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How to Load a Dishwasher to Wash Dishes

The secret of using a dishwasher to wash dishes is in the stacking. Dishwashers aren’t miracle machines. Unless the jet spray of water is able to reach every portion of the plate, spoon, glass, or whatever, it can’t clean it.

Read the manual for stacking advice. If you can’t find the manual, crouch down to your machine and look at the spray arm. Gently spin it and check that everything you have loaded would get wet.

Tips for loading your dishwasher:

  • Scrape plates before loading. This is a dishwasher, not a waste disposal unit! Rinsing first is, however, a waste of time.

  • Secure delicate items on the top rack. Alternating cups with glasses prevents scratching.

  • Mix up cutlery in the basket. An all-spoons-together approach produces scrappy cleaning.

  • Stack everything so that water can run off freely. For example, invert cups and casseroles.

When you empty, do the bottom first. That way, any drips you spill as you empty the top basket won’t matter.

Modern dishwashers have all sorts of settings. So you may want to get out the instruction manual. In general a lower water temperature means the machine uses less electricity and helps your dishes last longer. A higher temperature is better for grease and stain removal.

Standard dishwasher tablets contain a strong detergent. But detergent isn’t enough to give your plates a sparkling finish or to keep your machine running smoothly and without risk of limescale blockage – very important if you have very hard water. So you need to buy two additional products:

  • Dishwasher salt: Add this separately, every sixth cycle or so, in the salt dispenser which you find on the inside base of the machine according to packet instructions. Salt softens the water before it enters the machine so that it is better able to take up the dishwashing powder – and also protects your machine’s plumbing from limescale.

  • A rinse agent: Sold as a liquid that you pour into a chamber inside the dishwasher at the start of each cycle, a rinse agent helps reduce streaks and spots that often appear as dishes dry.

An alternative to buying three separate products is to use a three-in-one product that combines detergent, water softener, and rinse agent. But these don’t suit all machines or you may need more or less of one ingredient.

What you mustn’t put into dishwashers:

  • Aluminium pots: They may darken.

  • Antique and hand-painted china and gold-rimmed pieces: The glaze may fade and the gold chip.

  • Cast iron: It may rust.

  • Cutlery handles made from bone or wood: The glue may loosen.

  • Lead crystal and decorative glassware: It may dull over time and lose pattern definition.

  • Plastics that aren’t labelled dishwasher-safe: They may melt.

  • Wooden spoons and bowls: Prolonged wet can warp the wood.

You can wash both silver plate and stainless steel cutlery, just don’t let them touch each other. If they do, transfer between the two metals can leave silver tarnished.

Be aware that repeated washing makes designs fade and shortens the life of eating and cooking utensils.

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