When I bought a dishwasher for my apartment two years ago, I really felt like I’d made it in life. Maybe because in Chinese households, at least the way I remember them, they don’t exist. Even when there’s one right in the kitchen, that’s not a dishwasher. It’s a storage unit at best.
Case in point: this scene from Fresh Off the Boat, when the youngest son in the Huang family, during lunch at a friend's house, learns that the machine his own family uses as a “drying rack” has another purpose. “You mean the thing we put our dishes into after we wash them in the sink?” his older brother asks in disbelief. Thus begins a small generational war in the home as the boys scheme ways to actually use the dishwasher—something their mother hoped would never happen in their lifetime.
All this to say, I grew up sans dishwashers, and was pretty much completely unaware that they needed any kind of maintenance at all (don't they do the maintaining...of dishes)? As you might imagine, this has led to some less-than-ideal smells coming from my kitchen, and then to the shocking realization that people are actually supposed to clean the dishwasher itself.
And guess what? One of the best things for this is, apparently, Tang.
I can’t remember how or when I first learned that people put Tang in their dishwashers to clean them, but it’s true: The citric acid in the orange-flavored drink mix is expert at removing the hard water stains, soap scum, and general gunk that accumulate from multiple dishwashing cycles, leaving your dishes cloudy.
It’s an approved method on Wacky Uses, a website dedicated to finding unusual applications for every household item you can imagine. According to Wacky Uses’ Joey Green, the proper method is to fill the soap receptacle with Tang and run the dishwasher (without dishes or even soap). Some people prefer just to toss a couple spoonfuls of Tang directly on the bottom of the dishwasher, but the end result should be the same: a sparkly clean machine that runs like new and smells vaguely of citrus. Even dishwasher repair professionals swear by it.
Because it’s the citric acid that really does the trick, you can also use things like lemon-flavored Kool-Aid (or something similar), as long as it contains the magic ingredient.