Are you using your dishwasher wrong?

Dishwashers are a surprisingly hotly-debated household appliance. Arguments about how to load the dishwasher, when to run it and whether or not it’s wasting electricity are running rife in kitchens across the country. It's time to settle those squabbles once and for all: Are you using your dishwasher correctly?

Dishwasher-packing styles vary hugely from person to person and we all have a friend who tries to stick a mug in the bottom drawer or doesn't scrape their bowl before stacking it in the dishwasher (and if you don't, then it's you).

We're setting the record straight on some of the biggest bones of contention when it comes to using the dishwasher.

1. Does the dishwasher use more energy than handwashing?

Do you refrain from using your dishwasher in a well-meaning attempt to save water and electricity? According to Finish, dishwashing through a dishwasher is actually ten times more water efficient and nine times quicker than handwashing.

The ABS says each Aussie household uses about 31L of water per day in their kitchen sinks - that's far more than any dishwasher we've ever used. So if you're doing a few loads of handwashing a day, you'll save more water by loading it in the dishwasher instead.

And because handwashing with hot water relies on your water heater system, your dishwasher might also save you electricity. Factoring in average energy prices, LG says dishwashers can use less than $25 per quarter in electricity - and that’s if you run your dishwasher every day.

2. Is there a correct way to stack the dishwasher?

In short, yes. The golden rule is to ensure adequate spacing between items, or the water spray won't be able to reach each dirty dish.

Cups and glasses go in the top rack and if you're washing wine glasses or extra special glassware, make sure they're not touching one another to avoid breakages.

In the cutlery section, alternate placing handles up and down in the rack, so you're leaving space for the water to get through and not jamming all the cutlery in together.

Large plates and platters should go in at the sides of the bottom rack - not at the front, or it'll stop the detergent being distributed throughout the machine.

#DishwasherStackingGoals. Image: LG QuadWash Dishwasher

3. Do you need to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?

If you're putting a load of dirty dishes on straight away, a quick scrape of the plate to remove food scraps is usually sufficient. Just make sure fruit and olive stones and meat bones don't end up in the dishwasher or these will wreak havoc on the machine.

If the plates are sitting for a few hours and have food caked on - like a porridge bowl left from earlier that morning - a rinse will give you a better end result.

4. Is my dishwasher full of bacteria?

Your dishwasher does harbour bacteria, but it's still more hygienic than handwashing. Water at 60 degrees Celsius is required to start to sanitise dishes, which is typically too hot for our hands to handle but is easily achieved in a dishwasher. 

To keep your dishwasher in good nick, wipe down your dishwasher seals and clean the filter weekly. Every few months, pour two cups of white vinegar into a bowl and put this on the bottom rack of an empty dishwasher, then run your dishwasher on its hottest cycle to help get rid of limescale, grease and built-up grime in the pipes.

5. Should I fill the dishwasher before I start the cycle?

Dishwashers work best when used regularly, as substances like fats can harden with time and block the pipes, so there's no harm in using your dishwasher daily, even if it's not full.

If you're worried about wasting water, use the quick rinse setting to get rid of caked-on food, then run a proper load once you've filled it.

Some dishwashers also have a half-load setting, which only cleans the lower rack: Perfect for people who live alone or don't eat every meal at home.

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