The Top 10 Ways to Make Your Dishwasher Better

published Oct 20, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Of all the appliances (big or small) in the kitchen, the dishwasher is the one that sparks the most arguments among roommates and families. You know what we’re talking about. Maybe because your significant other says you load the dishwasher incorrectly? Or because your teenager insists on putting all your knives in there? The dishwasher can be so controversial! So we’ve decided to settle some things once and for all.

The following 10 facts are just that: facts that are 100 percent true. Some of you will want to debate a few of these—and you’re free to, but the rest of us will know the truth.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Theres a right way to load it.

Perhaps the biggest fight we hear is that someone accuses someone else of loading the dishwasher incorrectly. We all have our methods, but there really is a correct way. And usually that way is explained in your user manual. Generally, though, you want your plates to be facing inward and you don’t want to block the sprayer arm. Beyond those two things, consult your manual. It will tell you!

Read more: The Correct Way to Load Dishes for Every Major Dishwasher Brand, as Shown in Their Manuals

Credit: Faith Durand

2. You do not need to rinse your dishes.

In fact, you shouldn’t. The detergent needs something to grab onto during the cycle so, if you’re rinsing the dishes first, the soap will be less effective. Just use a fork or dish brush to scrape off bits of food and put your dishes right on into the machine.

3. You have to clean it.

Yes, you have to clean this thing that exists strictly to clean other things. At the very least, you should get in there to clean out any food that’s accumulated around the trap, but really, you should give it a deeper clean a few times a year.

See the stepHow To Clean Your Dishwasher, The Right Way

Credit: Diana Liang

4. You’re using too much detergent.

We mean the royal you here, because you may be fine, but most people are using far too much detergent. What’s the big deal? Well, for starters, it’s a waste of money. (Wouldn’t it be nice to get 180 cycles out of a bottle that used to give you 90?) It could also be leaving a cloudy film or spots on glassware. So if you’ve ever watched someone squirt a half cup’s worth of detergent into the compartment, show them this article. But be cool about it. No reason to be smug here.

Read more: The Dishwasher Mistake Almost Everyone Makes (and How to Quit)

5. You shouldn’t run it if it’s not full.

“The heating of dishwashing water is one of the most environmentally costly things we do,” says Ted Lindeman, a professor in the biology and biochemistry department at Colorado College. So, you really should make it worth it. Washing just a few dishes with all that hot water? Not worth it! Of course, you don’t want to overcrowd the machine (because then you’ll end up with a lot of still-dirty dishes). Which brings us back to the point that it’s a good idea to read the manual for your machine. (If you can’t find the hard copy, you might be able to find it online.)

Read more: The 2 Worst Dishwasher Mistakes You’re Probably Making

6. Some things just do not belong in there.

Look, we know there are lots of new knives and pots that come with labels saying they can go in the dishwasher. And they can—every once in a while. But we don’t recommend it night after night or even week after week. It adds a lot of unnecessary wear and tear to your tools. (See: This Is What a Dishwasher Actually Does to Your Knife.) And it also makes it hard for you to keep track of what can go into the dishwasher and what can’t. If you’re ever unsure about something, definitely hand-wash it.

Read more: 11 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Put in the Dishwasher

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

7. But some surprising things do go in the dishwasher!

While you will use your dishwasher mostly for dishes, there are all sorts of other things you can clean in there. Like your fridge shelves! And pieces of your vacuum cleaner! Don’t let the appliance’s name limit you!

Read more: 10 Surprising Things You Can Clean in the Dishwasher

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Vinegar can help it do its job better.

Don’t spend money on specialized rinse aid — you can just use white vinegar, especially if you’re trying to fight hard water staining. Pour some into a dishwasher-safe bowl on the top rack of your dishwasher (putting it in the rinse aid compartment could compromise the integrity of the compartment’s gaskets) and run the cycle like usual.

RelatedYou Should Put a Bowl of Vinegar in Your Dishwasher — Here’s Why

9. You should run hot water before you start the cycle.

“For the average dishwater, it takes about two minutes to heat the water inside the appliance 1 degree,” Dirk Sappok, head of product development at Miele, and Travis Robertson, knowledge manager at Sears Home Services told one of our writers. “Most cycles require the temperature to be 135ºF. If the incoming water temperature is only 105ºF, for example, it would take an additional 60 minutes to finish the cycle.” So if you run the water at your sink for a bit to get it hot, you can make the appliance more efficient.

Read more: The One Thing You’re Forgetting to Do When You Run the Dishwasher

Credit: Etsy

10. You need a clean/dirty magnet.If we’ve learned anything from the Apartment Therapy Media office in New York City, it’s that this one should not even be up for discussion. Get a magnet right there (or a sign, if your dishwasher door isn’t magnetic) and there will be no excuses for putting a dirty fork in with a clean load that hasn’t yet been emptied. We like this cute wooden one from Etsy, but there are literally more than 1,000 others you can browse on the site if you want something else.