For many of us, the Holiday season is a mixed bag of fun and stress. There’s the joyous celebrations with friends and family, the sights and sounds of the decorations, and all of the food. But then there’s also the stress of planning parties, the feeling of having one too many pieces of pie, and, finally, the dreaded cleanup. A party for a dozen or so people can create a mess that feels like it needs an army to clean. It’s important to clean smarter, not harder, so before you start loading up the dishwasher, read through these tips to ensure your dishes come out their cleanest with minimal work on your part.
1.) Avoid pre-cleaning your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
It might seem like a good idea to prewash dishes, assuming that the machine will then have less work to do, but doing so actually makes the dishes less likely to get cleaned. Dishwasher soap is specially formulated to attach to and attack foods left on your dishes. When you wash off all of that debris, the soap has nothing to attach to and simply gets rinsed off, so it doesn’t fully do its job. The best tactic is to remove only the large bits of food, and leave the sauces, grease, and other residue on the dish.
2.) Load strategically
It’s tempting to try to save time by overloading your dishwasher, but a packed machine won’t clean your dishes properly and you’ll probably end up needing to do some hand-washing, or even re-run the load, wasting more time in the long run. Some loading tips:
- Put plates on the bottom rack, all facing the same direction
- Don’t over-stuff the silverware basket. If water can’t flow through it, your cutlery won’t get cleaned. Load knives blade-down for safety, but forks and spoons handle-down so the dirty parts get clean. And always be careful when removing cutlery after the wash!
- Whenever possible, cups and small bowls should be placed top rack, with large bowls and pans on the lower one. Face the dirty side down, but try to keep large dishes angled. laying flat across the rack can block the sprayer from reaching other dishes.
- Wine glasses can go on the top or bottom rack, depending on their stem length, but should always be placed along the side of the rack if possible.
- If you have lightweight plastic containers on the top rack, the water jets can blast them upside-down which will keep them from getting cleaned. Try to secure them by overlapping heavier glass dishes on top.
- Make sure nothing pokes through the bottom of the racks or reaches too high, which could block the spray arms from spinning.
3.) Jet Dry and other rinse aids
Water spots are caused by droplets of water that stay on your dishes after the cycle ends. When they dry, the minerals in the water stay behind, forming the unsightly blotches that mar your fancy wine glasses. If you have particularly hard water, the problem will be worse. Jet Dry and other dishwasher rinse aids work by lowering the surface tension of water, inhibiting its ability to form into droplets and stick to the surface of your dishes.
If you’ve never had a problem with water spots, or if you’ve had a mild problem and it doesn’t bother you, there’s no need to start using a rinse aid. But if you have hard water and are tired of having to rinse your glasses after running a cycle, consider a rinse aid like Jet Dry. It’s important to note that some authorities have rated Jet Dry and other chemical rinse aids as potentially harmful to your health, because of the surfactants they contain. If this concerns you, an all-natural option is to fill the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher with normal white vinegar. It will achieve the same function and contains no harmful chemicals.
Why not wash by hand?
Washing dishes by hand might be a therapeutic chore for some, and it makes sense when you have only a few dishes to wash. But beyond that, there aren’t any practical reasons to hand washing compared to running the dishwasher. Besides saving time, the main benefit of using the dishwasher is its ability to use water much hotter than human hands can withstand, creating conditions that will actually sanitize dishes. Additionally, because only hot water and soap actually touch the dishes, there’s no risk of germs being spread, whereas the sponge you reuse to hand wash your dishes is actually chock-full of bacteria. And if you’re concerned about environmental impact, you might be surprised to find out that running the dishwasher saves energy and water compared to washing dishes by hand.
A few simple tips can lead a whole lot of saved time, energy and aggravation this holiday season. Unfortunately, we can’t help you with the leftovers.