If you're one of those people who insist on hand-washing or pre-rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, you should stop doing that immediately. While it's understandable that you don't want gross pieces of food floating around in your dishwasher hindering the efficacy, you have it completely wrong.
How can you get the most out of your dishwasher?
- Just scrape the food off the dishes to avoid those gross food particles floating around the other dishes
- Secure plastics so they don't flip over
- Never put wood, copper, cast-iron, and delicate glassware items in the dishwasher. This also goes for items marked specifically as not being dishwasher safe.
- After stacking the dishes, make sure the sprayer still has space to move and reach all the corners of the dishwasher
- Avoid using the hottest setting. Rather opt for cooler ones or the "economic" cycle
- Don't use old detergent, it loses its efficacy after some time
Pre-rinsing dishes doesn't get them any cleaner
If your dishes are spotless by the time they reach the dishwasher, you might as well skip the cycle. Dishwashing detergent needs food residue to attach to and do its job. Use the best detergent you can afford, and follow the instructions on the label. Adding extra detergent won't get your dishes any cleaner; in fact, it might leave a film of detergent on your dishes which might make them look scratched or dirty.
Rinsing wastes water and energy
Some people think that by rinsing the dishes first, they will save the dishwasher some work. This is not true. The dishwasher will use the same amount of water and electricity - which is less than you would use by handwashing. So, in effect, you're wasting extra water and electricity by rinsing or handwashing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, not even mentioning your personal time and energy.
Don't Overcrowd the dishes
Don't overfill the dishwasher. If the water doesn't have enough space to move over each dish, your dishes won't get as clean as they should. Never stack items on top of (or too close to) each other. This also counts for nesting spoons and forks - check that there is space between each one. That being said, don't run partially-filled cycles as it's just a waste of resources and dishes might get damaged if they have too much space to move around.
Some items can break or melt when placed in the wrong position, and others will not get as clean as they should. Stack the bottom rack strategically with plates, pots, pans, and utensils, making sure there is a space between everything. Put cups, bowls, and glasses upside down on the top shelf, angling them as much as the design allows to avoid pooling of water on top. Oversized utensils also go on top.
Following these guidelines should help you get more out of your dishwasher. Keep in mind that your dishwasher also needs to be cleaned regularly. You can find some info to help with that here: How To Clean Large Kitchen Appliances