Know your water
If you've ever had trouble rinsing off soap, you've got soft water. The good news is that you'll need only a fraction of the dishwasher detergent recommended on the product label. Hard water is a different story. Stick with powder detergents; gels don't rinse well and can cause build up. Using a rinse agent can eliminate those inevitable spots at the end of the cycle.
Whether you have hard water or soft, regular white vinegar works great as both a rinse agent and gunk build-up cleaner. To clean, add a cup of vinegar to an empty dishwasher about every 6 months and let it run. If your water's especially hard, do it more often so your dishwasher performs at its best.
Another tip to remember is that with today's high-tech, highly efficient dishwashers, pre-rinsing your dishes and cutlery by hand first is unnecessary (and it wastes water, too). Your dishwasher should be able to remove all grime and residue.
Load 'er up!
There are limits, of course, to how many - or few - plates, bowls and utensils you should pile into your dishwasher. If it’s overcrowded, the spray nozzles inside won't spin like they’re supposed to and could hit the dishes. If it's half-empty, dishes are more likely to bang around inside and break--and you’ll be wasting twice the amount of water than your dishwasher would use for a full load.
So what's the solution? Large plates always go on the bottom rack, leaning toward the center. Load them first so you can see how much space is left. From there, add large bowls and pots and pans (either facing toward the middle or down, so they don?t collect water). Be sure to allow cutting boards enough room on each side to get a thorough washing. Finally, glasses, bowls, plastic-ware and large serving utensils all go on top. (Plastic, such as cutting boards, can overheat and melt on the bottom rack?not a pretty sight). As long as the dishwasher is full, glasses and bowl rims can touch and are unlikely to break.
Give 'em a hand
Just like that gorgeous cashmere sweater you'd never think of throwing into the dryer, certain items should always be washed by hand:
- • Chef knives
- • Lead crystal
- • Delicate glassware
- • Copper
- • Cast iron
- • Sterling silver
- • Pewter
- • Hand-painted objects
- • Antiques
- • Glued, wooden items
- • Plastic NOT labeled dishwasher safe
- • Paintbrushes
- • Tools
As with any home appliance, a little common sense goes a long way in keeping your stuff, your family, and your home safe. Now if you could only get someone else to unload your dishwasher...