Use Your Dishwasher Properly

Listen parents, we told you all those years that cleaning the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher was silly and duplicative, and now we have the Times telling us we were right! Ha! Pre-rinsing dishes is “actually triple bad” according a “senior dishwasher design engineer,” because dishwasher detergent exists to attack food, and when it doesn’t find any, it instead attacks your glasses. It also wastes electricity and water. And that’s not the only mistake most people make. Inside, the Times’ tips for keeping your dishwasher happy…

  • Use The Right Detergent: Your dishes will come out cleaner if you use powder detergent over liquid or tablet detergent.
  • Load Dishes Properly: Put glasses along the side of the top rack, and saucers and cups in the middle. The durable stuff belongs on the bottom rack.
  • Avoid Clogs: Wash the spray arm once in a while to remove any clogs.
  • Use The Normal Cycle: Consumer Reports tests dishwashers using the normal cycle. Dishwasher makers know this and make it the most efficient cycle. Skip past pots and pans.
  • Flash Dry Your Dishes: Quickly dry your dishes by opening the dishwasher immediately after it shuts off. The hot dishes will quickly give up water moisture and should dry within ten minutes.

The Dish on Dishwashers [The New York Times]
(Photo: NJ Tech Teacher)

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  1. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    [quote]
    Use The Normal Cycle: Consumer Reports tests dishwashers using the normal cycle. Dishwasher makers know this and make it the most efficient cycle. Skip past pots and pans.
    [/quote]
    I found this one fairly surprising. My parents were always telling me that nothing but the Pots and Pans setting would get the dishes clean. Shows what they know!

  2. Chmeeee says:

    “Use The Right Detergent: Your dishes will come out cleaner if you use powder detergent over liquid or tablet detergent.”

    FYI for those with septic systems, the advice is the reverse. I was told by the septic service that did my inspection when I bought my house that solid soaps of all types should be avoided, since they tend to resolidify in the tank and can cause problems as they build up.

    • bobcatred says:

      @Chmeeee: So one is best for washing dishes, while the other is best for not having sewage in your yard… Yum.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      @Chmeeee: thanks for the tip – about to buy a house with a septic system and none of the stuff i read on it mentioned that. i’d much rather have slightly less clean dishes [although the dishwasher in the house is brand new and should be fairly efficient] than sewage in the yard.

      • Aladdyn says:

        @catastrophegirl – manic first time home buyer: Ive never heard of the soap theory. Common sense would say that if you dissolve soap into water and than put that water into a bigger container with more water Its not going to re-solidify. But maybe they know something I dont… The biggest issues I know of are water softeners that discharge their backwash into your septic system, over-use of bleach and or antibacterial soaps, dont flush antibiotics or other medicines down the toilet, excessive paper products (not toilet paper). Just remember that the bacteria in your tank are your friends and anything you do to disrupt their environment will not be good for your leach field.
        Also never use any kind of additive that claims to clean you septic tank so it doesnt need pumping. Not good.

        Also did the inspection service check the condition of the baffle in your tank? Its very important that its there and in good condition.

        Any questions let me know.

        • Necoras says:

          @Aladdyn: My guess is that it’s a temperature issue. Water in your dishwasher is well over 100F. Water in your septic tank will likely stay near 50-60F. I don’t know what’s in detergent, but it would make sense if it solidifies as it cools.

      • balthisar says:

        @catastrophegirl – manic first time home buyer: I’m not sure what the basis for saying “less clean” is. I use only liquids, because they’re simpler. My dishes aren’t less than clean. They’re cleaner than hand-washing, anyway.

        Anyone have any further details on why liquid soaps would be “less clean”?

    • shadowkahn says:

      @Chmeeee:

      Septic systems collect solids anyway – namely feces. They should be pumped out every 2-3 years as it is. The soap shouldn’t be an issue.

      • Anonymous says:

        @shadowkahn:
        I have also had the same problem with a clothes washing machine: I never used the really hot cycles and always used soap powder. Over time, the powder was progressively clogging up the gray water pipes either because it was re-solidifying in the cooler pipes or it had never dissolved. Eventually, the machine would back up because the useful diameter of the gray water pipe was too narrow.

