Washing your dishes is probably one of the least pleasant household chores. It is supposed to get easier when you get a dishwasher, but anyone who owns one knows that this isn't always the case.
A dishwasher that isn't working properly ends up making everything take twice as much effort than it would have if you just washed it by hand. When it deposits a bunch of soap scum, cooks on leftover grime, or whatever crazy issue it decides to have that day, it can become a real hassle to fix it after the fact.
Our dishwashers are supposed to do the work for us, but in order to do that, we need to take a little bit of care when it comes to how we treat them. Luckily, we know a few tricks that will help you get the grime out of the dishwasher and get it working as good as new in no time!
1. Run hot water before starting the dishwasher
This simple trick will help you get the dishwasher running properly the first time. You want the water in the machine to be as hot as possible, and one way to make sure this happens is to turn your kitchen tap on as hot as it will go for a couple of minutes.
This way the water starts off hot, and will make it easier for the dishwasher to do its job.
2. Run it empty with a cup of white vinegar
One of the easiest ways to get the food residue out of the dishwasher is to run it with white vinegar in it. Vinegar is one of the best cleaning agents you have in your house, and if you toss a cup into an empty dishwasher and let it run, it'll help break down any food particles stuck hanging around.
As an added bonus, it'll help get rid of any smells that have been lingering around. It's also really cheap to buy, on Amazon you can get it for less than $3 for a big 64 oz jug!
3. Scrub out the seals
There can be food particles and soap scum that seep into the seals around the door, and this can effect how well the dishwasher can clean the dishes.
You can use an old toothbrush with some vinegar to scrub it clean, or you could even try a Magic Eraser. Those things can clean anything!
4. Clean out the dishwasher trap
If you are like me, you probably didn't even think that your dishwasher had a trap. I only figured it out after calling and complaining to the company because it wasn't draining. Food gets caught in there and you have to clean it out otherwise it just redistributes it back over your dishes.
In the bottom of your dishwasher, there is usually a compartment that you can open up. Clean out the trap regularly to guarantee that it's not spreading the leftovers back around.
5. Check for clogs
There is a draining arm that will remove the gross water from the dishwasher tub, but sometimes the trap doesn't catch everything. If big enough pieces of food get through, they can end up clogging up the hose and make it so your dishes don't get clean, or even so that the tub won't drain.
If you are handy, you can actually use a shop vac on the hose if you disconnect it from the pipes, but be careful when you reattach it. You don't want to accidentally have it misaligned and have dirty dish water spill all over the house!
6. Stop over packing the dishwasher
It's important that you give everything the space it needs, even though it will take more loads. I know it's frustrating when that one last plate won't fit, but by forcing it in, you'll likely end up having to rewash even more dishes.
Space everything out properly so that the arm will be able to spray the water and soap around properly.
7. Scrape your dishes
I know a lot of detergents say that you don't need to rinse the dishes, but you do still need to scrape off any big chunks.
Think of it this way, would you rather scrape leftover sauces or noodles into the garbage when they are fresh, or would you rather have to scrape them out of the dishwasher drain after they have been super-heated in the dishwasher?
8. Test your water
If you have hard water it is always going to leave an unwanted residue on your dishes. The best way to counter this is to install a water softener, but before you spend a bunch of money to do that, you should check if it's even necessary.
It's not hard to check the level of hardness in your water, they even make simple strips that you can get for less than $15. All you need to do is dip them in the water and it'll tell you how hard your water is. That way you can know whether it's the water or if there is something wrong with your dishwasher.
9. Clean out the arms
If you pull the sprayer arms out of the dishwasher, you may notice that there is a lot of build up in all of the holes. Just like your shower head, these little nozzles are prone to build up caused by minerals in the water.
You can do a few things to clean them out. If the holes are big enough, you can feed a small wire or dental floss through it and scrape along the edges gently. Or, if you are worried about damaging them, you can let it soak in vinegar for a while to loosen up the grime and then just scrub it off.
10. You don't always need rinse aid
I know those rinse aid commercials are promising you that they will get your dishes clean, but sometimes it doesn't actually help because the detergent you're using has it built in.
Doubling up on rinse agent can actually lead to residue getting left behind on your dishes, so make sure you double check that the detergent you're using works well with it before spending the money.
You won't need to do all this stuff every time you use the dishwasher either, so a little bit of effort will go a long way.
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