Hi, I'm Krista, and as your BuzzFeed mom, I have a mission to teach, inform, and get the facts from experts so you can stop thinking to yourself, Well, I shoulda known that sooner...
OK, let's dive right in. Today, Renae the Appliance Repair Tech is going to give us the skinny on everything we need to know about these glorious dish-cleaning machines.
Rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher is unnecessary (and wastes a lot of water!). Renae says that if you insist on rinsing them, you can, but you never want to clean your dishes too much before placing them in the dishwasher because of the dishwashing detergent.
"Most of them are enzyme based, and enzymes are pretty much what you have in your stomach to digest your food. If the detergent doesn't have anything to eat (like the food on your dishes), that's when it can start to wear away at the parts inside of your machine because it will find something, no matter what," she says.
"I always suggest that people scrape off anything that is bigger than the size of a grain of rice. Detergents don't break down little bits like that — it doesn't matter what detergent you get. Those 'bits' are about the size of the holes on the spray arms on your dishwasher. So if you're not scraping all that off first, it can clog up the spray arms and then not wash anything," Renae explains.
When it comes to detergent pods, they are not Renae's first choice. "I generally suggest using gel or powder detergent. Powder is fine, but gel is already damp, so it dissolves a little bit better. The reason why I suggest the gel is because when you have those pods, sometimes they get stuck in the dispenser cup," she says.
The main purpose of rinse aid is to help your dishes dry better. "It helps to break the surface tension of the water so that all of the water just wants to bead off of your dishes rather than staying stuck to them," Renae says.
She emphasizes the importance of rinse aid, stating, "Older dishwashers used to be able to get hotter and run for longer, but today's dishwashers have energy standards in place, so they don't do that anymore. If your dishes are not getting dry and you're not using rinse aid, that is usually ... the reason why."
According to Renae, the reason newer dishwashers run longer is that they are Energy Star certified, meaning they're going to use only a maximum of 4 gallons of water throughout an entire cycle. "What happens is, it'll fill, swish all the water around, drain, and repeat a couple of times. That's how it gets everything clean. So because the newer dishwashers do use less water, they really rely on the length of that cycle to get everything properly cleaned," she says.
Maybe this is just a big thing in the Midwest, where I am from, but I've met a lot of people who put their kitchen sponges in the dishwasher. This is not a good idea. Sponges hold moisture, so they can certainly hold bacteria going through a dishwashing cycle!
You should always check the manual before cleaning the inside of your dishwasher. "Every manual has a section somewhere on cleaning. So if there's a filter that you're able to remove — because not all dishwashers have removable filters — it'll show you where that is." Renae also recommends dishwasher cleaning products. "I like the ones with the wax seal because a lot of times, dishwasher cleaners don't work because the dishwasher doesn't get hot enough. The ones [with] the wax seal (it's a bottle that you turn upside down) will not dispense unless it is hot enough to melt that wax seal. So those are the ones I suggest."
And vinegar can clean the inside of your dishwasher, but in Renae's opinion, cleaners specially designed for dishwashers do a better job. If you've been cleaning your dishwasher with baking soda and vinegar, Renae also explains below why this isn't an effective cleaning method:
"There's a brand called Lemi Shine that is known to be better for hard water. They also make detergent boosters for hard water, and things like that. However, when it comes to hard water, it's really important to make sure you're cleaning your dishwasher once a month, because if you're not, that's when it starts to build up on everything. Rinse aid is always going to be necessary if you have hard water; otherwise, the water sits on your dishes," she says.
Renae says that the majority of service calls she gets are for parts that have broken because they haven't been maintained. In addition, a lot of times, something just needs to be cleaned — and the steps for doing so are always shown in the user manual. So those people end up paying for something they could have done on their own.
Have something you really want the facts on?! Let me know in the comments or DM me on IG @callmekristatorres, and I will see if I can get the answers for us!!