You're using your dishwasher wrong

If you're doing these things, your dishes aren't as clean as you think

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You love your dishwasher. It frees up your time, so you can binge Netflix after dinner instead of standing by the sink up to your elbows in greasy dishwater. Besides, dishwashers do a better job washing dishes than you can possibly do by hand. But if you really want clean dishes, you have to stop making these common mistakes.

1. Pre-washing

Pre-washing-dishes
Credit: Getty Images / RyanJLane

It's pointless to pre-wash dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Stop doing this. It's a total waste of time.

Seriously? You’re still doing that? It’s a pointless waste of time and water. Plus, you actually get better results if you leave some dirt for the detergent to work on. So, don’t wash before you wash. Even the stickiest, grossest plates can come out clean if you just scrape them first.

2. Blocking the spray

blocking-water-jets
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

The cardinal sin of dishwashing is blocking the water spray. If you do that, there's no point in running the dishwasher, because your dishes won't get clean.

The cardinal rule of loading the dishwasher—don’t block the water jets. If you put a big platter or cookie sheet in the way of the spray arm, the rest of the dishes will not get clean. Remember, the big stuff goes on the sides. If you’ve got a deep lasagna pan to clean, remove the cutlery basket, and see if you can fit the pan into the space. You can wash the silverware in the next load.

3. Letting spoons “spoon”

spoons-spooning
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

What your spoons do on their own time is up to them. What they do in your dishwasher is up to you.

Speaking of silverware, do not let it nestle together in the basket. If the spray can't get to the surfaces, you'll be unloading dirty forks and spoons. If you have a basket with a grid, use the slots to separate each piece. If it’s an open basket, load it so that some silverware points up, and some points down. (Knives are exempt—they always point down.) Use the third rack if you have one—it keeps cutlery from getting too close.

4. Overloading

Overloading-dishwasher
Credit: Getty Images / CasarsaGuru

This dishwasher looks like it's already full, but the owner can't resist adding another bowl. Don't do this if you want your dishes to get clean.

Overcrowding the dishwasher makes it hard for it to get your dishes clean. The water has to be able to reach every surface. I know how it feels to see those last few filthy dishes in the sink, and really wishing there was room for them. But it's better to wash the last couple of plates by hand, or save them for the next load.

5. Skipping rinse aid

Rinse Aid
Credit: Reviewed

If your glasses have water spots, just use rinse aid the next time.

Maybe you would remember to pour in rinse aid if it were called “dry aid.” Modern dishwashers dry using hot water, not hot air. Rinse Aid helps water sheet off the tub and the dishes, so it goes down the drain. Less water ends up on your dishes. If you're seeing spots on your glasses, you're probably not using rinse aid.

6. Neglecting to clean the filter

Dishwasher-with-filter
Credit: Reviewed

Reach in, remove the filter, and wash it. You can even scrub food off it with a soft toothbrush, but be gentle. While you've got your head in the dishwasher, use a skewer or toothpick to clean debris out of the water jets.

If you don’t clean the filter, from time to time, your “clean” dishes can feel gritty, and end up covered with tiny food particles. Yuck! So, periodically reach under the spray arm and remove the filter. Soak it in warm, soapy water for a few minutes, go over it with a toothbrush (not your current one), then rinse it under the faucet. Plug it back into the dishwasher, and while you’re down there, use a skewer to push out any gunk that’s clogging up the jets on the spray arm.

7. Allowing food to dry on the plates

Dried-on-food
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

It's hard for your dishwasher to remove dried on food—and spinach is the worst. If you can't run a full normal cycle right away, at least start a rinse cycle.

If you have to walk away without starting a full cycle, say, because you have friends over, or there's room for another meal’s worth of dishes, use the rinse cycle to hold down disgusting odors and keep food from drying on the plates. You’ll be glad you did.

8. Loading things in that aren't dishwasher safe

Dog-in-dishwasher-GettyImages-873189280
Credit: Getty Images / K_Thalhofer

Some things should never go in the dishwasher. Don't even think of loading cast iron pans, wooden spoons, or anything that isn't labeled as dishwasher safe.

You can wash a few things that aren’t dishes in your machine. I've heard of everything from hubcaps to hairbrushes! But some things you should never consider washing in the dishwasher are cast iron or aluminum pans, wooden spoons and cutting boards, your good kitchen knives, or random plastic takeout containers. To be on the safe side, avoid putting in anything that isn't labeled “dishwasher safe.”

9. Using the same cycles all the time.

Same-dishwasher-cycles
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan

If you always use the Normal cycle, or leave it on Auto, you and your dishes are missing out on the dishwasher's versatility.

News flash—your dishwasher has other cycles besides Normal. Depending on how tough the food stains are, you should consider using the heavy cycle, especially for crusty pots and pans. The delicate cycle works well for glassware, perfect to use you have people over for drinks. And don't shy away from the quick cycle when you've got a lot of not-too-dirty dishes to wash. It might not clean every bit as well as a normal cycle, but one hour later, when the cycle is done, you may not care.

10. Not reading the user manual

User-manual
Credit: Reviewed / Jonathan Chan

Find your dishwasher's user manual, and use it. Yeah, it's not a compelling read, but it will show you the best ways to load. And if anything ever goes wrong, the manual will help you troubleshoot.

Okay, you probably haven’t seen the manual since the day your dishwasher was delivered. Or maybe you never got one when you moved into the place. But look for it online right now–it’s filled with recommendations on the best way to load dishes for your model, and offers troubleshooting tips for when something goes wrong. It will never be a best seller, but reading the user manual can save you a lot of aggravation.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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