8 dishwasher mistakes a lot of people often make

Using a dishwasher doesn't require advanced scientific knowledge. After all, they are there to make our daily lives easier, and to give us one less thing to think about. Put your dirty dishes in, add the detergent, push the button: job done.

However, when a household device is so "idiotproof," mistakes can easily creep in. Sometimes, it's down to carelessness and habit, but sometimes too, it's because so-called expert opinions that sound too good to be true become widespread. This can lead to confusion. Let's help clear up a few of the most common dishwasher mistakes.

May 4, 2014

1. Rinsing first

One opinion that has caused controversy recently: that in no circumstances should you rinse your crockery before putting it in the machine, as otherwise, it won't be properly cleaned inside the machine. In this case, this advice contains a grain of truth. Today, all dishwashers are capable of removing most food mess without problems. You also don't need to worry that dirty water will just be swirled around in the the machine. A precautionary rinse of all your cups and plates is just an unnecessary waste of water. 

Nevertheless, you should thoroughly scrape off any leftovers before putting crockery in the dishwasher, and it's also advisable to soak anything with dried on food, particularly rice or pasta. Problem foods (such as spinach) that love to stay stuck to surrounding dishes should likewise be rinsed off first. Rinsing pays off especially when an individual spot is particularly dirty. If you do all this beforehand, then you can run the dishwasher in economy mode.

The rule is: no general rinse, but some pre-washing in specific cases.


2. Chaos

"Don't load your dishwasher too neatly!" This advice also did the rounds for a while, and again, the recommendation contains a crumb of sense. The water in a dishwasher is distributed in two ways: first by the rotating spray arms, and second by the splashes bouncing off the corners and edges of the dishes. But the idea that your dishes can be arranged so neatly in the machine that this second effect is missing, is questionable.

Rather, the opposite can be true: bowls, plates and pans carelessly stacked in the dishwasher, or cutlery nestled together prevent the free flow of water for rinsing. Dirty water collects in overturned bowls, mashed potato gets stuck between the dessert spoons.

So: don't stand your dishes too close together, too far apart or on top of each other. In addition, the spray arms must be able to rotate freely.


3. Half full

Dishwashers need just under 4 gallons of water per wash. Anyone who owns one has a distinct advantage when it comes to saving water — even over the most efficient person who washes their pots by hand. But the machine can only make use of this advantage in water consumption when it's fully loaded. According to an international study by the University of Bonn (in German), dishwashers are usually run only half full. Whether fully loaded dishwashers are fundamentally better for the environment, as the study suggests, may remain an open question — it was financed by four dishwasher manufacturers. But everyone should take care to use their machines as efficiently as possible.

The rule: fully loaded dishwashers save you money.


4. Dishwasher salt vs. multi-tabs 

The many bright colors of dishwasher tabs imply that they'll be more effective — more colors make for a better clean, right? However, the difference between the multi-colored tabs and the cheaper, simple tabs or powder, lies inside. Multi-tabs already contain rinse aid and dishwasher salt. Despite this, some people start to worry when a warning light suddenly starts blinking on the dishwasher, saying it needs salt. Are the multi-tabs enough or will the machine break without dishwasher salt?

That depends on the nature of the water. The hardness of the water varies from region to region. Very hard water causes limescale deposits in the machine, which can cause damage. Therefore, some manufacturers advise using multi-tabs as well as dishwasher salt. However, if the water is too soft, your crockery will suffer: glasses corrodes and suffers from milky smearing. You should be careful before using dishwasher salt and multi-tabs together. It's best to find out the local water hardness from your utility company. Multi-tabs only need to be supported with dishwasher salt when the water hardness shows a concentration of above 374 ppm CaCO3 (calcium carbonate).

In future: check your water hardness, and if in doubt, use simple tabs or powder.


5. Eco Mode

In the study mentioned earlier from Bonn University, they also discovered that Germans run their dishwashers too hot! You get satisfactory results even just using the eco mode. It helps your dishes, the environment and, on top of that, your bank balance. So why should you ever change the setting?

But beware: at low temperatures, fat and limescale deposits can build up, meaning your crockery doesn't really get properly clean anymore. In addition, dishwashers provided a warm, damp climate in which bacteria and germs feel right at home. Therefore, you should run the dishwasher at +140°F at regular intervals.

As a general rule: opt for a gentler setting, but run an intensive program once a month.

Inside the dishwasher

6. Stocking up on detergent

Modern dishwasher detergents work thanks to the power of enzymes. They speed up the cleaning process and the dishes are washed effectively, even at low temperatures. This is a great thing. However, unlike other cleaners, which at most, may lose their scent, enzymes deteriorate over time. The effectiveness of the detergent decreases significantly. For this reason, you shouldn't bulk buy a crate of dishwasher tabs and stash it away, even if it promises to be the bargain of the century.

Keep an eye on things: don't store your dishwasher detergents for long than a year.


7. Pans

At first glance, it seems logical: if pans can stand temperatures of nearly 400°F on the stovetop, why shouldn't you put them in the dishwasher? But experience teaches otherwise: after a few washes, pancakes are sticking to the pan and the non-stick coating is flaking off. The answer lies in the water used for rinsing. This damages the protective coating on pots and pans. Even uncoated pots, baking trays and pans shouldn't go in the dishwasher because, through being used, they build up their own protective layers that have a positive effect on your cooking. This patina is destroyed by dishwasher detergents.

The rule: it's best to just clean pans with salt. Either put the salt in the pan and then wipe it out with a dishcloth, or put the salt in a litte water in the pan and let it come to the boil. In this way, you know you'll be taking pleasure in making your pancakes for a good long time.


8. Cutlery in the basket: handles up or down?

If your machine has a basket for cutlery rather than its own shelf separate shelf, you face the dilemma of whether to place the knives, spoons and forks in handle up or handle down. The "Handle Up" faction argue for just that, so no one is injured by sharp blades or spikes. In addition, the cutlery is easier to remove and tidy away afterwards. On the other side, the "Handle Down" faction worry that the cutlery will not be cleaned properly, and that leftover food will collect in the cutlery basket. However, in order to arrange the cutlery evenly in the basket, we suggest a compromise: sharp-edged eating implements should have the handle up, spoons can have the handle down. Long bread knives and sharp fish forks go on the upper shelf anyway.

Dishwasher, the best machine at home.

Of the 80 million households in the States that own a dishwasher, roughly 20% of them use it less than once a week! It's still something of a luxury item, but if you can afford one, it really will save on your water and energy costs. But as we've seen, behind its "idiotproof" usability, there are many sneaky traps that you should avoid — at least now you know how! Share this article, and help make second-rate cleaning and milky glasses a thing of the past!







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