The Secret Life of Your Dishwasher
Dishwasher Loading Tricks
Plates get cleanest when they face the center rather than all in one direction.
Bowls go on the top rack. Those in the rear should face for-ward; those in front should face the back, so water can get in.
Butter knives are safest (for loader and emptier) blade-side down.
Spoons and forks should be varied (some placed business-end up, some down) to keep them from nesting.
Cookie sheets and platters go along the outer edges of the bottom rack, so they don’t block water and detergent from other pieces.
Long-handled utensils that are too tall for the silverware basket can lay horizontally across the top rack. Put serving spoons facedown so they don’t collect water.
Casseroles, serving bowls, and large pots should be placed on the bottom rack at a slight angle, rather than upside down, so they don’t block the flow of water.
Plastic containers and sippy cups belong on the top rack. Plastics marked “7” or “PC,” like some flimsy takeout containers, can’t be used for food after going through a dishwasher. They contain the chemical BPA, which may leach out when heated.
What Goes On Inside Your Dishwasher
- When you turn on the dishwasher, a basin at the bottom of the machine fills with water (usually it’s cold water, but with some models, it’s hot).
- Heating elements warm the water to anywhere between 105 and 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The detergent dispenser opens, sending soap to mix with the water.
- A pump propels the soapy water through the spray arms with enough force to make the arms spin.
- The soapy water sloshes around for about 30 minutes (in a normal cycle).
- The pump drains the dirty water through the pipes under the sink.
- The basin fills with fresh water (no soap this time), which the pump sprays and resprays, rinsing the dishes.
- The heating elements (the same ones that heated the water) turn on unless you choose to air-dry.
- You open the door to clean, dry dishes.
Dishwasher Settings to Try
According to a recent study by Whirlpool, 80 percent of dishwasher owners predominantly select the normal cycle. Try one of these routines and see what your dishwasher can really do.
A speedy wash for lightly soiled dishes, like post-cocktail-party wineglasses.
If you’re washing only water glasses, coffee mugs, and other top-rack items, choose this setting and just the top sprayer will go on.
Longer than a regular wash, this heats the final rinse water to about 155 degrees to kill germs. Good for times when a family member is ill.
It makes the water 5 to 10 degrees hotter for better cleaning. Use it only for items that can take the heat; anything labeled DISHWASHER-SAFE should be fine. To protect delicates, some dishwashers won’t activate this if you choose a setting like china/crystal.
An extended main wash and rinse with water that’s about five degrees hotter than that of a normal cycle. It’s designed for dishes with crusty, dried-on food.
A shortened wash and rinse cycle with slightly cooler water. Some experts, however, say it’s better to hand wash these items.
A 5- to 10-minute rinse with no detergent. Use it to keep food from sticking to plates and to wash away odors when you’re not ready to do a load. Then run the machine later, when you have a full load.
Choose this setting to save energy and let the dishes air-dry. If you don’t press this button, your machine’s heater comes on to help dry the dishes.
Sets the unit to turn on at a later time, like after you are finished watching the movie you rented and have stumbled off to bed.