        The fix was to scrape all the gunk out, use liquid detergent or if I did use powder then to make sure to do a really hot wash (maybe with some caustic soda? don’t remember) every so often. I’ve used liquid since then and haven’t had too bad a time.

  3. narf says:

    Go fig that just 2 minutes ago, I just loaded up the dishwasher …

    Of course, having been a CR subscriber, I knew these tips already. I just didn’t buy any of the higher rated ones. I still ahead buying a one-year old $40 one that washes “good” instead of $350 for a very good.

    The 20 year old one that was taken out … I might repurposed as a car parts washer.

    • balthisar says:

      @narf: I gave away the 20 year old one. Absolutely free. On Craigslist. It worked, but it was noisy. The replacement is absolutely quiet. It’s bliss.

    • jeffbone says:

      @narf: Excellent idea on the car parts washer, but be careful what soap or detergent you use. Some cleaners will discolor aluminum. That is why using Simple Green as an engine degreaser is a mixed blessing — not that I would know from experience :-( .

  4. Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

    Wow, I feel wonderful now. My laziness when it came to rinsing my dishes has certainly paid off!

    (…running to my phone and eagerly calling relatives who berated my dishwasher know-how)

  5. spidra says:

    I’ve got a 2004 Kenmore dishwasher. I load as directed above, use powdered detergent, etc. and it always leaves food on the plates. Because it is next to useless if you don’t pre-wash, I end up doing my dishes by hand unless my RSI is really bad at the time or unless there’s been a dinner party that has created too many dishes to deal with at one time.

    • Anonymous says:

      @spidra: Have you ever cleaned your dishwasher? Do you have hard water? I have a 1 1/2 year old dishwasher that stopped cleaning well. In doing research, it’s because of the hard water. Now I clean it with dishwasher cleaner (near the dishwasher detergent in the supermarket) at least twice a month and it is back to the way it was when we bought it.

    • Shoelace says:

      @spidra: Early 1990s GE. Have to prewash unless I want food left. Am finicky so I usually use the dishwasher after I prewash. Tablets actually seem to work best.

    • geoffhazel says:

      @spidra: spidra, our dishwasher got a new lease on life when I started using Cascade Complete. yes, it’s gel, but it does what the dishwasher couldn’t getting dishes clean. I recommend you get a small bottle and give it a try.

  6. bikeoid says:

    “Use The Right Detergent: Your dishes will come out cleaner if you use powder detergent over liquid or tablet detergent.”

    I find the best detergent by far are the combo tablets – 2 colored items that both wash and rinse effectively.

    • MonkeyMonk says:

      @bikeoid:
      I agree. We’ve tried everything and the combo tablets that contain both powder and liquid have worked by far the best for us.

      The worst detergent I’ve ever used is Electrasol which always seems like it’s sandblasting the plates and glasses in addition to cleaning them.

      Pre-washing is generally not needed unless you have leafy greens on a plate. Those tend to become dried out and practically cemented to the plate.

      • hedonia says:

        @MonkeyMonk: Well it says to not pre-wash, but definitely to scrape, so scrape all that sort of stuff into the garbage first (it also tends to clog up the arm thingy faster if you don’t).

    • floraposte says:

      @bikeoid: Well, and I’m torn, now, because Consumer Reports gave its top rating to some liquids. Who to trust?

    • MooseOfReason says:

      @bikeoid: Yeah, we use Electrasol tabs (“Finish” now) with the “Jet Dry powerball”.

    • gman863 says:

      @bikeoid:

      Ditto on the votes for the Finish Powerball tabs.

      I live in an area with hard water. The Powerball tabs don’t leave food residue (Cascade pacs do) and don’t etch glassware.

      As for the cycles, I use normal with both the temp boost and sanitize options. A dishwasher is the only appliance requiring water above 120F — I keep the water heater set at 120 and let the dishwasher make up the difference; it saves me about $15/mo on my electric bill.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      @bikeoid: Awhile back, CR rated the Wal-Mart store brand best in class. It’s all we use.

  7. Pasketti says:

    I’ll second that “use the right detergent” tip. For a long time, we used one of those phosphate-free eco-friendly brands. After awhile, funk started to build up in the dishwasher, requiring me to disassemble it and scrub it all out after a couple of years. A couple of years later, it did it again, and that was when I twigged to what was going on. We switched back to a standard earth-raping chemical-laden high-phosphate brand, and the dishwasher (and dishes) have been clean ever since.

