Ah, the dishes. While some people are able to find a zen-like moment while loading and unloading the dishwasher, most of us don’t enjoy it. Ever wonder if you could be doing something to make your life easier when it comes to doing dishes? Here are 25 Dishwashing Mistakes You’re Probably Making Every Day.
You're not rinsing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.
Yes you’re supposed to. Even if you have a fancy stainless dishwasher and use dishwasher soap that had a dirty lasagna pan going in on the commercial. Scrape off the cheese and other bits, and rinse your dishes.
Your dishwasher water may not be hot enough.
It needs to be around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and if it’s not, your hot water heater is adjustable. How do you know if your hot water reaches 120? Fill a glass with your hottest tap water and test it with a thermometer.
You're putting knives in the dishwasher.
Knives don’t go in the dishwasher (at least not ones you want to stay sharp). Same goes for peelers, graters, or anything that has a blade. It makes them dull, and a dull knife is one of the most dangerous things in a kitchen. (Go sharpen them if you haven’t in a few weeks. We’ll wait.)
You don't disinfect your sink.
When was the last time you disinfected your sink? If you can’t answer that, but you wash dishes in your sink, how do you get clean dishes from a sink that hasn’t been disinfected? You don’t have to use bleach scrub daily, but after doing the dishes in the evening, spray your empty sink with disinfecting spray – eco-friendly, with bleach, plain white vinegar, whatever you prefer – and let air dry overnight.
You don't clean your dishwasher.
Are you washing your dishwasher? Just like you need clean your shower regularly, you need to clean your dishwasher to keep smells from happening. Once a month or so, run your dishwasher without detergent, empty exept for a small bowl of white vinegar. This will disinfect it, and kill any lingering smells or mold/mildew buildup.
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You try to cram plates on the top-rack of your dishwasher.
Don’t try to cram plates, even small ones, in the top of your dishwasher unless it was specifically designed for it. Hint: very few are designed for it. Dishes/plates go on the bottom; glasses and mugs go on the top.
You aren't washing with good dish soap.
It seems that the near constant struggle of finding a “green” liquid dish soap for hand washing is finding one that will also cut grease. Adding a little bit of white vinegar to your dish water will help cut grease, and white vinegar and baking soda will make a good bubbly scrub to get baked on or burned on ick off stainless steel pots and pans.
You put wooden utensils in the dishwasher.
Don’t. Ever. Wood absorbs water and cracks under too much dry heat like a drying cycle. It literally ruins them. Don’t do this. Do not ever put anything made of wood ever in a dishwasher, please.
You try to use dishwasher detergent and dish soap interchangeably.
Just in case there’s someone out there who wasn’t taught, let’s make it very clear: Dishwasher detergent and dish soap that you use on your sponge are VERY DIFFERENT THINGS, and should NEVER be used interchangeably. Ever.
Dishwasher detergent is designed for use in a machine with powerful rinse jets; it can actually make you sick if you don’t rinse it very well. It will also make your hands hurt.
Dish liquid, like Dawn and Palmolive, is designed to be used on a sponge to hand wash dishes and wipe down kitchen surfaces (if you choose). The sud-making magic in regular liquid dish soap will cause a mountain of bubbles and issues if you put it in a dishwasher. No shame if anyone didn’t know this, but you do now.
Using a garbage disposal
I mean of course you can if you have one, but you don’t have to. You can scrape extra food into the trash, OR, any veggie leftovers, coffee grounds, or eggshells can go in a compost bin and be used to keep your garden happy. Why would you choose to compost scraps instead of using the disposal? Well it’s heaps better for the environment. Garbage disposals use GALLONS of water a day, and they grind up and waste nutrients that could be recycled back into the earth via compost. Go green, get a kitchen composting bin.
You're putting pots and pans in the dishwasher.
Don’t do this. It’s harder on them and your dishwasher than necessary, AND it messes up the finish on nonstick, can cause nicks and dents in aluminium, and if you even THINK about putting cast iron or enameled cast iron in a dishwasher, shame on you. That’s not how you treat your cast iron!
Speaking of cast iron...you don't rub down your cast iron with oil after washing/scraping.
Every time you wash your cast iron, you should be applying a light coat. Canola, coconut, avocado, olive if you have nothing else. Oil and love your cast iron, and your grandchild will still be oiling and loving it in a hundred years.
Not closing the door on your dishwasher detergent cup
The internet is full of people mentioning that they leave the dishwasher detergent cup open. The detergent or pod goes in the cup, and the little door gets closed until it goes “click.” If you leave it open, all the soap just goes down the drain when the first jet of water passes by. If it won’t click closed, you’re using too much detergent.
