The Dishwashing Step You Should Actually Skip
Written by: Morgan Goldberg
We've teamed up with Food52 to share expert-approved tips for making sure your dishes—from everyday plates to your fanciest glassware—are sparkling-clean every time you run them through the dishwasher.
In my apartment, the dishwasher is my domain. This is partly by default: I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend who does most of the cooking, so taking on the dishes is only fair—but I also happen to love this duty.
I take pride in my ability to arrange the plates and bowls and glasses like puzzle pieces so that everything fits in efficiently. (I am a supreme nerd, so I named this skill “Tetrising.”) The warm steam of a finished cycle comforts me, while the act of returning each piece of sparkling-clean dinnerware to its appropriate drawer or shelf feels therapeutic.
Expertly loading and unloading the dishwasher are my ways of showing gratitude for the hot plates of food that are presented to me each night. And I’d like to think that dishwasher management is an equally important contribution to the household.
Whether or not that’s the case is up for debate, but we can all agree that a successful dishwasher cycle takes a little bit more know-how than meets the eye. Throughout my five whole adult years of dishwasher operating, I’ve learned all the important tricks to make sure my items come out of the machine looking spotless. Through trial and error (and calling my mom), I’ve discovered that many widely endorsed techniques don’t actually work. That’s why I’m busting 7 of the most common dishwashing myths—check ‘em out below.
Myth #1: Hand-Washing Is More Environmentally-Friendly
Washing dishes by hand can actually spend double the amount of water as a dishwasher cycle. If you leave the sink running while hand-washing, even more water is wasted. Most dishwashers utilize a shockingly small quantity of water, which is also cleaned and reused through the cycle. Simply put, the dishwasher is the more sustainable choice.
Myth #2: You Need To Pre-Rinse Your Dishes
Pre-rinsing dishes is almost always unnecessary. All you need to do is scrape leftover scraps into the garbage—or compost bin!—and place the dish directly into the machine. Powerful dishwashers (like the Miele G 7000) are designed to eliminate every trace of food by using high water pressure and evenly distributing detergents that break down dirt.
In fact, pre-rinsing will actually cause the soap to be less effective and even abrasive to dishes because it needs some muck to latch onto in order to work. Plus, pre-rinsing dishes is a prime way to waste water.
Myth #3: You Can’t Put Fancy, Fragile Glassware In The Dishwasher
Many dishwashers have a special setting (like Miele's Crystal and China option) so you don’t have to risk hand-washing your precious glassware, which can actually lead to more breakage. These cycles are delicate yet thorough, so your glasses will remain in good nick. One tip: Even if you do have a super-safe setting for beloved items, make sure you load them onto the top rack between the tines, where they’ll be most secure; some dishwashers also have special glass-holders on the bottom rack (check the manual to be sure).
Myth #4: Overloading The Dishwasher Is Economical
While it’s true that your dishwasher functions best when it’s full, overloading it is a distinctly bad idea—and creates more work for everyone involved. Squeezing everything into one wash doesn’t save water or energy because it results in less-clean dishes, forcing you to either hand-wash away the remaining grime or run another entire cycle. Something to keep in mind when loading it up: Make sure items aren't overlapping, that way the water and detergent can reach every nook and cranny.
Myth #5: Longer Cycles Are Better
For most dishwashers, shorter cycles work best for lightly soiled dishes. But Miele and other high-tech brands now offer speedy programs that get all the cleaning done (no matter how dirty the dishes) in far less time. Such settings dissolve the soap immediately upon starting the cycle so that active cleaning happens the entire time.
Myth #6: More Dishwasher Detergent = Cleaner Dishes
The fact is, most people use too much detergent. But an abundance of soap can lead to a cloudy film, irritating spots, and even permanent stains on dishes and glassware. It’s also a waste of money. For most detergents, you should be able to use just a few teaspoons of product and get great results. Dishwashers like Miele's even dispense out detergent automatically, so you get just-the-right amount for every wash.
Myth #7: The Dishwasher Is Only For Dishes
Yes, it’s called awasher, but the machine masterfully cleans plenty of other objects, as well. Kitchen sponges and brushes, silicone oven mitts, and refrigerator shelves are all worthy of a dishwasher cycle. You can venture beyond the kitchen, too, and throw in bath toys, garden tools, and more (just check that the item is dishwasher-safe before you do).