    • hometheaterlvr says:

      @Pasketti: We use BioKleen’s unscented powder, and so far after 8 months, no problems. I just don’t fill up the detergent cups all the way, per advice given last year on this site. It might also help that instead of a rinse aid (like Jet Dry or something else) I use vinegar in there. Same for my clothes washer in the fabric softener dispenser.

      My clothes washer is about 15 years old, and when we got it from the in-laws when they got their new one, it was covered with hard-water deposits, grime and soap crust. After a few months of using vinegar in there instead of softener, the tub looks brand-spanking new. Wow.

    • magic8ball says:

      @Pasketti: Wonderful. They’re trying to outlaw detergent with phosphates where I live. Now I’ll have to travel out of state and smuggle it back if I want my dishes clean.

      • Major-General says:

        @magic8ball: I knew a chemist who did research on detergents. I told me that no soap/detergent actually cleans without the phosphates.

        • c_c says:

          @Major-General:
          I used to work in a lab where we analyzed for nutrients in water… nitrates, phosphates. So we had to use phosphate free soap in our glassware dishwasher or everything would get contaminated. Granted we didn’t have food scraps on our beakers, but everything seemed to clean ok.

    • FigNinja says:

      @Pasketti:

      A lot depends on your water. I had no trouble with the eco-friendly stuff when I had softer water. Now I live somewhere with hard water and I was about to give up on finding a phosphate-free option that didn’t leave crud on my glasses. From what I read the phosphates were mainly there to combat hard water. Citric acid (a main ingredient in rinse aids) also does this. I tried a tablespoon of citric acid with a tablespoon of my hippie phosphate-free/chlorine-free detergent and it worked great. No crud and no build up in the washer. I’ve seen add-in products for hard water and they were just citric acid (and fragrance). I can buy it in bulk for far less than you’d pay for them. How well it works probably depends on which minerals you have in your water. I believe our water is heavy in calcium carbonate.

      Apparently in some parts of Europe that have hard water, they have built in softeners in the dishwasher so you don’t have to use phosphates. You have to add softener salt from time to time, though.

  8. chris_d says:

    My apartment has a whirlpool dishwasher, and if you don’t pre-rinse, the dishes come out with food on them. It’s almost not worth using.

    • mgy says:

      @chris_d: Mine is exactly the same. Not sure of the brand without getting off my ass and checking, but I don’t even bother using it unless I have time to “pre-wash” the dishes.

      If the trade off is the detergent “attacking” my dishes, I think I’ll live.

    • bohemian says:

      @chris_d: We had an ancient and cheapo dishwasher in a house we were renting. We called it the dish dirtier. Things actually came out dirtier than they went in even if everything was pre-rinsed.

      We found that the dish cubes worked better in our 1980′s Kitchenaid that came with the current house. When we got a new one we switched to Electrasol powder per the manufacturer instructions. It is cheap and does a great job. We use distilled vinegar in the jet dry dispenser and that solves the water build up on everything.

    • Ultraprison! says:

      @chris_d: Our building has a Kenmore, but yeah, if we don’t pre-rinse everything, it’s still there when we empty the thing.

  9. nitro.and.acetylene says:

    i’ve never met a dishwasher that didn’t leave food on all the dishes, except for industrial-style hobarts. my last apartment came with a dishwasher and it was worthless except as an extra dish rack.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    I guess that my older sister was right: Parents are the root of all evil!

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      @Trai_Dep: If siblings are correct, I guess I’m adopted. T.T

  11. ajlei says:

    Yeah, as a lot of people have mentioned, I too have a dishwasher that, unless you scrub most of the food off, the dishwasher’s not going to do any good.

    • kenposan says:

      @ajlei: ditto that. And what’s worse is that some of that food ends up stuck in my glasses and gets baked on there. So then I have to soak them to pry the food off and rewash them.

  12. friendlynerd says:

    I have a Frigidaire that was rock-bottom on the dishwasher ratings when CR tested it (came with the house.) I find that I have to use pots & pans along with temp boost on wash and rinse for anything to get actually clean. I think it’s the extra rinse that makes it.

