It’s been a little over 60 years since dishwashers came into the homes of Middle Class America, revolutionizing housework in the process. Today, about 75% of American households enjoy the privilege of not having to spend hours each week slaving over the sink. But, despite all that practice, there are still plenty of misconceptions about how to properly use a dishwasher — some that will even surprise the most efficient housekeepers.
1. Mistake: You think hand washing is better than dishwashers.
In terms of both food safety and eco-friendliness, dishwashers generally win out over hand washing.
The water temperature required to really get dishes clean is about 140 degrees — well above what you can muster in the sink, but par for the course for dishwashers. Ultra-efficient hand washers may save some water over a dishwasher, but the bar is very high, and the speed you’d have to wash your dishes by hand probably won’t leave them clean enough. Is your dishwasher old or ineffective? Well, in that case, hand washing is probably your best option.
2. Mistake: You’re rinsing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.
Don’t do it! All that detergent needs somewhere to go — and if your dishes are free of gunk, the enzymes in the soap will just whirl around the inside of the dishwasher. Over time, this can damage your dishes. That said, bigger food particles and cheese need to go before the dishes are put in the dishwasher.
3. Mistake: You’re using the wrong detergent.
Old school powder detergents are better for your pipes than liquid detergents; the latter can cling to pipes and clog them.
Another concern? Many of the most widely available dishwasher detergents contain plenty of harmful chemicals. For an eco-friendly alternative, look for detergents free of chlorine and antimicrobials. You can find a rundown of the best and worst eco-friendly brands here.
4. Mistake: You’re DIY-ing your detergent.
Though it pains me to say this, there really is no homemade alternative that even comes close to the commercial stuff. Not only will DIY detergent not get your dishes as clean and sanitary, but it can also, depending on what’s in your recipe, leave a white film on dishes, damage your dishwasher and/or dishes, and void your dishwasher’s warranty.
5. Mistake: You’re putting knives and graters in the dishwasher.
Over time, dishwashers can dull knife and grater blades. Other things to wash by hand? Fine china, crystal, hand painted or metallic dishes or glassware.. Basically, anything old, fancy or valuable. Anything made of plastic, wood, cast iron or tin should also be washed by hand.
6. Mistake: You’re not realizing your dishwasher’s full potential.
There are so many other things that can be washed in the dishwasher outside of cutlery. Stick to hard objects: tools, rain boots, baseball hats, ceramic knobs, refrigerator shelving and bins. Stay away from softer things, like towels, sponges, and paintbrushes.