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To Rinse or Not to Rinse? The Eternal Dishwasher Question

How to load your dishwasher, including an answer to the question of whether you need to rinse your dishes first. From Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck

While working on this book, I interviewed an appliance repairman who told me that most dishwasher detergents contain enzymes that react with and break down organic material (food waste). These enzymes make the detergent very hard and porous. If dishes are nearly clean when they are put into the dishwasher, the enzymes have nothing to stick to and are flung about the inside of the dishwasher, effectively sandblasting the dishes and glassware. This sandblasting effect can permanently cloud glassware and wear the decorative paint and glazes off of dishes.

Here is the recommended way to load a dishwasher.

  1. Use a rubber spatula to scrape large chunks of food off the dishes and flatware. (I scrape my food scraps into my compost bucket, from whence they are tipped into my vermicomposting bin.
  2. The dishwasher may not remove hardened bits of food. Anything that is crusty or hardened should be removed.
  3. Brush off all bits of cheese before loading dishes or utensils into the dishwasher. The heat of the dishwasher will bake cheese right onto a fork or plate, where it will cling like a limpet until it is forcibly removed.
  4. Don’t prerinse your dishes before you load them into the dishwasher. Leave that light glazing of turkey juice, spaghetti sauce, and gravy on the plates. Your dishes and glassware will last longer if they are not sandblasted by underemployed dishwasher enzymes.
  5. Read the directions on your dishwasher detergent, then use the least possible amount. A scum of excess detergent is just as dirty as a scum of milk or grease, and may be harder to rinse off.
  6. If your dishwasher begins to stink, clean the filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then pour 2 cups of white vinegar into a bowl and set the bowl face up on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Run the machine through a wash cycle to clean the inside of the appliance. The vinegar will deodorize the dishwasher as well as dissolve hard water deposits.
  7. To remove hard water spots from dishes and glassware, use the normal amount of detergent and run the dishes through the wash cycle. Remove all the cutlery and other metal items from the dishwasher, then pour 2 cups white vinegar into a bowl and set the bowl face up on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Run the dishes through the wash cycle again, with just vinegar as a cleaning agent. Allow the dishes to dry completely before putting them away.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellen Sandbeck, the author of Green Housekeeping (Copyright © 2006 by Ellen Sandbeck) and Green Barbarians, is an organic landscaper, worm wrangler, writer, and graphic artist who lives with (and experiments on) her husband and an assortment of younger creatures — which includes two mostly grown children, a couple of dogs, a small flock of laying hens, and many thousands of composting worms — in Duluth, Minnesota.

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