Stay-at-home orders and mandated social distancing have had many people turning to their kitchens for entertainment, experimenting with pantry-friendly recipes, and baking endless loaves of bread. But preparing three meals a day means the dishes never stop.
We turned to Good Housekeeping’s Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Director Carolyn Forte for tips and advice on how to keep your dishwasher in top condition while it’s working overtime. While a top-of-the-line dishwasher makes your job easier—there’s a reason GH Seal holder Miele’s Fully-integrated Dishwasher was named “best overall dishwasher” by the Good Housekeeping Cleaning Lab—Forte’s advice applies to models at every price point.
Yes, there is a wrong way to load the dishwasher. “My rule of thumb is if the water can’t reach it, it’s not going to get clean,” explains Forte. Make sure everything has space around it so that nothing overlaps or blocks anything else from getting clean, and always position the dirty side down or to the center.
Glasses should go between the rack tines, not over them, to minimize water spotting and the chance that they may break. Most Miele dishwashers have a top tier cutlery tray, but if your dishwasher has a flatware basket, place forks with the tines facing up, knives with the blade down, and spoons alternating so they don’t nest into each other.
Bonus tip: Always scrape or wipe dishes before loading, even if you are running a cycle right away. Pre-rinsing is necessary only if you aren’t running a load immediately.
Yes it cleans, but you have to clean it
“People think it’s clean, but there’s a lot of dirty stuff that goes in the dishwasher,” says Forte. Like any machine, dishwashers perform better when they are well-maintained, and that includes regular cleaning. If you see any food bits at the bottom or in the spray arm, remove them, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the filter. Forte suggests regularly rinsing the filter and using a toothbrush to scrub it.
And once a month, you should be running a cleaner through the dishwasher. “They dissolve, go through the filter and pump to clean the internal workings. They get rid of food debris, odors and hard water build up,” she explains. Miele also makes products specifically designed for their machines that should be used a few times a year.
Select the correct setting
There’s a reason why dishwashers have multiple settings. They all do different jobs, and it’s important to use the correct wash cycle for each load. Forte notes that most dishwashers today, including Miele’s, have sensors that determine how soiled the dishes are, so they know how much water to use. She usually prefers the ‘auto’ or ‘sensor wash’ cycle for the best cleaning. (It’s also worth mentioning that using products made for Miele’s models, like its dishwashing detergent and rinse aid, will also produce the most efficient cycles.)
For heavier loads, like pots and casserole dishes with baked-on food, use a stronger cycle—the “pots and pans” program on Miele models, for example—which typically include two pre-washes and a hotter main wash. A “rinse and hold” cycle is particularly helpful when you won’t be running a load immediately.
Sanitizing programs, which have an extra hot final rinse (the cycle on Miele models, called SaniWash, hits 158 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill bacteria, is great for baby bottles, cutting boards, and other preparation dishware. “That’s good, especially at a time like this when everyone is more attuned to germs,” says Forte.
Think beyond dishes
You can wash a lot more than just cookware in the dishwasher. “Kids’ toys, sponges, toothbrushes, [even] your dish-cleaning gear like dry racks and scrubbers, all can be washed in the dishwasher,” says Forte. “You can also do a separate cycle for pet toys and bowls.”
She also suggests throwing your stovetop grates into the washer—as long as they’re dishwasher-safe, of course—and the metal mesh filter from your range hood; just check the manufacturer’s instructions first.
But don’t wash every kitchen item
There are some things that you should never put in the dishwasher. Top on that list: wood and cast iron, which means no wooden cutting boards, and no Dutch ovens. She also notes that while most crystal and china is dishwasher-safe, you don’t want to put in anything that has decoration over the glaze, as that could come off. “The bottom line is that if an item isn’t labeled “dishwasher safe” or you’re not sure it will survive a cycle, it’s best to wash it by hand.”
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