by Liz Rutledge
In 2000, I did something not most people do. I read my dishwasher’s user manual…cover to cover. I wouldn’t have thought that doing that would have such an impact on my life, but it did. I learned how to properly load a dishwasher and learned it so well, I can load any dishwasher now and pack it to the gills and the dishes (pretty much, mostly) always come clean. It saves time, water, energy and detergent to have this important skill.
The most important thing to know is that you do not need to clean your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. If you’re trying to be more green, this is simply wasteful. Most dishwashers today are energy efficient and designed to save water. They are also very efficient at cleaning dishes – if you know how to load the machine.
Having said all that, I learned it is important to get STARCH and EGG off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. So, scraping rice, bread crumbs, pasta and such off before putting dishes in the machine helps. Also, rinsing egg yolk off with cold water is important so it doesn’t get cooked on by the machine. Just a quick rinse gets most pasta, egg and tomato sauces off to the point that the energy and water efficient machine can take it from there.
Then, if dishes are loaded so the water can get to them, they come clean. So, the art is in the loading. Dishwasher user manuals come with a diagram, but the gist is…load glasses, bowls, etc. face down towards the sprayers. More dirty dishes should be near the middle of the spray jet fan. Glasses and dishwasher-safe plastics should be on the top rack and plates, cutting boards, pots and pans should be on the bottom.
As for detergent, Trader Joe’s dishwasher tabs get a good rating on EWG.org’s web site and do a good job. Seventh Generation’s powdered dishwasher detergent works well. You don’t need super strong detergents to get the dishes clean.
Here are more suggestions on detergents from EWG’s web site:
Two ways to save extra energy are to run the “eco/light” cycle and skip the heated dry.
If you want to get into the nitty-gritty details about how much water and energy is used, I’d recommend reading this article:
Except that she’s using Cascade and Rinse-Aid products, I find this video helpful:
The tip about running the water to hot and the disposer (to clear the drain) before starting the dishwasher is a great tip which I do because it helps the dishwasher do a better job. I disagree with her about sharp knives. I put them in the top rack, sharp side down and they come clean and don’t get damaged.
Some say to hand wash dishes to improve immunity. It can also be meditative to wash dishes by hand. Personally, I do a bit of a hybrid as there are always dishes that need to be washed by hand…like delicate glasses and some pans that simply do not fit once the dishwasher is loaded.