Isn’t it funny how the smallest, most insignificant household squabbles can tear families apart?
Should the toilet paper roll go backwards or forwards? Are we watching the game tonight, or Dancing With the Stars? Where should we go for dinner tonight?
Well you’ll be happy – and pretty surprised – to know that one of the oldest “couple arguments” of all has been settled.
Yes, you can just throw the dirty dishes in the machine without rinsing them. In fact, you should never rinse your dishes.
Morgan Bashear, a scientist who works for Cascade, says “it’s actually more beneficial to not rinse our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.”
The stunning news comes courtesy of a recent Wall Street Journal article, which pointed out a little-known feature of modern dishwashers.
It turns out these machines have a smart sensor, which decided how long to run each cycle and what temperature to use.
Even if you use the same settings each time, the wash cycle is very different depending on what’s inside the dishwasher.
During the pre-wash cycle, this sensor is checking how much “loose” food like sauce or crumbs is floating around in the machine, and what it finds is important to getting your dishes clean.
Less is more
As Brashear says, “If you pull a helicopter cleaner and rinse all of your dishes […] nothing will come off in the pre-wash.”
Why does that matter? After all, less food left on your dishes means they’ll be easier to clean, right?
Not always. Say you have a machine full of rinsed plates but also one cheese-crusted casserole dish. Because there was almost no loose food, the dishwasher’s sensor may not be prepared to clean that dried food off.
If you ever opened your dishwasher to find rows of clean plates and one crusty tray, this was why.
I know leaving dirty plates in the machine can be stressful – especially if you grew up cleaning them nightly, like I did – but the machine can handle it.
Consumer Reports has stress tested these appliances, and says most machines from the past five years, or expensive older models, can handle the big crumbs safely.
Just remember to clean the filter regularly, and scrape off any really big food chunks.
You’re not just saving time this way, but money and water too: without pre-rinsing the dishes you save about 20 gallons per load.
Washing the dishwasher
Letting your dishwasher do all the hard work is convenient. But you’ll need to back it up by cleaning it thoroughly.
Along with the crumbs and food they wash off, these machines get clogged by soap scum. If you’re not cleaning out the machine once a month, it can become a breeding ground for germs.
Start by cleaning out the drain under the dish rack by hand. Sprinkling baking soda across the bottom and rinsing it will clean away food stains and bacteria.
If your machine is plagued by bad smells, there are two handy ways to get rid of them:
- Leave a cup of vinegar in a dishwasher-safe container on the top rack of your machine. Run it on a warm cycle and the water-vinegar mix will give your machine a thorough cleaning, no scrubbing required.
If you prefer a sweet smell, you can pour some Kool-Aid powder into an empty machine and let it run. Now, the inside will smell fresh and fruity.
But wait, there’s more
While we’re exploring all the surprising uses for your dishwasher, you should know it’s good for more than just cleaning dishes.
Bathroom wastebaskets, pet bowls, toothbrush cups, gardening tools, vacuum brushes and even certain kinds of shoes (flip flops and runners) could benefit from a quick rinse.
My mother used to take all of my siblings’ plastic toys and toss them into the dishwasher. It was an easy way to clean off all of our germs, especially after one of us caught the flu.
But of course there’s a method to this household cleaning madness: you’ll want to run a cold cycle with no hot drying. Or else you’ll open up the door to find a mess of melted toys and shoes.
Here’s one of the most surprising cleaning jobs for a dishwasher: your grungy computer keyboard.
Yes, tech geeks say you can run this filthy computer part in a cold wash, solo, then let it air dry for a few days (this is a crucial step). But you should try other, simpler ways to tidy up your keyboard first.