    But since the dishes are raging hot by then I can do without heated dry and they come out fine.

  13. baquwards says:

    I have the bottom of the line GE dishwasher in my apartment, doesn’t even have a washer arm on the top shelf just this thing that pops up and sprays the top rack.

    Since I switched to powder with enzymes (phosphate free ALDI store brand)the dishes come out perfect almost every time, I never pre-rinse anything and only do a load 2-3 times a week so the stuff drys on.

    I bet that in many cases the water is to blame, I heard that hard water can make many detergents less effective.

    It takes forever for hot water to reach my kitchen, so I always run the water in the faucet until it gets hot and then start the dishwasher, maybe that helps some.

    • balthisar says:

      @baquwards: Dishwater is supposed to be hooked to the hot water line, because it’s more energy efficient to heat already hot water than cold water. That said, the dishwasher is also supposed to heat the water. Maybe your dishwasher is broken, and not heating the water?

      • ChuckECheese says:

        @balthisar: Although a dishwasher is connected to a hot water source, there may be several feet of pipe between the hot water source and the d/w. This water cools when it is not flowing through the pipe. Therefore you may have several gallons of cool water in your hot water pipe. A d/w doesn’t use a lot of water, so the dishwasher will fill with cool water. Cool water may not dissolve powdered d/w detergent and won’t clean greasy dishes well. Many dishwashers do not automatically heat water. Some may have a temperature boost cycle, but it must be turned on, and it increases electricity use. For these reasons, the Cascade website recommends, before turning on the d/w, to run the hot water at the sink nearest the d/w until it is warm.

        @jstonemo: Eat your SpaghettiO’s out of the can. Heating them makes no difference. No electricity use, only a spoon to wash.

        • balthisar says:

          @ChuckECheese: I had no idea that not all dishwashers didn’t heat the water. That actually seems unhygienic, since unless you’re a freak that turns up his hot water tank to maximum (and wastes energy), the hot tap water isn’t nearly sufficient enough for a dishwasher to work well.

        • baquwards says:

          @ChuckECheese: Bingo, that is what I meant. My water heater is about 10 feet from my dish washer, but the pipes seem to take a trip around the neighborhood, so it takes what seems like an eternity for hot water to reach the sink. That is why I make sure that the dish washer is getting hot water, I doubt that my horribly cheap dish washer heats the water.

    • markrubi says:

      @baquwards: Yes hard water is bad. Ever been in a hotel and washing your hair and it feels like you have not got all the soap/conditioner rinsed out? This is because they have soft water then what you are used to. Plus you don’t need to use as much soaps / detergants etc in soft waters.

  14. jstonemo says:

    One word: spaghetti-o’s

    Nothing gets spaghetti-o’s off your dishes except for pre-rinsing in the sink. Pasta of any kind is second only to epoxy for its stickiness.

    • wardawg says:

      @jstonemo: Put a little bit of salt in the water while you cook it and rinse the starch off your pasta before eating it. Pasta is one of the staples around my place (the joys of being on a student budget) and I haven’t had problems with it sticking to the plates since I started doing both those things. Any left over pasta dries to the plate, but comes off quite easily. (note: white glue is around 50% starch)

      Starch doesn’t dissolve readily in cold or even warm water. Temp boost is a MUST when washing anything starchy like pasta or potatoes (potato starch is even worse than wheat starch, but I think rice is the worst).

    • crouton976 says:

      @jstonemo: Uh-ooohhh….. SPaghetti O’s!!

  15. mmmsoap says:

    I don’t understand the powdered-versus-liquid soap advice. In my experience, pre-dissolved detergents tend to finish dissolving and do their job better, be it for dishwashers or clothes washers.

    Now, those powdered soaps are cheaper because they come in more-easily-shippable containers (cardboard boxes instead of wacky shaped plastic jugs), and because I’m not paying for the water that’s dissolving the soap. But working better? I’m surprised.

    • Anonymous says:

      @mmmsoap: I too am surprised that he advises against liquid soap, and really doesn’t explain why. When I use dry soap, I can often count on scrubbing dried on soap off and tossing them in again. I’m not thrilled about having yet another plastic jug to recycle, but less excited at the prospect of doing the job twice.

