If you’ve ever pulled a bowl out of the freshly run dishwasher to see it’s still covered in caked-on oatmeal, you know the feeling of shame (or blame, if there are other oatmeal eaters in the household) over not giving it a rinse before putting it in the dishwasher. We’ve got news for you: Someone’s at fault, but it’s not the person who didn’t rinse the bowl. It’s whoever rinsed the other dishes in the dishwasher.
When you rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, you fool your dishwasher into thinking there isn’t much that needs cleaning. That’s because modern dishwashers have a sensor that measures the amount of food debris floating around at the start of the cycle and adjusts as necessary. If most of the plates and spoons in the cycle have been rinsed, the cheese caked to that one baking dish you couldn’t be bothered to scrub won’t trigger the sensor, and it’ll result in a shorter, lighter wash cycle, regardless of which setting you choose.
This isn’t just a feature of the latest and greatest models. According to Consumer Reports, most dishwashers that were purchased in the last five years for $500 or more have this ability. Many dishwasher detergent manufacturers give this same warning: Procter & Gamble Co., the maker of Cascade detergent, tells the Wall Street Journal that enzymes in their detergent are designed to attach themselves to food particles — and with no food particles, the enzymes have nothing to attach to.
And of course, there’s another benefit to avoiding the pre-wash: You’ll save time and water. The average flow rate of a kitchen faucet is 2.2 gallons (8.3 liters) per minute, which means that even spending five minutes rinsing dishes after dinner could waste more than 10 gallons (39 liters) of water that you never needed in the first place.
Before you take your plate straight from the table to the dishwasher, however, take heed of one caveat: small food particles are good, but big food particles are not. Give your plates a scrape into the trash or garbage disposal before you put them in the dishwasher. It’s also a good idea to regularly clean your dishwasher’s filter, if it has one, so all that food doesn’t cause a clog.
Dishwasher Dos and Don’ts
If the news about rinsing dishes sent you back to dozens of tense kitchen conversations with roommates and significant others over the years, you’re in good company. On that note, we have a few other dishwasher arguments to settle. Whether you’re a meticulous dish arranger or more of the anything-goes type, here are the answers to every dishwasher-loading question that’s ever caused you domestic distress:
- Should utensils go in handle up or handle down? It doesn’t matter for cleanliness, but General Electric recommends handles up for safety. Nobody wants to stab themselves with a fork when putting their cereal spoon in the wash.
- Should I put spoons with spoons and forks with forks? Please don’t. It might save time on unloading, but it will keep your silverware from getting as clean since like utensils tend to “nest” and keep water from getting between them. This is also a reason not to be so fastidious about which way the handles point.
- Does it really matter where drinking glasses go? It really does! Hot, powerful jets of water spray from rotating arms at the base of the dishwasher, and you want your delicate glass and plastic items to be as far away from those jets as possible. That’s why glass and plastic should go in the top rack.
- Do glasses go between the prongs or over them? Between. The prongs are meant to keep the glasses stable, and they do that better when there’s one on either side rather than a single wobbly one in the middle.
- Should I sort my plates and bowls? Yes, if by “sort” you mean “stagger” and not “organize them like you’re doing a photo shoot for Good Housekeeping.” The idea here is that dishes need as much space as possible, so staggering big plates around small plates is a smart decision. Smaller bowls should go on the top rack, and those are okay to match — as long as they’re all facing down and tilting at a slight incline.
- Which direction should dishes face? Manufacturers used to recommend facing all of the dishes toward the middle of the dishwasher, but according to Mike Nerdig, dishwasher marketing manager for General Electric, that’s not the case with modern dishwashers. “It doesn’t matter which way they face, water will get to them,” he told Popular Mechanics.
- Is it okay to put pots and pans in the dishwasher? As much as it pains this writer to say, yes, it’s fine. Put them on the bottom rack with plenty of buffer room. There are exceptions, however: Cast iron and nonstick pans should be washed by hand. (And just to throw another match on this fire, it’s totally acceptable to use soap on cast iron).
Most of us here in SEA don’t have a dishwasher but sales are picking up so sharing the tips in case you do have one! The instruction manual unfortunately doesn’t give you the tips above!
Check out my related post: How to socialise without alcohol?