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Your best dishwasher tips?

Do you have loading tricks? Strategies for getting the most stuff in there that will still get clean? What's your favorite way to prevent fogging scuzz on glasses? What non-kitchen things do you put in your dishwasher to get clean? Are there items that are labeled dishwasher-safe that really shouldn't go in?

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asked over 2 years ago

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14 answers 2239 views
Sam1148
Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

It's good to run a few cups of White Vinegar through the dishwasher to cut soap buildup that can leave a white powder on dishes and plastic handles.
A tablespoon of citric acid will do that same. Do this with an empty dishwasher after the washer fills the first time.

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cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

The dishwasher at my place runs great and requires no fussing; I believe this is mostly because the tap water (Hetch Hetchy from the SFPUC) is superb (pH of about 8.4, very low minerality, very low dissolved solids). Same ease of use with the washing machine (for clothes).

My current dishwasher is a fairly inexpensive Whirlpool model that was installed right before I moved in, so there's very little fancy with it. It does seem to spray food particles like chopped parsley around, so I generally rinse first in the sink. I've lived in places with better units that required less pre-rinsing.

Because of the superb water quality, I find myself using about one-third of the recommended amount of soap. Same with the washing machine: less laundry detergent. I don't use a rinse agent and there are no streaks/spots on the glasses.

Ounce for ounce, powder soap works better than liquid soap. Also, I do not use scented soaps (either kitchen or laundry).

As for non-kitchen items, I occasionally run a cycle with some plastic household or personal grooming items (like combs or electric toothbrush heads). Also, glass lamp shades.

The white vinegar cleaning cycle is a good precautionary measure, I do this once a year typically after I've ran a non-kitchen item cycle.

I don't put kitchen knives or any wooden items in the dishwasher. I think everything else labeled dishwasher-safe is pretty much fair game. No special loading tricks.

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cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Note that the water quality benefits also extend to the bathroom and beyond. I use less soap and shampoo at home than other places with a different water source.

I've also heard several comments about the shower water quality from houseguests.

My tap water is also good enough for watering orchids, many of which tend to be rather finicky about water purity.

cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

A few other thoughts.

My office is ten miles away and on a different municipal water supply. We have to use rinse aid there to combat spots on glasses. The work dishwasher is one of those drawer models; the design is decidedly poor and we never seem to be able to load it up more than 75%. My guess is that this municipal water supply is about average in quality. It is a far cry from what flows out of my kitchen's tap.

I've used a dishwashers connected to even more problematic water sources including well water at one place (very difficult).

One other note about the water at my home. I live in a multi-unit building and the hot water enters from my side of the building. The water is scaldingly hot; apparently it is barely hot at the other side of the building. Of course, when I shower/bath, I adjust it to my preference, but in my dishwasher the water is blazingly hot.

I'd guess that water quality is about 80% of how well your dishwasher works.

scruz
added over 2 years ago

late m-i-l had same water and i always considered it the best in the world. while my new toilet is showing mineral buildup after 2 years, her 30-50 year old plumbing fixtures never had a speck of mineralization. wonderful water. you are very lucky and you know it. i met a women in s.f. (same water) at a restaurant from boston and i asked her if she noticed how good her hotel water was and she was drinking bottled water as she did not trust it. i don't know why s.f. never bragged about it's water as it is truly special.

ktr
ktr
added over 2 years ago

We recently replaced our dishwasher and the guy who installed it gave us a few tips.
Bowls should be placed in the bottom rack and should face the center.
Spoons should be spaced so they do not rest together (I leave a space in front, behind and on each side of each spoon - you can put a fork or knife in those spots, but not another spoon).
We have very hard water that is high in tannins (without a water softener it looks orange and even with the softener it is a bit yellow), so he recommended we use finish tabs (the ones with the red ball) and just toss them into the bottom of the dishwasher, not in the dispenser cup. It has worked great for us and if you use the ones with the red ball, you don't need to add jet dry to your dishwasher because it is built in. I've read that the gel detergents work well, but they are made with animal fat and don't work well with our water (that was the explaination we were given, I haven't done any research on the validity of it but the gel did not work well for us).
Scrape food off before you put them in the dishwasher but do not rinse them until they look clean prior to loading. The soap needs something to cling to in order to work best. This habit took my husband and I a while to break but it really does work. I do clean out anything tall (quart mason jars, glass tea pitchers, etc) because the water has a hard time getting to the top with enough pressure to really clean them well.
Do not put anything with a label in the dishwasher. It can break up and get all over your glasses and won't come off. (learned the hard way)
If you have a baby and use bottles, invest in a dishwasher bottle holder. I wish I had done this with our first.

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ktr
ktr
added over 2 years ago

It was also recommended to us to get a mid level model with a stainless steel inside because they are quieter than the lower models with plastic insides. The higher end models simply have more modes and most people use the same 1-2 all the time. We had a super cheap dishwasher at our previous house and we would only run it at night because it was so loud. This new one we bought I had to double check that it was running the first time I started it because it is so quiet.
Oh, and don't expect anything plastic to dry inside the dishwasher.
I put plastic kids plates and bowls on the bottom level without any problems. I haven't had any of them warp or melt and I've been doing it for 3+ years.

Susan W
Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

We have really good water where I live. I make my own dishwasher pods (really just powder allowed to set up in ice cube trays) that contains citric acid, among other ingredients. I took a couple to my mom's house in San Diego. Her water is very hard. My dishes and glasses are always sparkling. My mom has a better dishwasher than I do, but there was a visible cloudy fog on her dishes and glasses. I did some research and found out that increasing the citric acid is necessary in hard water. I made another batch for her and increased the citric acid and she reported her dishes now sparkle.

I'm close to trying the running she cleanse on the lower rack of my DW. Obviously I will scrub the bottoms first. I haven't worked up the nerve yet, but I'm close.

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Bevi
added over 2 years ago

For your viewing enjoyment: https://food52.com/blog...

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Lindsay-Jean Hard
Lindsay-Jean Hard

Community Editor at Food52

added over 2 years ago

One of my favorites! I've worked hard to spread the gospel of keeping each type of silverware together in the dishwasher, I do think it makes a big difference when unloading.

cv
cv
added over 2 years ago

Grouping your flatware by type works if your dishwasher has a fancy silverware tray like in the above video.

If your dishwasher has ordinary baskets, you are better off mixing up pieces. As mentioned by ktr, nested spoons often don't wash thoroughly.

Note that in commercial operations like restaurants, catering kitchens, etc., they don't bother to group silverware by type and these are fast paced places.

Susan W
Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added over 2 years ago

I agree with CV. I specifically don't group like silverware together. I'm a little weird about it. On the off-chance two of the same have to go into the same square, I make sure they are as far away from each other as possible or one points up and the other points down.