      Perhaps people who own top of the line machines which have a feature that disposes of food on the plates (oh how I envy them), can get away without rinsing, but certainly not those of us who are keeping our museum pieces in working order for the benefit of future archaeologists.

    • baquwards says:

      @mmmsoap: It is all about enzymes the powdered stuff has the enzymes and the liquid doesn’t. The enzymes will break down the food much faster.

      That is why I have had great luck with powder and terrible luck with liquids in my crappy apt. dishwashers.

  16. Kevin L. Hudson says:

    I must add GRITS to this! (Yankees feel free to ignore this post.) Just today my partner didn’t rinse/scrape the bulk of grits off of anything, and every single item came out with grits here and there (even the glasses). Worse, they were now thoroughly dried on. (CR “Better” rated DW using powder.)

  17. MightyCow says:

    Funny, my non-clean dishes when I don’t pre-wash or use powdered soap says otherwise.

  18. Vanilla5 says:

    Clearly you haven’t met my apartment complex default dishwasher.

    Pre-rinsing/pre-washing is absolutely necessary. If I had that Maytag that you could put a whole chocolate cake in and it would eat it all up, I wouldn’t pre-wash. But, alas – I do not.

  19. Jesse in Japan says:

    This is what I do: the minute I am finished using a dish, I clean it. It’s very easy to clean that way and you don’t get that stuck on grease. When I cook, I clean the utensils I have used to cook before I eat and as soon as I finish eating, I wish my wishes thoroughly. It takes less than a minute per dish.

    • Jesse in Japan says:

      @Jesse in Japan: I mean I wash my dishes thoroughly… man my head is messed up today.

    • magnoliasouth says:

      @Jesse in Japan: That’s good, but when you have a family of six, it isn’t that simple. There are tons of pots and pans, baking dishes, etc.

      If it were just me or even just myself and my husband, that would be one thing, but as it is that definitely doesn’t work.

      • Powerlurker says:

        @magnoliasouth:

        If you have a family of six, you shouldn’t be washing your own dishes, that’s what kids are for.

        • trujunglist says:

          @Powerlurker:

          No kidding. My dad would never let me do anything until the dishes were done.
          He sometimes allowed contests, such as “if you can make more baskets than me out of 10 than you don’t have to wash dishes.” That was nice, except that he frequently changed the rules so he wouldn’t have to do it. Ahh well. If I ever have kids, they’re so washing the dishes.

  20. oldgraygeek says:

    Our Bosch dishwasher practically demands powdered detergent: it has a rinse agent reservoir, so there is no need to have that included with the detergent.

    After some experimentation, we found that it runs best on half a coffee scoop of Electrasol powder. We are only on the third box of detergent since we bought it: the previous box lasted 16 months.

  21. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I was all set to tell Mr. Pi he could stop slaving over the sink, scrubbing every dish as if there was gold underneath…but a) he wouldn’t listen to me and b) the wealth of evidence from all of you saying that pre-rinsing is the only way things get done shows me that we will always be scrubbing dishes.

  22. markrubi says:

    If you put dishes in most washers without rinsing them off with the sprayer in the sink you are asking for trouble. Did a plumber write this article? Gee I wonder why that garbage disposal is under my sink? A quick rinse of bulk food in the sink then into the washer is the best advice. The dry heat during the “dry cycle” kills any bugs which might be sticking around on the dishes. Sanitize….

  23. CFinWV says:

    Every time I load dirty dishes without rinsing I get ants. Nooooooo thank you!

  24. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    i have a whirlpool (i think) circa 2002, works great without pre-rinsing (just need to scrape chunks into the trash)
    i found that the silverware gets cleaner if it’s all pointing up, except for the knives (i don’t like them pointing up) – this seems to prevent the spoons from cradling, so sticky stuff doesn’t get stuck between them.

  25. 3drage says:

    When they find a way to get the crud off the dishes, and the gunk that ends up on the top side of the bottom of the cups, I’ll stop cleaning dishes before I put them in the dishwasher. I’ve had to rewash too many dishes because of leftover stuff.

    • Powerlurker says:

      @3drage:

      To keep the stuff from accumulating in your cups, just pour it out at the end of the rinse cycle so it doesn’t have time to dry on.

