If you have never used a dishwasher before, they seem like magic. They hide all those nasty, dirty plates away out of sight so your house looks instantly cleaner like you had a professional domestic cleaner around and so that flies (and badly behaved cats) aren’t attracted to the scraps left on the crockery and spread disease. And they save you about twenty minutes or more a day by getting your dishes spotlessly clean for you. And, according to one study, they do a better job of getting things clean (even if you’re hyper-meticulous) so you’ll have a healthier home.
On the flip side, a dishwasher does require strong alkaline powder to work (although see below for some alternatives), and they use a bit more electricity and possibly more hot water, which may put a bit more on your power bill. And if you’ve never used one before, they can be a bit daunting and confusing. Even the instruction books that come with them may not be super-helpful, although you can get an idea of how to load them from the books.
* Check all items before you pop them in the dishwasher. Some things may not be dishwasher suitable, and others may say “top rack only”. Follow these instructions, or you will end up with a mess of melted plastic and/or warped kitchenware.
* It’s probably not the best idea to wash massive saucepans in a dishwasher, as they take up too much space.
* The most economically efficient way to run a dishwasher is to only run full loads and to use a lower temperature setting, if you can. This also applies to washing machines.
* Don’t expect miracles. You should scrape and rinse excess of plates and saucepans first. Really dirty pots and pans with burnt on bits should be soaked overnight, scraped and rinsed before going into the dishwasher. This will also mean that you can avoid using the heavy duty cycle on your dishwasher, which helps conserve power. After all, if only one pot needs heavy duty treatment, why do you need to wash the knives and cups on heavy duty as well? As a hint, a tiny dash (half a teaspoon) of dishwasher powder does wonders for burnt on bits when added to the soaking water overnight. You only need to use cold soaking water.
* You can make your own dishwasher powder that is an environmentally friendly cleaning product and uses fewer toxins. Mix borax and baking soda, then use white vinegar for the rinse cycle. It may not get everything quite as sparkling, but it will get things clean and sterile – it’s the water that does most of the work, after all.
* If you stick with conventional powder, you will release fewer toxins into your environment if you let the dishwasher cool down before you open it to unload. This avoids the cloud of alkaline-laden steam being released into your face when you open it.
* Store conventional dishwasher powder out of reach of children, as it is really dangerous – more so than the liquid used for washing dishes by hand.
* You can cut costs and chemicals by not using the rinse aid. All this does is to put a bit of extra sparkle on your glasses. If you skip it, everything will still be clean and hygienic.