Proper Dishwasher Care and Maintenance

Your dishwasher is the workhorse of the kitchen, so it's extremely important to keep it functioning at its best. A dishwasher saves you time and the hassle of hand washing the dishes, and it is this efficiency that must be

For efficiency in the kitchen, take good care of your dishwasher!

optimized and prolonged. Like most other appliances, a dishwasher's lifespan can be lengthened if you care for it properly and provide maintenance when it's needed. Loading your dishwasher correctly is only half the battle of an efficiently run dishwasher. For a long lasting dishwasher, you will need to make sure that you load your dishwasher the right way and with the right dishes, that your dishwasher is clean, functioning properly, and that it gets proper attention and timely repairs when it's not functioning correctly. The products that you buy to clean your dishes, and your dishwasher itself, also affects the dishwasher's performance. Being well aware of what is good for your dishwasher and what is not will allow you to provide the proper care and maintenance that your dishwasher requires. This is a fantastic article from Horizon Services that covers the general care and maintenance needed for your dishwasher to work at its best.

General Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

A dishwasher is generally a low maintenance appliance. Below are some basic tips for keeping your dishwasher running in tip-top shape. (Note: Before doing any work on your dishwasher, turn off the power at the circuit-breaker box.)

    • Don’t Get Zapped. Dishwashers have built-in water heaters and motors which can consume a lot of electricity; couple that with all the water a dishwasher uses and you can see how improper wiring and connections can put you at risk for electrocution, fire or power outages. A ll dishwasher should always be plugged into a grounded outlet or wired direct. And your main socket must be rated adequately to handle the large load required by most dishwashers.
    • Make Sure Your Dishwasher is Level. If your dishwasher isn’t level, it could leak. To check, open the door and place an air-bubble level along the edge inside. If the dishwasher isn’t level, raise or lower either side by adjusting its “feet” or add a wedge to balance correctly.
    • Check Gaskets for Cracks and Deterioration. These are the rubber or plastic seals along the dishwasher door that provides a water-tight seal when you close. If you start noticing water around your dishwasher, it could be due to faulty gaskets. If the gasket is damaged, remove it by unscrewing it or prying it out with a screwdriver. You can get a replacement gasket at a hardware store or order one from the manufacturer. Before installing the new gasket, soak it in hot water to make it more flexible.
    • Check Sprayer Arm for Clogs. Over time Food particles, mineral deposits and other debris can clog the holes in the sprayer arm. It is essential to clean these small holes from time to time to enable the dishwasher to work more efficiently. Remove the sprayer arm periodically and soak in warm vinegar for a few hours to loosen any obstruction. Then clean out each spray hole with an awl or a pipe cleaner.
    • Check and Clean Screens and Filters. Your dishwasher should have a screen or filter located near the bottom of the dishwasher above the food drain to catch any large food or debris; they need to be cleaned regularly to avoid clogs (at least every other week). Your dishwasher owner’s manual should provide instructions for removing and cleaning the filter. If the filter has holes, it needs to be replace in order to prevent harm to other parts of the dishwasher. Also, inspect and clear out any food or debris that might be trapped in the food drain.
    • Invest in a Repair Kit. Notice any exposed metal, nicks or corrosion on your dish racks? These can cause rust and stains to dishes and dishwasher walls. Most hardward stores sell repair kits that allow you to quickly mend worn or chipped plastic.

Energy Efficiency Tips for Your Dishwasher

We measure the energy efficiency of our car in miles-per-gallon. Dishwasher efficiency is measured by a term called the energy factor. Energy factor is based on the number of cycles per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Today, the minimum allowable energy factor rating for standard capacity dishwashers is 0.46. The higher the number, the more efficiently your dishwasher is using energy. These tips can help you improve your dishwasher’s energy factor and get good cleaning results:

    • Watch Your Water Temperature. The single most important factor in getting good results is hot water. The best way to improve the energy efficiency of a dishwasher is to reduce the amount of hot water needed to clean your dishes. About 80% of the total energy used by dishwashers goes towards heating the water. Too cool won’t clean your dishes well; too hot wastes energy. Most dishwasher manufacturers and detergent companies recommend setting the water temperature at 130 degrees fahrenheit; this will effectively remove all food particles and residue without wasting energy. Place a thermometer inside the dishwasher to determine if the temperature is appropriate. If above or below 130 degrees, adjust your hot water heater.
    • Run Hot Water in the Kitchen Sink. Do this for a minute before you turn on the dishwasher. This will get hot water flowing through your pipes and start the wash cycle off with hot water rather than cold.
    • Avoid Using the Delay Cycle. This, too, fills the dishwasher tub with cold water for the first few cycles, meaning the dishwasher will have to work harder to warm the water up.
    • Avoid Using the Heated Dry Setting. Dishes can air dry without the use of heated air. This can produce substantial energy savings.
    • Run Full Loads Only. Running only a portion of a load will use the same amount of energy and water as a full dishwasher load. Don’t be wasteful.
    • Avoid Pre-Rinsing of Dishes. Scraping off leftover food is sufficient; a good dishwasher should be able to loosen and remove most food particles, even sticky ones. Soaking or pre-washing of dishes usually only necessary when something is burned or baked on.