  26. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    But I love the “pots and pans” setting! It gives me great satisfaction when the dishes are too hot to touch when the cycle is over. Makes me thing everything is clean and disenfected. And, yes, I do have OCD. :)

  27. qxrt says:

    I know little about dishwashers besides the basics when I’m using them, and it seems like I’ve been following all the guidelines. Strange how in this case, supposedly knowing less about dishwashers makes things work out better.

  28. magnoliasouth says:

    Interesting tips, but where did it say to “Wash the spray arm once in a while to remove any clogs”? Once in a while? It only needs washing if there IS a clog. Washing it “once in a while” is a futile effort and will not even prevent them. Mr. Edwards never suggested that.

    Just an FYI.

  29. H3ion says:

    paper plates

  30. ShruggingGalt says:

    This reminds me of the local discount appliance guy in Orlando. On one of his commercials he washed an entire cake to see which one washed it away. And one did. Completely.

  31. Don Roberto says:

    A couple more key tips:

    Set the rinse agent setting according to your water; the harder (or more mineral) your water is, the higher setting you will need. This is one of the things that rinse aid does is to prevent hard water from sticking to your glasses and leaving spots.

    on the flipside

    If you have a water softener, use as little detergent as possible, and a “1″ setting or no rinse aid at all. Going with the same thinking as the article: detergents and rinse aids are designed to combat dirty dishes AND hard water, which is what’s found in many households. No hard water, then your dishes get attacked, and you’ll get nasty etched glasses.

  32. Dennis Freytag says:

    I sell Appliances for a living and by far the biggest thing that people forget to do with a dishwasher is run your sink for 2 minutes to get the water to heat up to 120 degrees so the dishwashers internal heater can then pump it up to 160 degrees. It needs to have the water be quite hot to break down the enzymes properly in the detergent. Common science says if water coming in is tap temp for the first few minutes you are going to have lukewarm water at best in the machine. And also use a rinse aid all the time if it has a stainless steel interior tub.

    • oldgraygeek says:

      @Dennis Freytag: I run the water until it’s hot every time, but my wife doesn’t: she thinks it’s a waste of money.

      I’m a mechanical engineer, but she knows best…

    • Don Roberto says:

      @Dennis Freytag: GE (and others’ hot-start feature does away with this. Saves you money, too. It’s better to heat the water at the point where you need it.

  33. jenjen says:

    The one lesson I can share about dishwashers is don’t EVER put regular dish soap in them. If you’re out of dishwasher detergent, just wash them by hand. Even a teeny little bit of regular dish soap will create mounds and mounds of sloppy foam all over your kitchen. It’s amusing in hindsight but at the time is a big mess.

    • gman863 says:

      @jenjen:

      ROFL!!!

      Brings back memories of when I was 4 and put Mr. Bubble in my grandmother’s KitchenAid to “help her do the dishes”.

      :-)

  34. gman863 says:

    This whole rinse or don’t rinse thing really depends on if your dishwasher filters the water and/or has a built-in disposer blade.

    Cheap dishwashers (found in most apartments) have a crappy filter that will only keep large items from entering and jamming the pump. If a lemon seed or similar size item is sucked in, it can clog a jet in the wash arm.

    Better dishwashers (like my 2 year old Maytag) use a finer screen mesh filter to catch food particles. When it drains, the particles are ground up by a blade before being pumped out. This reduces the chances of food particles (and if any are left due to poor detergent they’re smaller).

    I don’t pre-rinse and wait until it’s full (usually 3-4 days). Using Finish Powerball tabs, things come out spotless every time.

    One final tip: If glassware starts to get “film” on it due to hard water, pour 2 cups of white vinegar into the dishwasher and run the “rinse & hold” cycle prior to running the normal cycle. I do this about every 3 months and my glassware still looks like new.

  35. Bruce Moldovan says:

    I’ve been arguing over to pre-clean or not pre-clean with people for years. Other than dumping big chunks of food (that clearly can’t fit through the dishwasher’s drain) I never clean off my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. And they always come out perfectly clean. I use “Cascade Complete” for whatever it’s worth (and no I don’t work for or represent Cascade in any way). There is absolutely no reason to waste the time (and water if that matters to you) pre-cleaning your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Even after they come out perfectly clean, people still argue that I didn’t do it right. People don’t handle seeing a “lazy” method work as well or better than their labor-intensive method so they get defensive about it.

