Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Dishwasher Debate

If your house is anything like mine, there are multiple personality types living under one roof.  That's a good thing because it teaches us that everyone is not just like us and we rub off on each other, softening the edges.

But when it comes to loading the dishwasher, I think it's safe to say that a personality that thrives on efficiency and organization will tend to be the better dishwasher loader.  Alas, this tends to lead to some frustrations in the household.

In our house, I am the efficient dishwasher maniac.  I have been known to almost empty a full dishwasher in order to stack it more efficiently so that everything will get as clean as possible.

In an effort to help those families that feud over how to load the dishwasher, I'm here to help.  I'm not going on my own authority here, but on advice from various cleaning experts.

Here is a quick primer on how to properly load your dishwasher:

1.  Scrape and Maybe Rinse

Many dishwashers come with a mechanism to grind food particles before they are flushed down the pipes.  But that doesn't mean that you want to overburden it.  Dry scrape all your dishes prior to loading.  If you're going to run your dishwasher immediately or within the next few hours, you don't need to rinse them.  If, however, you're going to let them sit for a bit, rinsing is best.

Alternatively, if you've only half loaded the dishwasher and want to wait to add more, you can run a quick rinse cycle.  But beware.  Dishes rinsed by the dishwasher can look very clean leading some to maybe grab a cup for a glass of water thinking that they are clean, when in fact they aren't.  Devise a system to let others know that these dishes are rinsed, not clean.

And for all you grandmas who like to wash your dishes before you load them in the dishwasher?  Don't.  Just don't.  You're wasting water and your time.  Newer dishwashers (i.e. those manufactured in the last 20 years) can handle almost anything that you throw at them, including (gasp) un-rinsed dirty dishes!

2.  What NOT to Load 

There are some things that just shouldn't go in the dishwasher.  Wooden utensils and any plastic labeled as non-dishwasher safe, should be hand washed.  Additionally, any knives that you want to keep sharp should also be washed by hand.

I personally like to keep my delicate glassware, like wine glasses, out of the dishwasher.  They break so easily and some dishwashers are very rigorous.  I also like to hand wash glass lids for my pans.  I've noticed a tendency for these to shatter after having been in a dishwasher.

3.  Bottom Rack

The bottom rack is for plates and your larger bowls, pots, and cutting boards (unless they are wood).  Yes, all dishwashers are different, but one thing they likely have in common is that the water spray comes from the bottom and jets out from the center towards the edges.

With this in mind, always stack your dishes so that they are facing towards the middle of the dishwasher with bowls and pots facing down.  Do not stack bowls and pans on top of each other or they will not get the proper stream of water.

Load larger, bulky items, like fry pans and cutting boards on the edges.  However, do not place anything in the front in line with the door.  This is where the soap gets dispensed and you want it to reach all the dishes and not be hindered by something in front of it.

4.  Top Rack

The top rack is for glasses, smaller bowls and plastic storage containers so that they are far away from the heating coil.  You can also put larger utensils like ladles and spatulas on the top rack.

Glasses should be placed down and in between the prongs, not over them, and they should not be touching on the sides to prevent chipping.  Small bowls can be lined up at a slight incline and slightly overlapping to prevent water from accumulating on them but to use the space efficiently.

If possible, secure your very light plastic items so that they don't bounce all over and end up full of water.

5.  Silverware

For safety's sake, always place knives with the blade down in your silverware rack.  But other utensils can be placed up or down.  Just distribute them evenly and be sure that like items are not nesting together which will prevent them from getting clean.

Finally, check to make sure there are no utensils that have fallen through the grid that will hinder the rotating spray arm at the bottom of the dishwasher.

6.  Soap

Never use regular dish soap in the dishwasher.  It will cause too much sudsing.  Dishwasher powders, liquids and packets will all do a decent job of cleaning your dishes.  Many dishwashers have two soap dispensers:  one with a door and one that is open.

Fill the dispenser with the door first to the appropriate line, depending on the number and dirtiness of the dishes, then CLOSE THE DOOR. It is timed to open after the dishwasher does some pre-rinsing to soften up the dirt on its own.

Most loads do not require any more dishwasher detergent.  Extra dirty loads may require more soap in the second dispenser.  Trial and error to see how your dishwasher performs under different scenarios is the best way to determine what you need to do.

Follow these tips for sparkling clean dishes every time and a more peaceful time, as well.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

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