Procrastination only makes dreaded chores worse, washing dishes is no exception. Sometimes people (*coughcoughroomatecough*) even leave dishes in the sink until they smell. You know what makes those horrible smells? Bacteria. Just do the dishes before bed every night. Also, knowing you have a dozen cups but not being able to find a clean one is kind of embarrassing.
Fighting over washing the dishes
Not saying there should never be a fight about someone not doing the dishes, but do the dishes first. And if you’re the one not doing them? Come on, it’s ten to twenty minutes of your life, leaving your mess for someone else is immature, and leaving stinky dishes is gross. If you eat, you have a turn to do dishes. That’s life.
Not using a clean dish towel to dry dishes
Dish towels that have wiped down the counter, been used to clean up minor spills, or used to dry hands should NEVER be used to dry dishes. Bacteria. Ew. Always use a clean shiny and new dish towel to dry any dishes that need it, and change your dish towels regularly. What does regularly mean? It means daily. They soak up germs like a sponge. If that seems like crazy talk, it’s because you don’t have enough dish towels. Take a trip to your local home-goods store or Dollar Tree and buy a bunch. Throw them in with your weekly load of bath towels. (Be sure to use white vinegar instead of fabric softer, for all towels).
Using too much soap when hand washing
Your sink doesn’t need to look like the bubble bath of your dreams, despite how fun that is. It doesn’t really take mountains of suds to get your dishes clean, and the same goes if you’re using liquid or powder in your dishwasher. Too much detergent there leaves residue. That you might eat. Gross.
You're using liquid or powder detergent in your dishwasher.
Pods perform better, many of them have a built in rinse agent, and yes, there are even “green” options available. Tests by places like Consumer Reports have confirmed that tabs clean better than powder or liquid (and most things clean better than homemade dishwasher detergent, sorry).
A note about PODS of any kind, laundry or dish: Keep them AWAY from children! Up high or in a locked cabinet. For some reason, most major, non “green” manufacturers make them look like candy, and children have died from eating them.
You're cramming too much crap in your dishwasher.
Overloading your dishwasher will cause nothing to get clean. Washing a few bowls by hand is better than cramming them in and nothing getting all the way clean.
Not realizing your dishwasher has a food trap
This “food trap” does exactly what it sounds like. It’s under the spinning arm in the bottom of your washer. Clean it out once a week or so, because ew.
Not using a rinse agent
Dishwashers are designed for rinse agents, it’s true, not just a line on a commercial. The sciencey bit is that it has to do with surfactants and water tension and dissolved minerals and droplets of water on your pretty dishes. The reality is that your dishes look nicer when you use one. You don’t HAVE to use one; your dishes aren’t cleaner for it, and if you’re concerned about using another chemical product, skip it. But if you WANT shiny perfect clear glasses from the dishwasher, get a rinse aid.
You think that hand washing all your dishes saves water.
It doesn’t. It uses a lot more water to hand wash and rinse the same amount of dishes as a load in your dishwasher. Hand wash knives, pots and pans, and anything that isn’t specifically dishwasher safe. Load up the rest, even if you don’t run a load every day (because you’re rinsing them first, right? Even so. less water).
Putting Glasses and Mugs and Bowls on the bottom Rack
Please don’t do this. How is the water supposed to get to the top if the cups and mugs on the bottom are trapping all of it? Some dishwashers have separate top rack jets, but not all. Also, glasses aren’t safe down there. The top rack is designed for glasses and mugs, and it’s where glasses and mugs go.
Not wearing gloves when you do dishes by hand
This is less about having clean dishes and more about protecting yourself. Whoever you are, the skin on your hands does not like being exposed to dish soap and warm water. Dish soap contains de-greasing agents which break down oil. Including the oil in your skin. Love your skin, wear dish gloves (for dishes or any cleaning with chemicals).
You never throw your sponges away.
CHANGE YOUR SPONGE. Clean looking dishes can still be covered in bacteria if you didn’t use hot enough water when hand washing or use a clean sponge. Ew. Change it when it starts to look funky – 30 days, max guys, come on – and in between, rinse well, wring it out to dry, and pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds every once in awhile to kill any lingering germs. If it *ever* has a funky dirty smell, or starts telling you how excited it is about Krabby Patties, change it right then. And then wash your hands.
Photos: 20. Andrea Castelli via flicker, CC BY 2.0, 19. trenttsd via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 18. Alan Levine via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 16. allispossible.org.uk via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 11. Noel Feans, Bears fighting, CC BY 2.0, 9. grace_kat via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, 8. Austin Kirk via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 5. Michael Francis McCarthy, No name sans nom dishwasher rinse agent, CC BY 2.0, 4. peapod labs via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 2. your best digs via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 1. Horia Varlan via flickr, CC BY 2.0