    As I always say, the only difference between being lazy and being efficient is the end result. This is a prime example of that principle.

    I’ve always used the light or normal setting depending on how many dishes I have in there… I’ve never once used the heavy setting, and my dishes always come out clean.

  36. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Ok folks let’s clarify a point here… Not rinsing your plates does not mean you leave huge volumes of food on the plate. So continue to scrape it off, or let the dog prerinse it.

    At one stage in my life I worked for one of the worlds largest white goods manufacturers. I learned from the engineers and trainers for “modern” dishwashers that there is a lot they can handle. Most dishwashers made in the last 10 years or so have a food particle grinder that will take chunks of food and grind them up so they remain in suspension and are then pumped out of the machine. So rinsing isn’t necessary.

    However, do not believe all the hype you see in the advertising. A lot of it is BS. You may recall seeing an advert for a dishwasher a few years ago that put a whole double layer iced cake in the dishwasher to show how effective at cleaning it was… Well any dishwasher can clean that up since cakes disintegrate in water. That demo was BS. The demo I would love too see is a dishwasher getting all the dishes clean after the teenagers dump them in the machine all willy-nilly… never gets clean in real life.

    By the way have you ever noticed that there are two types of people when it comes to loading a dishwasher. Type one loads dishes in an orderly fashion with like dishes together to maximize capacity and faces the food surfaces of the dishes so that they recieve maximum spray action. Type two loads dishes randomly as if, I suspect, they think the dishwasher fills full of water, to the top, and that is how everything gets clean.

    For you type two folks out there please watch this video

    and realize the inside of a dishwasher is more like a lawn sprinkler than a laundry tub.

  37. mariospants says:

    We just had a dishwasher repair guy come to check out our 5 month old machine on Saturday. An outlet valve was clogged due to what was obviously leftover plastic tabs from the manufacture of the dishwasher plus a lemon seed (that took it over the edge). He said to “always scrape clean thoroughly and rinse the dishes” before putting them in the dishwasher. i.e. he was protecting the dishwasher’s ass and saying “damn the dishes”.

  38. tworld says:

    I’ve owned two dishwashers. The first, a G.E. Pot Scruber with lights and “special” do-dads, that lasted 13 years, BUT required numerous service and parts replacements, including the motor.

    My second is the cheapest Frigidaire model, no lights, nothing special at all . . . just on and off. The Frigidaire cleans better than the G.E. ever did.

    And, it’s absolutely true, powder is cheaper and gets dishes squeaky clean.

  39. radiochief says:

    I’ve worked in a pilot development lab and a quality control in the past.

    Powdered dishwasher soap and powdered laundry detergent always clean best. Some of the many tests you run for both types of soaps is to determine the %solids of the liquid– since those are the active ingredients. With powdered soaps there’s no issue with that. The only thing you have to worry about (with laundry detergents especially) is that they are properly dissolved in water.

    YMMV as always with what dishwasher, what settings and what loads you wash. Dishwasher (and laundry) loads standardized. Certain amounts of pre-made dirt (lab-made) and precise amounts foods are dried onto plates and glasses which are then washed with a precise amount of detergent. This standardization is great to rate a washers or a soaps relative vs. competitors; but not necessarily great for your situation.

    We have in our condo either a bottom or next-to-bottom of-the-line dishwasher. It works perfectly well for lightly soiled dishes and glasses in a normal load. But here we tend to pile everything in, and nothing short of the superwash+temp boost+heated dry+2 tabs will do it. And it is not like I am leaving chunks of lasagna and oatmeal on everything.

    • Thorzdad says:

      The only thing you have to worry about (with laundry detergents especially) is that they are properly dissolved in water.

      @radiochief: This makes me wonder…in your testing of laundry detergents, did you test them when used according to the *manufacturer’s* instructions (fill tub with water, add detergent to dissolve, THEN add clothes), or did you test the detergents as used in reality by consumers (dump clothes in, start water, add detergent)? Powder laundry detergents are total fails, when used in the consumer real-world scenario.

  40. lekoch says:

    I was always under the impression that the advantage (other than saving time) of a dishwasher was to sanitize your dishes and that the pots and pans cycle heated up the water more and therefor your dishes had less germs on them.