Keeping Your Dishwasher Clean

    • The exterior of the dishwasher can be cleaned using a damp sponge and little detergent. Use any soft brush to clean the gaskets around the door and frame of the dishwasher; food debris can stick there and weaken the seal, allowing water to drip out while the machine is running. Look for any cracks or gaps in the seal. If there’s any damage, the gasket might need to be replaced.
    • The interior of the dishwasher does not need to be cleaned if it is being used regularly. If the dishwasher goes unused for a week or more, stains, mold and odor may form. Dishwasher cleaner and deodorizer can be used for this purpose. If you see many stains, clean with dishwasher detergent and water. Wear rubber gloves to protect the hand from alkaline detergents. You can also clean and disinfect your interior by running a cup or two of vinegar through the entire cycle of the empty dishwasher.
    • For rust removal on the inside of your dishwasher, try using a fine steel wool or a rust remover product.

Keeping Your Dishwasher Odor-Free

When properly installed and regularly used, dishwashers rarely develop problems with bad odors. Most dishwasher odor is related to food which has collected somewhere in the dishwasher and can’t be easily removed. Your first line of dishwasher odor defense is to always be sure to remove large food particles, non-dissolving and sticky food substances from all dishes before you put them in the dishwasher. Also, visually inspect every nook, cranny and corner of the dishwasher to see if any hidden food has wedged somewhere out of view. Other dishwasher odor tips:

    • Suspect a Drain Clog. A foul-smelling dishwasher could be the first sign of a clog somewhere in your kitchen drain. If waste water accumulates at the bottom of the dishwasher and drains slowly…or if your garbage disposal and kitchen sink tend to back up when the dishwasher drains — this could be further evidence of a clogged drain. If so, clear the drain as soon as possible.
    • Check Your Water Softener. If not properly balanced or maintained, water softeners can cause foul odors in the water supply.
    • Disinfect and Deodorize. Run a cycle with a quart of vinegar to safely clean the tub and pump. Also, put a scoop of Tang powdered drink mix in your dishwasher to gently scour the interior walls and add a clean, fresh scent.

Dishwasher Detergents

What you put into your dishwasher significantly affects your dishwasher’s performance.

    • Use Detergents Specifically Designed for Dishwashers. Hand washing dish detergents and other soaps must NEVER be used in dishwater. They are not formulated to clean dishes in a dishwasher. And they will produce large amounts of foam, suds and bubbles which will leak from the dishwasher and spill onto the floor. use detergents that are specifically meant for DISHWASHING ONLY.
    • Choose Powders Over Gels. Powder detergents are usually a better choice than gels. Gels often contain chlorine bleach which car dissolve seals and gaskets. Gels don’t work well in hard water. Gels can clog the detergent dispenser which can impede cleaning performance. And gels tend to leave more spots, film and cloudiness on glassware. For best results, we recommend using a powdered detergent or tablets.
    • Don’t Buy Dishwashing Powder in the Super-Size Box. It may seem cost-effective to purchase large economy-size boxes of dish detergent powder, but these products actually have a limited shelf life. Once you open that box, you only have about two weeks to use it; once air hits the powder, its cleaning effectiveness is greatly reduced. Stick to regular-size boxes which can be consumed in a two-week time period.
    • Avoid Cheap Products. Make sure that the word DETERGENT appears on the box. Some inexpensive and non-name powders contain contain inferior cleansers; some even contain sand! These products should be avoided to prevent wear and damage to dishes and the dishwasher itself as well as sediment build-up.

Dishwashers and Glassware

Over time, spots, streaks and hazinesss can form on glassware when washed in a dishwasher, especially if you use hard water. Most manufacturers recommend that you hand wash most glassware, especially if it is finer glassware. If you do put glassware in your dishwasher, here are some things to keep in mind.

    • If you have well water or hard water, use a rinse-aid — such as Jet-Dry — in your dishwasher. These will prevent much of the spotting and streaking on glassware caused by insoluble deposits that dry on glass surfaces. Most manufacturers recommend that you use a solid rinse aid rather than a liquid. Solid rinse-aids disperse more evenly and consistently and are simpler to use; you just need to hang them from your dishwasher’s upper rack.
    • If you have a water softener, you may want to try cutting back on the amount of detergent you are using…or add a ¼ cup of vinegar to in the dishwasher before each load.
    • No matter what type of water you have, be sure to run the dishwasher with a quart of vinegar and no dishes or detergent. This will removes any mineral deposits and residues left behind anywhere in the tub as well as disinfect and deodorize.

A dishwasher that performs well will make your life in the kitchen much more hassle-free and efficient. Each type of dishwasher is different in respect to its needs and maintenance requirements. Buying the right cleaning materials and dishwasher detergent for your specific dishwasher will keep it running how it is supposed to. Loading your dishwasher with only dishwasher-safe dishes will prevent damage to your dishes and to the dishwasher itself. Generally, you do not want to load your dishwasher with non-stick pans, wooden spoons or cutting boards, crystal, blown glass, iron, pewter, all aluminum, gold-plated flatware, and any disposable plastics not labeled "dishwasher safe." Only use the recommended amount of dishwasher detergent, and do not mix flatware made of different metals as this could damage your flatware.

By taking care of your dishwasher and providing the proper maintenance, cleaning and repair when needed, your dishwasher will work efficiently and perform how it is supposed to. If you follow the simple guidelines mentioned above, and seek professional assistance when you have questions, your dishwasher will work at its best and live a longer life, making your time in the kitchen a happier time.