Everyone has their own method for loading dishwashers, be it the “make it all fit no matter the cost” or the “Jesus on Adderall” regime. Obviously, some are more effective than others. Believe it or not, the right way to load a dishwasher is not just a matter of debate but of scientific research. Here are some tips for making the most of one the home’s most labor-saving appliances.
To dishwash or hand wash
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Star dishwashers save both energy and water (5,000 gallons a year), not to mention time (230 hours annually). There are probably methods for cutting water waste when hand washing, but experts agree that machines also clean better, since your skin simply cannot withstand 140-degree water.
Still, not everything belongs in the dishwasher. Bronze, cast iron, pewter, and wood are all on the list, as are some plastics, like the kind you find in takeout containers. If you wouldn’t put it in the microwave, don’t put it in the dishwasher, because the heat can cause chemicals to leach out.
Scrape it off
For many people, doing the dishes is a two-step process: pre-rinsing, then loading. There’s a problem, though. “Enzymes in Cascade detergent are designed to attach themselves to food particles,” according to the Wall Street Journal.”Without food, the enzymes have nothing to latch onto,” says P&G.” If you scrape off the big chunks of cheese but leave the residue, the combination of hot water and detergent should soften, then clear away the stuck-on food. Skipping the pre-rinsing also saves water and time.
The shape of things
When was the last time you read your dishwasher manual? Half past never? If you search your model number, you should be able to find the manual online, and it’s not a half-bad idea considering most manufacturers include illustrations or photos that showcase how to properly load your particular appliance. It will let you know whether you can slot in 10 or 12 place settings, and give you tips about how to angle dishes to keep the water flowing to the top rack. Speaking of, many dishwashers let you adjust the height of this rack, so you can safely nestle taller wine glasses, for example. You might even have special holders for them.
Remember the scientific studies we mentioned? A University of Birmingham professor argues we should load our dishwashers based on the foodstuffs stuck to the dishes, not the type of dishes themselves. Arrange the dirtiest, carb-covered dishes in a circle, like the dishwasher’s spray arms, and put dishes with protein stains, such as those from eggs, around the edges of the dishwasher. The latter need more time to soak up the detergent, while the spaghetti-encrusted plates get the benefit of a more direct jet of water.
Even if you don’t adopt Dr. Raul Pérez-Mohedano’s suggestions for loading a dishwasher, there are some common-sense rules to follow. Don’t let your spoons nestle into one another in the utensil basket, put long spatulas in the upper rack to prevent them from getting stuck on it, and put your bowls at an angle so water doesn’t pool at the bottom.