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Dishwasher Dos and Don'ts for Better Cleaning

Man unloading the dishwasher the right way

A must-have appliance, your dishwasher is designed to keep your beloved kitchen tools squeaky clean. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always get the job done. If you’re experiencing unimpressive results, you may be making some common dishwasher mistakes. Luckily, these errors can be easily fixed. Here are the top dishwasher mistakes to avoid and popular dishwasher hacks to keep your machine in tip-top shape.  


Dishwasher Mistakes You Should Avoid Making 

Don’t let your dishwashing process become overcomplicated. For spick-and-span dishes every time, dishwasher mistakes you should avoid making include.  

1.      Running a half-full load.  

Boost productivity by filling your dishwasher every time you use it. Resist the temptation to run a half-filled wash–it's like doing a load of laundry with only a few socks. Instead, make the most of each cycle with a dishwasher full of plates, cups, and silverware to save water, energy, and time.  


2.      Using the wrong setting. 

Don’t let the settings panel of your dishwasher intimidate you. Choosing the right setting can make or break performance. You don’t want to use a delicate glassware setting for hearty dinner plates or a quick wash for platters dirtied with barbecued foods. Read the manual and pick what best suits your load.

Here are some typical dishwasher setting options:    

  • Pre-Wash: To soak dishes with excessive stains before a full wash. 
  • Normal Wash: For daily, regular use.  
  • Quick Wash: To clean up minimal stains on a time crunch.  
  • Heavy Wash: Perfect for cleaning pots, pans, and baking dishes. 
  • Hi-Temp Wash: Removes baked-on residue and grease.  
  • Sensor Wash: On most modern machines, this can sense when to wash and dry automatically.  
  • Sanitize: Specifically for getting rid of bacteria, it’s great for dishes that’ve touched raw meat.  
  • Rinse: Sprays dishes with water, similar to a pre-wash.  

3.      Not cleaning out your filters.  

Dishwasher filters play a vital role in trapping food particles and preventing clogs. Ignoring yours for an extended period can lead to a smelly dishwasher and subpar efficiency. Make it a habit to clean the filters every three to six months, so your dishes come out sparkling and odor-free. Remove the lower dish rack, locate the filter, gently pull it out, and clean it with dish soap and a soft brush to remove deposits. Once you’re done, return the filter to the dishwasher and lock it in place. 

4.      Pre-rinsing dirty dishes. 

Pre-rinsing isn't necessary for most dishwashers and can be counterproductive, interfering with detergents made to blast off scum. Scraping off excess food is fine, but leave stains from things like dressings and sauces alone. Modern dishwashers are equipped to handle that mess, so let them do the dirty work.  


5.      Loading dishes in a disorganized manner. 

Correct organization is key to maximizing your dishwasher. Properly load your dishes, placing them strategically with no overlaps for optimal space. Avoid overcrowding and face heavily soiled items toward the center to let water and detergent reach every nook and cranny.  


Organization goes beyond the dishwasher. Declutter and learn how to turn free time into efficient cleaning time here. 


6.      Putting your detergent pod in the wrong place.  

While it’s enticing to toss your detergent pod into your dishwasher, this practice can lead to poor cleaning and residue buildup. Place your pod in the machine’s designated holder so the detergent is distributed evenly and effectively.  


7.      Loading silverware incorrectly. 

Silverware isn't just an afterthought–placement matters! Skip nesting and alternate utensils for better water flow. Invest a little extra time in arranging silverware, and you’ll be rewarded with gleaming forks, spoons, and knives.  


8.      Adding non-dishwasher-safe items. 

Don’t throw everything into the dishwasher without thinking first. Delicate items and non-dishwasher-safe plastics can suffer damage. Common non-dishwasher-safe things include:  

  • Antique China  
  • Thin plastic 
  • Cast-iron/non-stick pans  
  • Wooden tools  
  • Silver utensils 

 Check labels and err on the side of caution to keep your dishwasher and your cherished items intact.  


9.      Ignoring rinse aids. 

Rinse aids are the unsung hero of dishwashing. This superpower liquid prevents water spots, improves drying, and enhances overall cleanliness. Don't miss this step–your dishes will thank you for the extra sparkle.  


You should wash your dishes with care, just like you wash your clothes. For tips on keeping winter wear clean, follow our guide to washing cozy items


4 Dishwasher Cleaning Hacks to Keep Things in Ideal Shape 

Woman scraping food off her plate into the sink

Maintaining your dishwasher's cleanliness is essential for long-term performance. Let's explore some dishwasher cleaning hacks to guarantee your appliance stays in top-notch condition.  


1.      Use natural cleaning products. 

Ditch harsh chemicals and opt for natural cleaning solutions to clean your machine. Vinegar and baking soda can work wonders, keeping your dishwasher free from residue and unpleasant odors. Pour one cup of vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container, place it upright on the top dish rack, close the door, and run a normal cycle with hot water. Then, pour a cup of baking soda over the lowest shelf and run another normal cycle with hot water for increased sterilization and sanitation.  


2.      Clean the door seal. 

Wrapped around where your dishwasher opens to prevent leaks, the door seal is often overlooked, but can harbor grime and mold the longer it’s neglected. Wipe it down regularly with a soft toothbrush or non-abrasive rag so it stays clean and hygienic.  


3.      Get rid of tough stains with a steam cleaner. 

For stubborn stains and build-up inside of your dishwasher, a steam cleaner can be a game-changer. The machine is designed to reach deep into crevices and tackle those marks that just won’t go away.  Typically, using the machine is as simple as filling a compartment up with water, turning it on to start heating, and pressing a button to push steam out of an attached nozzle or brush. Repeat the process as needed, and you’ll end up with steamed and sanitized surfaces.  


4.      Check for bits of food.   

Before starting a cycle, take a moment to remove large food particles in your dishwasher that might be left behind from previous uses. This simple step prevents clogging and ensures your dishwasher runs smoothly.  


How Often Should You Clean Your Dishwasher?  

Aim for a deep clean of your dishwasher every month, tackling filters, spray arms, and the machine’s interior. This proactive approach will keep your appliance functioning at its best.  


Beyond Dishwasher Cleaning: Make All Your Machines Cleaner 

Now that you know the most common dishwasher mistakes, you can say goodbye to lackluster results. And with our dishwasher hacks, you have everything you need to maximize your machine. With our article, “12 Tips for DIY Washer & Dryer Maintenance,” you can do the same for the appliances that keep your clothes clean. Don’t pay a pro. Follow along to learn how—and when—to clean your washer and dryer all on your own!