Ending the Great Dishwasher Debate

It’s one of the most common sources of conflict between couples and one that can devastate your relationship, not to mention your dishes: how to load the dishwasher. In fact, there are right and wrong ways to use your dishwasher, and if you are making any mistakes, you could be compromising how clean your dishes get, how efficiently your washer runs or even the strength and longevity of your plumbing. Read on for some dishwasher tips — which you are more than welcome to lord over your partner during your next dishwasher debate.

ending the great dishwasher debate

To Rinse or Not to Rinse?

Let’s start with the most contentious issue regarding dishwasher etiquette: Should you rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher?

In the past, dishwashers and detergents weren’t powerful enough to get all the grease and grime off plates without harming them or the machine in some way. Thus, most homeowners got in the habit of essentially pre-washing their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Fortunately, thanks to advancements in the appliance as well as in dishwasher soaps, this step is no longer necessary. As long as your dishwasher is relatively new — and as long as the foodstuff isn’t especially stuck — you shouldn’t need to rinse your dishes before you load.

Utensils Up or Down?

On one hand, you want your utensils to get clean. On the other hand, you don’t want to get poked and stabbed when you place and remove utensils in the caddy. Does it even matter whether utensils face up or down in the dishwasher?

The short answer is: yes. Experts strongly recommend putting utensils like forks, knives and spoons in the dishwasher with the dirty portions up, outside of the caddy. This exposes them to stronger cleaning, meaning you won’t be left with bits of food on your utensils when you want to use them next.

While we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that experts also advise against placing certain types of utensils in the dishwasher. Sharp knives, for example, will be dulled by repeated dishwasher cleanings, and utensils of materials like wood and plastic are likely to come out very different from how they went in. It’s best to continue hand washing these utensils, just in case.

How Full Is Your Load?

One of you argues that dishwashers don’t clean as effectively when they are full, while the other one loudly proclaims that a full load is necessary for economical water consumption. Who’s right?

While it might seem like running the dishwasher half-empty gets the dishes cleaner, the truth is that a small increase in shine simply isn’t worth all the wasted water and soap. You should always run your dishwasher with full loads to ensure you get the most value from its use.

Pods, Powder or Liquid?

Pods are so convenient, but are they worth the extra cost when compared to powder or gel detergent?

The answer to that question comes with a bit of a science lesson. The active ingredients in the most powerful dishwasher detergent is always bleach and enzymes — enzymes to decompose food waste and bleach to sanitize. Powder and pods have both components, but gel detergents only have one or the other because bleach kills enzymes in liquid form. Experts say that pods are the best option because the contain the exact right ratio of bleach and enzymes, but powder is a good, low-cost second choice. The gel should be a last resort because it simply doesn’t pack the cleaning punch of the other two.

Other Dishwasher Problems?

ending the great dishwasher debate


What do you do if your dishwasher is not draining fully after its last cycle? Usually, this is due to a clog in the drain path, which might be the result of forcing large food particles down your kitchen sink or pouring grease down your drains. A plumber should be able to clear up this issue in less than 10 minutes. Of course, drainage problems could also result from bad control boards and timers within the dishwasher, so it’s good to get a professional assessment first.

What about if your dishwasher is emitting an… odor? Unfortunately, whenever you are dealing with food waste, you are likely to find less-than-lovely smells. It might be that your dishwasher is in desperate need of a good cleaning. To do this, fill a cup two-thirds full of white vinegar, place it on the top rack of your dishwasher, and run a normal cycle. You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to ensure your dishwasher smells delightful once the cleaning is complete.

Your dishwasher is no reason to call off your marriage. Now that you know the truth about how best to use your dishwasher, your home can regain harmony, happiness and spotlessly clean dishes.

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