Monday, September 21, 2009

Loading dishwashers to the MAX!

We use our dishwasher at home to the limits of what it was engineered for! (of course, we did this all by trial and error) What do I mean by this? Well, when we load dishes into the dishwasher we packed the dishwasher so full that we have to doublecheck that the sprayer arms still move.

How did we get here? When we first bought the dishwasher, we loaded it according to the manufacturer's suggested loading schemes in the instruction manual. Little by little we discovered that the dishes were still coming clean despite loading more and more into the dishwasher. We were then able to take pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery from at least two meals and wash them successfully by moving things around.

But then, it dawned upon us.

Why not also use all three dimensions inside the dishwasher to the maximum? All you need to do is ensure that enough water from the spray gets into various places and that it can run back out. The water, if hot enough, should be able to dissolve grease and the detergent should also help in that regard.

We routinely now load everything from 4+ meals into the dishwasher. Everything (99% of the time) comes out perfectly squeaky clean. No streaks, no greywater, no waterspots, just clean.

What are some tricks that we use?
1. Ensure that the water is the correct temperature for the dishwasher. I always run the hot water tap that is closest to the dishwasher into a drinking water filter before I turn on the dishwasher. If I'm boiling clean and non-starchy vegetables, I throw the boiling water in there if I'm going to turn on the dishwasher soon. That way, the hottest water hits the dishes and I ensure that things are clean.
2. If there is any food that is baked on or cooked on to anything, use a scrub brush and some powdered detergent to scour it off. Put it directly into the dishwasher for rinsing and sanitizing. The residual detergent that is on the icon will just become part of the "pre-wash" detergent.
3. Discovered little nuances of your dinnerware - certain items can nest inside each other and still allow for water to come in and out very easily. A good example would be our small dishes. Normally, the manufacturer would suggest that you put single dishes and allow for space between them. What we've discovered is that little dishes that our children use can actually be used to space out these dishes and still provide for enough water flow. So, instead of putting one dish there, we can actually put one small dish and one children's dish in the same slot - 50% space savings. All of our pots and pans nest within each other so we often put all three of them together and they take up roughly 1/3 less space than three spread apart.
4. Don't be afraid to load vertically. Just ensure that your water can reach the upper objects fairly easily. Going back to the example of the small dishes above, we often cap a row of 4-5 small plates (with intervening 4-5 children's plates) with an ice cream bucket. Sometimes we'll even put a large caserole dish on top of that, as we know the water will flow around.
5. Use smaller cutlery and dishes.
6. Don't be afraid to stack things on top of your cutlery as well (small cups)
7. Cutting boards can be placed on the sides and potentially even suspended in midair depending on the setup of the racks
8. Always use fresh detergent.

It's a trial and error process that needs to be worked out for your specific dishwasher. Once you have done so, you can wash superhuman amounts of dishes in one load cleaner than anyone really could wash them by hand.

There are some things that you need to wash by hand, but we find that most things you can throw in... including that scrub brush with caked detergent I mentioned above (we got it at the dollar store).

Tell us your frugalista tips on dishes.

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