Starting a load of dishes super easy: pile in the dishes, add some soap, and turn it on. However, sometimes you might find yourself with dishes that still have grime on them after a wash cycle. Or maybe you just want to save money on water bills. Either way, here are some tips for how to maximize your dishwasher efficiency. How you load the machine, what kind of soap you use, which cleaning cycle you use, and other factors determine how clean your dishes end up at the end of a wash. They also determine how much water (and money) you end up using in the long run. Having to re-clean your dishes wastes you both time and water.

How to Load the Dishwasher

Many appliances in your home work best when you run them at full capacity, and the dishwasher is no different. Dishwashers are designed to run with a full load. You get the most energy and water efficiency out of your machine by only running it when you have enough dirty dishes. Although you need to make sure that you don’t run the dishwasher when it’s too empty, you also need to not over-fill it. If you cram too much into the space, the water won’t be able to flow between the dishes. Just make sure that there’s some room between each piece.

Fill from Bottom to Top

When filling your dishwasher, start with the bottom rack. Make sure that larger, taller items are placed to the sides and back of the machine. This makes sure that they don’t block the flow of water from reaching the middle dishes. The top rack of the dishwasher is made to fit glassware. You should always put mugs and glasses on the top rack, not the bottom. This keeps the breakables from being too close to the harshest streams of water.

Spacing and Placement

Don’t overfill any of the racks. Make sure that there is a bit of space between glasses. This both ensures that water reaches between them and also keeps them from rattling around and possibly breaking during a wash cycle.

If you want to put plastic containers in the dishwasher, first make sure that they are dishwasher safe. Then keep the plastic as far away from the heating element as possible. Place them on the top rack or to the sides of the bottom rack.

Optimal Layout

Before you start a load, take a glance at the placement of your dishes. On the bottom rack, dishwasher-safe pots and pans should line the outside layer along with baking sheets and other large dishes. Moving towards the center, fill in the rack with dinner plates and then smaller dishes, saucers, and bowls.

When placing cutlery, make sure to place each piece with the handle facing down. Be especially careful when handling knives and other sharp implements. If a utensil is so large that it blocks the flow of water or doesn’t allow you to push in the rack properly, lay it down on its side on the top rack instead.

Picking a Detergent

The best detergent to use depends on your particular dishwasher. The most important step is to read the instructions on both your machine and on the detergent. You want to be sure to use the right kind and amount of soap. Overfilling the soap receptacle will not make your dishes cleaner. Instead, you’ll probably end up with a layer of hard-to-remove soap scum on your dishes and on the walls of the dishwasher. Don’t assume that a full cap of detergent is the right amount. Oftentimes a half or quarter of a cap is sufficient.

If your machine requires high efficiency detergent, don’t use a regular kind. Most stores will carry high efficiency dishwasher detergent. They’re easy to spot by the “HE” symbol on the bottle.

Spots on Glassware

If you find yourself with water spots on your glassware, vinegar is your best bet. When running a load of dishes that is particularly full of glass, fill your rinse agent reservoir with pure white vinegar. You can also use commercial rinse agents, but most people will already have some vinegar handy. You don’t necessarily need to add vinegar to every load: just when you need your glassware to come out nice and shiny.

Choose the Correct Cycle

It’s important to learn about the different cycles available to you with your particular dishwashing machine so that you can choose the right one for every occasion. A lot of the settings will be pretty easy to figure out. If you’re doing a light load with dishes that aren’t very dirty, don’t use a “heavy wash” cycle. Only use a “pots and pans” setting if you are washing several pots and pans.

If you don’t need your dishes to be dry quickly, use an “air dry” setting. This works especially well if you start up a load of dishes to run overnight. Using this setting will save you from using (and paying for) a lot of energy.

By choosing the right setting for each load of dishes, you will save water and energy in the long run. You won’t save water by using a light setting for particularly dirty dishes, since you’ll probably end up having to re-wash them again later!

Clean the Dishwasher

It might seem that the inside of a dishwasher shouldn’t get dirty since it’s being used to clean all the time. However, the inside of the dishwasher will acquire a buildup of soap scum and grime over time. The machine isn’t made to keep itself perfectly clean. It’s just made to keep your dishes clean. Keep an eye on the walls, door, and seals. Give the machine a good scrub when a buildup develops.

You can make this job easier by doing a hot wash cycle while empty. Use a mild abrasive to break down the buildup. For example, you can sprinkle some baking soda around the inside of the machine before running the hot cycle. Adding some plain white vinegar to the rinse agent dispenser during this cycle will also help.

By keeping your dishwasher clean and properly placing the dishes, you’ll make sure that the water runs through the machine better and your dishes get cleaner. By choosing the right detergent and wash cycle, you’ll ensure that you don’t have to re-wash the dishes after you run the machine. Save yourself time and money by learning how to maximize your dishwasher efficiency. If you want more information about dishwasher preventative maintenance, check out Complete Protection’s blog here.