Angie's List: Dishwashing Cleaning Secrets

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Updated: 4/13 8:56 pm
Most people depend on their kitchen appliances. We rely on our dishwasher to work and get our dishes clean, but as soon as the appliance stops working, panic sets in.

"Your dishwasher, just like any other appliance you have, does take some care and maintenance along the way to make sure you get the full life out of it, especially if you have hard water. many people may not realize the kind of build-up you can get from the hard water in your dishwasher and that needs to be cleaned to make sure your dishwasher operates properly," said Angie Hicks with Angie's List.

So how can you get cleaner, spotless dishes out of the dishwasher? Tip number one: Check your detergent.

"If you have hard water, the only thing you should be using is a powder. A lot of people like to use the tablets or the little packets and actually that is too much soap," said Chris Sublett, an appliance repairman.

Tip number two: Know when to pre-rinse.

"You should remove any food particles that are the size of a nickel. Other than that, you can stick dishes right in the dishwasher. They really don't need to be pre-rinsed as long as your dishwasher is working well," said Sublett.

Tip number three: Load dishes correctly.

"If your dishwasher is one with one spray arm, you should only stack vertical dishes on bottom rack. No bowls, glasses on the bottom rack - leave those for the top rack. That way the water is spraying around and the bottom spray arm can reach the dishes up top. Now if you have a dishwasher that has two spray arms, you can pretty much put them in there however you like," said Sublett.

And lastly, clean your dishwasher.

"When you open your dishwasher and you see any white film built up on the inside of the dishwasher, that tells me you need to have your dishwasher cleaned. You can do that yourself. There are several different products you can buy at the grocery store," said Sublett.

If you find you're still having trouble with spotty, dirty dishes, Angie's List said it may be time to call in a pro to take a look. While dishwashers can last up to 13 years, if your appliance is 7 years or older and repairs will cost more than half the cost of a new appliance, it's probably time to buy new. 

It’s important to check and clean your dishwasher every few months to make sure it can do its job as effectively as possible.
Hard water is hard on your dishwasher: More than 85 percent of homes have hard water and hard water is hard on your dishwasher. Regularly clean the inside of your dishwasher so it will clean your dishes and work well for a long time.
Remove and inspect the spray arms. To locate the spray arms, consult your owner's manual. Make sure that the holes are free of any food particles and buildup from soap. Tip: Carefully use a nail, paperclip or similar "tool" to clean the holes.
Don’t overload your dishwasher: Arrange items so that nothing is touching and everything has a clear path to the sprayer arm. This should be located at the bottom of your dishwasher. You'll be amazed at how much stuff is in there (especially the first time you clean it)!
Check your owner's manual for how to open the filter basket.
Inspect the rubber gasket that waterproofs the dishwasher. Check your owner's manual to help you locate this part. Make sure the rubber is not cracked or broken. A worn gasket can lead to water leaks!
Check the dishwasher hoses. Locate your dishwasher hoses to inspect the connections from the dishwasher to the water line and the drain line. Make sure that the hoses look to be in good condition and that the connections look nice and tight.
Rinsing still reigns: Many appliance repair companies we talked to lean more on the side of rinsing first. They say the more food particles and sauces removed from the dishes, the better chance you’ll avoid a future repair. Too much food can clog the pump assembly, drain lines or spray arms - which can cause bacteria to breed. A buildup in the pump assembly can prevent the dishes from getting properly cleaned.
Powder dishwasher detergent or gel? If you have hard water, consider using powder detergent. The tablets and packets can be too much soap. When using the powder, use as little as possible. If you have a water softener, try the tablets or packets. If you are unsure what is best for your dishwasher, consult with an appliance repair person.

Repair or Replace?

Dishwashers can last up to 13 years. Generally, if a repair will cost more than half the cost of the new appliance and the unit is more than six or seven years old, it might be time to buy new. The average price of a service call ranges from $60-100. That doesn’t include the cost of parts and labor if additional work is required, but many companies will deduct their call charge if hired to make the needed repairs.





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