The dishwasher is a wonderful invention. Once you live in an apartment or home with one, you’ll find it impossible to live without one. It makes cleanup a cinch, which means it’s an easy task to kick over to the kids’ chore list.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t using their machines properly. They’re getting poor performance, wasted energy, and they just end up scrubbing by hand. Here are some tips to use your dishwasher correctly.
1. Keep solid food out of the dishwasher
Modern dishwashers are great and all, but most aren’t designed to process large chunks of food. If you send huge pieces in, it will either clog up your drain or just spread around and make a bigger mess. I’m not saying you have to pre-wash (otherwise what’s the point of the machine?), but scrape that leftover food into the trash bin before loading the piece into the dishwasher.
2. Don’t pack the machine to capacity
I know how tempting it can be to squeeze in one more dish, cup or spoon. Keep in mind that the dishwasher cleans by spraying hot water around. If your dishes are leaning against one another and tightly crowded, they’ll prevent that water from spreading. You won’t get proper clean. It makes more sense to wash a few dishes by hand rather than re-wash an entire load.
3. Check the temperature
A good clean happens when the water you’re using is between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Some energy-efficient models are set too low (which just forces you to run the machine again, thus wasting more energy) and some premium models are set far too high. Fiddle with the temperature control until you find the setting that works right for you.
4. Use the proper cycle setting
Most people just press “start” without considering what type of load their washing. Just like your washing machine, you’ll want to adjust this setting depending on the contents within. A light and quick setting is good for a fast wash of mostly unsoiled items, but it won’t be enough for dinner pots and pans.
5. Before running the dishwasher, run hot water in your sink for a minute
You want all the water in your dishwasher to be as hot as possible so it cleans properly, but if you start your machine before water has made its way from the hot water heater, the first few minutes will be cold, ineffective water. Let your sink run until the water is hot to the touch before pressing “start.”
6. Clean out the trap
At the bottom of your dishwasher, beneath the sprayer, is a trap that contains bits of food that didn’t get filtered out of the machine. If the try gets too full, food can come back out and re-dirty your dishes. Clean this regularly.
7. Clean the dishwasher interior
For the same reason you have to clean your washer, you should clean your dishwasher: food, dirt, and grime builds up over time and doesn’t get flushed out completely. Toss a cup of white vinegar in the bottom of your machine and run it empty on a normal cycle.
8. Test for hard water
Hard water can impair your dishwasher’s ability to get anything clean by preventing soap from spreading and lathering, clogging up your drain with its mineral content, and leaving a film on everything. Have your water tested for hardness and add a softener to your system if necessary.