May 18, 2021   12:33am

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Why your dishwasher isn’t cleaning those dishes

Just when we thought we knew everything about getting dishes “dishwasher clean,” we learned we were all wrong.  Who knew you shouldn’t rinse first (and other tips) …

Leave it to The New York Times column “The Fix”* by Arianne Cohen to make our lives easier. This time around? Finding out why your dishes still come out looking dirty from the dishwasher.

Here’s what we learned:

While it may seem like pre-rinsing before inserting in the dishwasher is just basic common sense, this is actually NOT a solution to cleaning those grimy dishes. In fact, this works against you, since you’re not only wasting water and electricity by pre-rinsing, but you’re also confusing the detergent designed to attack food soil; when there’s no food to be found, the detergent attacks your dishes instead, causing them to get cloudy through “a process known as etching that can cause permanent damage.”

Okay, so, no pre-rinse. We’ll just load up on the detergent from now on. Wrong. Using too much detergent is also bad, apparently, so only use the required amount. Also, try to buy powder instead of liquid or tablets, as they work better in fighting grime, usually.

Feel better that it wasn’t your fault all along? Well, slow down there, because it still might be. According to John Dries, mechanical engineer and owner of an appliance design consulting company, how people load their dishes is often the reason for lasting dirtiness. He suggests putting glasses along the edges of the racks, flatware in the baskets, cups, saucers and light dishes in the center, and heavier items like plates and pots and pans on the bottom rack.

One more problem though: the annoying streaks and spots  you get in your dishes after a washing. These are caused by water that dried and left a deposit. The possible solution? A rinse aid used to make water dry in sheets. Or, try the “flash dry” method, done by opening the door to the dishwasher as soon as the cycle ends. Your dishes should be spic and span in under 10 with this method.

Then, of course, there’s always the probability of some broken, forgotten dish throwing off everything. Make sure there isn’t anything clogging your filter, inlet pump or drain.

Finally, make your default the “Normal” cycle. “It’s the one consumer organizations conduct all their performance and energy tests on,” so it has no doubt gone through more tests than the others.

And remember, it may be a little frustrating now, but would you rather throw on the rubber yellow gloves and do them the old fashioned way? We didn’t think so.


*The New York Times, “The Fix: Why isn’t my dishwasher cleaning my dishes?” by Arianne Cohen, May 21, 2009, page D2

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