    Also, I don’t understand how powdered dish soap could be better if it leaves dried crap all over my dishes and I now have dried crap imbedded in some of my plastic bowls. It’s either the old school dishwashers that are in the apartments I’ve lived in or something that I’m doing wrong. Regardless, I enjoy knowing my dishes are sanitized and that I’m not going to have white stuff all over my dishes.

    • baquwards says:

      @lekoch: run the hot water in your sink until it is good and hot and then immediately run the dish washer. Since dishwashers use so little water, chances are you are washing in lukewarm water and the powder is not dissolving.

  41. Anonymous says:

    “Flash Dry Your Dishes: Quickly dry your dishes by opening the dishwasher immediately after it shuts off. The hot dishes will quickly give up water moisture and should dry within ten minutes.”

    This is a very bad idea in the winter in my house. Thermal shock has broken glasses on the rack in the dishwasher when I have done this. I recommend against this.

  42. Kaessa says:

    Unless you have a crappy old dishwasher like mine, and would like your dishes to actually be *clean*.

  43. Chadarius says:

    I have two dogs. The provide all the pre-washing we need! :)

  44. gafpromise says:

    I’m an apartment dweller so maybe I just keep getting cheap dishwashers. But if I don’t prerinse I will get nasty bits of who knows what floating in bowls, glasses, any concave surface that collects a little water. Really gross.

    And chiming in on anything that tends to get sticky and dried out – must be rinsed right away or it will be twice the work later!

  45. greedychickenlittle says:

    If you have hard water, things rarely get clean in the dishwasher no matter what detergent you use. I’ve used all kinds of detergents (beware the supercheap dollar-aisle kind, high phosphorus=bad for the environment and doesn’t work well anyway. Save $2 at the store and spend an hour rewashing the dishes.) and rinse agents and some, of course, work better than others. The only thing I know that works great nearly every time is a product called Lemi-Shine that you can put in with the detergent. Cleans the hard water crust inside the dishwasher, won’t etch glasses, helps get plastic cleaner, etc.
    I always turn the dishwasher off before the dry cycle and pull out the racks to air dry. Saves money and gives the dry winter air some needed moisture.
    Also, rinsing and even a little pre-washing is required if you always run a full load (which you should!)and have anything starchy-sticky, like mac’n’cheese, cereal, etc that dries into a cement-hard substance. The dishwasher won’t get it off and rinsing beats breaking nails chipping it off later. Or anything that stains, like tomato sauce, on a plastic dish.
    Also remember that the dishwasher does deal with a lot of yucky gunk and has lots of holes (spray arm, liquid rinse agent dispenser) and crevices (steam vent) it gets into. Take off the vent cover and poke a pipe cleaner through the spray holes at least twice per year to clean them out. Even if it’s the landlord’s appliance, you eat off the dishes.

  46. Thorzdad says:

    As for the dishwashers…Our home is on a well, and the water pressure will vary throughout the wash cycle. This seems to have a big effect on the results we get. Sometimes, it sounds like there isn’t ANY water being sprayed in the dishwasher. But it’s hit-and-miss. Sometimes, pots, pans, and glasses come out perfectly clean. Other times, pots come out with dried-on gunk and the glasses show serious fogging/etching.

    We have a softener on the system, but it can only do so much with the water here. Running the hot water for a few minutes to get the line hot definitely helps. We’ve never used powder in the washer, but we are currently using some transparent, lumpy, gel-like formulation of Cascade which I’m not terribly impressed with. The old white liquid did a much better job.

    I’ve found dried-on Kraft mac-n-cheese is a torture test for a dishwasher’s ability.

  47. cathiebeth says:

    most new dishwashers’ instruction booklets say you should run the hot water tap until the water is the hottest it gets BEFORE turning on your dishwasher. this ensures that HOT water (as opposed to lukewarm) is mixing with your detergent to clean the dishes. my dishwasher is almost 10 yrs old, & i just started running the hot water tap before turning on the dishwasher cycle (now i use the lightest setting) & my dishes are cleaner and there are NO spots on the glasses (i don’t have to buy Jet Dry, etc anymore).
    i highly recommend everyone try this a few times & see if it makes a difference. what have you got to lose??