The most controversial question of dishwasher ownership, and the catalyst for many a festive family row, is whether or not to pre-rinse. We can definitively say that unless you have a very old dishwasher, there’s no need to rinse items before loading them. It only wastes water. Your dishwasher is much more efficient at washing dishes than you are.
However, what you should do is scrape any leftover food into your bin. This will also prevent you from having to regularly unblock your sink.
Incidentally, if your dishwasher is not producing clean dishes after normal use, have a look at our article on how to maintain your dishwasher. If you follow all of the tips and its performance still doesn’t improve, then unfortunately it’s time to go shopping. If your appliance is not functioning properly, then it’s probably draining power as well. You might think you’re being thrifty but in the longer term, a poorly functioning appliance will cost you money.
Loading your dishwasher
Glasses always go in the top rack, which is specifically designed for items that need a gentler wash.
People often think that glasses should be wedged in place over the dishwasher tines but that’s not what they’re for. Wedging them in is just a good way to crack a glass. They don’t need to be strapped in like astronauts to go through a dishwasher cycle without damage. You should stand them on the tilted section at the side with enough space between them that they won’t rattle against one another when the programme starts.
Lay long utensils along the length of the top rack.
Also on the top rack, place soup and small cereal bowls, mugs and wine glasses. If you have dishwasher-safe plastic, the top rack is the spot for it. Dishwasher safe or not, it may still be warped if it’s near a heating element.
On the bottom rack, you should put plates, larger dishes and pots and pans.
Begin with your plates. Don’t have them all facing the same way. Place them with the top (dirty) sides facing inwards to get maximum exposure to the water.
Stand large platters at the side or at the back of the machine so that they don’t block the water flow.
Don’t put bowls flat on the rack as this can again block the flow of water. Obviously, they should be upside down but fit them into the tines so that they slope. Not only will they get a better clean but water will run off them as well.
In the cutlery basket, place knife blades down for safety. Mix up the other implements so that they don’t nest together.
- Do make sure that the dispenser isn’t blocked and that the spray arm can rotate and reach every item.
- Do place everything so that it faces inwards to maximise water contact.
- Don’t overload your dishwasher. You’ll just end up washing by hand or running a second cycle to get all the bits the water couldn't reach.
- Don’t put items made of wood, cast iron, copper, pewter or bronze into the dishwasher. They rust, discolour or warp in the heat. Nor should items with gilt or gold leaf go in.
- Don’t put stainless steel and silver in a dishwasher next to each other. They can chemically react with dishwasher detergent and silver ions can come away from the silver and attach to the stainless steel.
Things you can clean in a dishwasher
You can save time cleaning a room by putting all of the dishwasher-safe items in for a cycle while you give everything else a wipe down.
From the bathroom
Place your shower items, such as brushes and sponges, on the top shelf of the machine. You can also add your soap dish and toothbrush holder, kids' bath toys, rubber bath mat, hairbrushes and combs (but not anything with a wooden handle or natural bristles) and other (dishwasher-safe) plastic and glass containers.
From the kitchen
Stick in sponges, dish brushes and the containers you store them in. Make sure the sponge isn’t full of washing up liquid, as this will over-lather in a dishwasher and may cause bubbly overflow problems. Exhaust fan filters and covers can also go in.
If you're cleaning your fridge, any refrigerator shelves and vegetable bins that fit can go in.
Pet bowls and rubber toys
This will stop your dog’s bowl from turning into a bacteria-ridden pond. To be safe, run them separately from your household dishes and use a sanitising cycle if your dishwasher has one.
Dust pans, vacuum cleaner attachments and other tough plastic cleaning tools can be dish-washed.
But don't put these items in your dishwasher
While some of the following items can technically go in a dishwasher, it'll significantly shorten their life. If they're items of value that you want to keep as good as new, then washing by hand is the way to go.
- Wooden utensils
- Kitchen knives: the dishwasher can dull blades
- Non-stick and ceramic cookware: the non-stick coating can be damaged
- Insulated mugs or water bottles: these must never go in the dishwasher as the insulating capabilities can be completely destroyed in a hot wash
- Anything with a rubber seal: the heat from a dishwasher can warp rubber, even when it's marked as dishwasher safe
- High-quality or speciality glass: if it has printed measuring levels, a painted design or if it's milk glass or crystal, wash it by hand
- Baking trays: cake tins and Yorkshire Pudding trays should not even be washed with soap and water. Simply wipe them down with a clean piece of kitchen roll for best cooking results
- Seasoned cast-iron cookware: the 'seasoning' is a coating of oil that'll be destroyed in a dishwasher, leading to rust
- Melamine or acrylic dish sets: these will wear quickly unless washed by hand
As a final note, I keep reading about the hack that involves cooking a salmon fillet in a dishwasher. Let's just not. We are living in strange times, it's true. But let's not make it worse.
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