automatic dishwashers are a big mystery to many of us. you close the door, press the button and almost by magic, your dishes are clean. if that’s just how you like it, then skip on down to the graphic and numbered suggestions below. for our more curious PAD brethren, read on.
most dishwashers work on some variation of this “normal” cycle. so, when you shut your dishwasher door, the magic that happens inside is as follows:
• pre rinse – hot water fill, heater on, hot rinse, heat off, drain
• wash – hot water fill, heater on, detergent door opens, hot wash, heat off, hot dilution, drain
• post rinse – hot water fill, rinse aid (if used) dispenses, moderate temp rinse, drain
• dry – heater on for dry, unless you select an energy saver mode
so what can you do to make sure you get an optimal clean once that door is shut? we’re glad you asked.
• face dishes dirty side in and down, toward the spray bars.
• avoid nesting containers, plates or flatware, as it makes it nearly impossible for the spray to clean in between.
• avoid obstructing the water flow to the top rack. designs differ. some machines get the top rack water from a center jet from the bottom. some machines get the water from the back. whatever your setup, make sure to keep it clear.
• the spray bars need to spin during wash and rinse cycles so that everything gets a scrub. don’t obstruct them. keep handles from falling below the rack. and be sure plates and large pots in the bottom rack don’t block the top rack spray bar.
• avoid blocking the detergent door. it needs to open to release your detergent (tab, packet, powder) into the wash. if the door can’t open fully, your detergent won’t dissolve in a timely enough fashion to do its thing.
now onto the nitty gritty. there’s even a helpful graphic.
1. keep your big stuff at the sides and back, so they don’t hog all the water and detergent, keeping it from reaching the other dishes. this will also keep them from blocking the detergent door.
2. face the dirty side of the dishes toward the center so they get a more direct spray from the water jets. (yes, we said it before. but it’s really important.)
3. use the top rack for plastic and delicate items, like beer and wine glasses or Tupperware®.
4. place glasses upside down, straddling the prongs, to avoid filling, prevent breakage and allow spray jets to reach inside for a thorough cleaning.
5. silverware goes in handles down, except for sharp knives – load them handles up so you don’t wound your hand when you take them out. in the flatware basket, mix spoons, forks, and knives randomly so they don’t nest inside one another, preventing a good clean. and make sure you’re not blocking the detergent compartment!
6. if your dishes have baked-on food, set them in the lower rack, face down, so they’ll get the strongest dose of cleaning power.
but about the timing…
if you run the dishwasher shortly after a meal, little attention is needed. but don’t expect food-laden dishes to sit a week before you wash and still get good results. that oatmeal will have had time to set like concrete. if you don’t expect to run the unit before tomorrow, it’s best to give any soil a thorough rinse.
for suggestions on dealing with hard water issues, check out don’s post on exactly that topic.