6 Simple Steps to Make Your Dishwasher Work Harder
If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher in your kitchen, you know how convenient it is to skip out on hand-washing piles of dinner plates and flatware. But now that everyone’s eating at home so much more frequently, conquering those mountains of dishes—even with the help of a dedicated appliance—can get a little tedious. Just when you get one load out, there’s a whole new load to put in.
The key to overcoming dishwasher malaise? Taking these simple steps to make your appliance work harder.
Rinse your dishes first
Most dishwashers these days are powerful enough to effectively de-grime your dishes, so don’t put too much effort in. (In fact, your dish soap actually works together with the food residue to activate enzymes that clean the dishes.) Still, the appliance might miss larger, stuck-on bits—especially if the washer is loaded too close to capacity. So while you don’t need to pre-wash dishes, take care to scrape off dinner residue in the trash or garbage disposal as a first step.
Don’t overload the washer
As with any appliance, placing too much inside can diminish performance. Though it’s tempting to cram everything in to get the task over with, you’ll end up with half-clean dishes and extra work you probably don’t want to do. Plus, an abundance of plates or bowls on the bottom shelf can block the sprayer, preventing other dishes from getting clean.
How much you load isn’t the only important factor—how you load is just as important. For starters, always put bulkier items, like plates, Pyrex, and bigger bowls, on the bottom rack. Cups and plastics should go on the top rack, and, of course, silverware and utensils in the appropriate compartments with the soiled ends up. (Just be careful with knives, which can also go soiled-side down for safety.)
Use the right dish detergent
While both gel and powder can be effective cleaners, powder usually contains bleach as an extra ingredient, and it may not be as likely to build up in your dishwasher over time. No matter what type of detergent you opt for, only use the amount recommended on the product packaging. Too much can leave a yucky film-like residue on your dishes.
Use the right cycle
If your dishes aren’t emerging clean when the machine is done, you might be using the wrong setting. Normal wash should be sufficient for everyday dishes with a standard amount of food residue, and you can do a light wash for cleaner, pre-rinsed items. But when your items have caked-on grime, try the heavy-duty wash. Some dishwashers also have a sanitizing feature, which you can put to use when someone in the house is sick.
Make sure the appliance itself is clean
A few signs that your dishwasher isn’t clean: it smells, there’s visible scum or buildup, and, most importantly, your dishes aren’t coming out clean even if you follow the above steps.
Don’t worry: You don’t need to call in a professional. Start by cleaning the dishwasher trap, a removable piece under the lower sprayer that can trap food or hair. If the tray comes out fully, you can wash it in the sink.
You’ll also want to clean the dishwasher’s seals somewhat regularly (ideally every few months). Just grab a paper towel or microfiber cloth and wipe under and around the rubber gasket in the door and around the soap door.
For maintenance, you can toss a cup of white vinegar in the bottom of an empty dishwasher and run a normal cycle to clean out old food bits. Or, you can invest in a dishwasher-cleaning product (just follow package instructions).