, rinse the smaller items over the pans, so that the hot water does double duty by collecting in the pan and jump starting its cleaning process.

Cleaning for Safety

I'm afraid of raw chicken - I'll admit it. There are good reasons for the safety guidelines concerning the handling of raw poultry. When you're done cutting up raw poultry, wash the knife, the hands, the cutting boards, etc. Back to the knife - after washing it, give it a quick rinse with the really hot water. It will end up sparkling clean, and you can worry just that much less about scary raw-chicken-related events.

Honey, Syrup, Lids, and Bottles

When you pull that honey or syrup out of the pantry, it can sometimes be a bit thick. Viscous honey is difficult to pour and measure. Put some hot water in a bowl and place the sealed jar in it for a few minutes - it will soften right up. If the lid is sticky, hold the jar sideways and rinse the threaded area carefully with a little of the hot water to unstick it. Then, after you have used your honey or syrup, close up the container and give the lid area a quick rinse to keep it from sticking next time.  Keep your fingers out of the hot water.

While I'm on lids, I found that my hot water tap accelerated a few aspects of the home canning process. I had instant hot water for rinsing implements that needed sanitizing, and could have my canning lids ready quickly, by putting them in a pan, covering them with hot water, and setting them to simmer.

In a pinch, you can use hot water from your tap to heat a baby bottle. Place the bottle in a mug and fill in hot water around it. Take the usual precautions to be sure that it's the right temperature for baby, of course.

Dealing with Funk

Oh, the dreaded Funky Sippy Cup That You Found under the Driver's Seat. Of course, it was full when it rolled there three days ago. Of course, the liquid in it was a dairy product. Now that you have identified the source of the foul oder and begun to air out your car industriously, you have the pleasure of removing the cup's hideous contents and returning it to usable condition. Here you go:

  • If it's garbage day, empty it into your bin and get the bin to the curb. Then go inside.
  • If it's not garbage day, go inside, light some incense, and dump the yuck in the sink or toilet, then chase it down the drain with water and baking soda.
  • Disassemble the lid/valve/etc. rinse the cup quickly with cold tap water, then soak it for a while in very hot water with some dish soap. Note, up until now, and including now if you're careful, you haven't had to touch the funk much, if at all. I recommend doing this step even if you're going to use a dishwasher later. No, I'm not obsessive that way at all, but I have seen some seriously funky cups emerge from a second-tier dishwasher with the "smell of funk" still in them.

With the above steps, washing it is much less offensive than it would be had you skipped the soak.

Now, a couple more important words about funk. We love the P. Funk kind of funk, just not the S. Cup kind.

Reuse that disposable cup and clean the gunk.
Reuse that disposable cup and clean the gunk.

Dealing with Gunk

While were on the topic of unpleasant substances, how about that stuff that accumulates in the drain stopper of your sink? It's one of the grossest cleaning jobs in the house. Pull the stopper out, fill a big, disposable cup with hot water tap water, and soak the offending appurtenance in it until you can bear to clean it. Add vinegar for extra grease-cutting. Change the water occasionally, if needed. This is a good use for that coffee-shop coffee cup that you acquired on the day when you didn't have your travel mug with you. You felt guilty about purchasing a disposable cup; now you have reused it. I strongly recommend, however, that you do not attempt to reuse the soaking water from this cleaning exercise.

Your instant hot water tap can help with any number of horrific (or just pesky, as in paintbrushes) cleaning tasks, simply by removing the first, most disgusting layer of gunk before you ever have to touch it. Reminders:

  • Wear gloves if you need them;
  • Don't submerge things that shouldn't get water inside them; and
  • Keep your fingers out of the really hot water. Do you sense that I have learned my lesson the hard way on this one?


Laundry Applications

When faced with a fearsome laundry stain, consult a good stain-removal guide if you have one. If you already know that hot water will help remove a stain, then know that you are now empowered with a heavy-duty laundry tool. I have used my hot water tap in the following ways for laundry:

  • Pouring hot water through a red wine stain on washable white fabric. (This was a critical method to know back when I used white cotten dropcloths as slipcovers to give my living room that "artists studio" look.) Pour the water from the back of the stain through the front. Keep your fingers out of the water. I can't say that often enough. I don't care if you've read it several times now--you need to live it.
  • Soaking whites with bleach as a pre-wash.
  • Removing tough soil stains from a rug.

Near-boiling water has limited laundry applications, because not all fabrics or colors can handle it. But for those that can, it is just the ticket.


Melting Stuff and Accidental Art

You can melt things with your hot water:  a little butter; a little chocolate; a little plastic.  Yeah, I had these cool plastic wine glasses that are perfect for travel.  Unlike most plastic wine glasses, they had a nice, thin rim, a pleasing shape, and a suitably large capacity. Their delicacy made them comfortable to hold, and elevated them to two notches higher than most plastic wine glasses. One night, we were trying them out around the backyard firepit, and we opened a promising bottle of red wine that turned out to be "Sourpuss OvertheHill Vinegar."  I tried to use my hot water dispenser to give the plastic glasses a quick rinse before the next "promising" bottle, and ended up melting one of them.  It looked pretty cool, so I kept it as a potential part of a strange piece of art we're conceiving. 

I do miss the nice glass.  Before we villianize the hot water dispenser, though, I must say that my dishwasher had the same effect on the second of two glasses.  The point is, be careful with light plasticware, inexpensive party decorations, and other delicate plastics.  And your fingers.

Now, I would love to hear about the other ways you have found to capitalize on your hot water!


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