THE humble dishwasher. According to Roy Morgan stats, in 2019 more than half of all Australians own a dishwasher.

While there is an initial cost outlay, a dishwasher can save precious time and money, if used the right way.

Here, we look at how you can best use your dishwasher:

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1. How to stack and unload your dishwasher

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When it comes to stacking your dishwasher, always have a strategy. The best strategy is to load and unload items from the top to bottom rack and from the back of the machine to the front.

Start with the top rack. The top rack is for the cups and glasses. Glasses should be placed in between tines, not on top as glasses wedged over two tines may crack and water spots can be left by the prong tip.

Also, be careful when arranging wine glasses. They should be placed securely on the rack, not bumping against each other or the dishwasher, to avoid possible breakage. Most current dishwashers include stemware holders specially designed to add stability to wine glasses.

Water can also pool in the bottom of any upturned cups, so keep them tilted to the angle the rack design allows.

The bottom rack for bowls and plates and any other bigger items.

The water usually sprays the strongest at the centre of the rack, so it is best if the dirty side is facing this direction. For casseroles, pots, and pans, make sure they are angled downwards.

Platters and flat pans should not be placed in front or by the dishwasher door because they prevent the dishes from being washed by detergent and could cause the detergent dispenser to stick. Place platters and flat pans at the back of the bottom rack and tuck them into the sides.

When washing utensils, always use the basket. To make sure all surfaces are properly washed, forks should be placed so the tines go up and spoons are arranged up and down alternately, so they are not nested together. Keep the blade of the knives facing downwards for safety.

Unloading

Work your way from the bottom to the top, front to back. This way you keep any water from dripping on to the clean and dry dishes.

When it comes to the utensils, by placing them together in the basket you can easily unload them by simply picking them up together and putting them away. Carefully unload the utensils by grabbing their handles, to keep them clean.

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2. What type of detergent should you use?

Supermarkets offer three common forms of detergents for dishwashers: tablets, powders or gels.

Dishwasher tablets

A dishwasher tablet is generally made up of concentrated dishwashing powder formed into a small brick but some are also made up of, in half or entirely, dishwashing gel.

Other than being a detergent, dishwasher tablets also formulated with rinse aids and other additives. They can do multiple tasks such as pre-wash and degreasing.

Dishwasher tablets are often considered more convenient to use than gels and powders.

Dishwasher powder

For homes with less washing needs, dishwasher powder is more preferable to a dishwasher tablet. With dishwasher powders, you can adjust the amount needed depending on the specific load you need to wash. Just scoop or pour the powder into the dishwasher detergent dispenser.

When it comes to removing stains, traditional dishwasher powders are still a practical option.

Dishwasher gels

Dishwasher gel is as good as the usual detergent liquid used for handwashing dishes. Like powders, a chosen amount can be poured into the dishwasher dispenser depending on the size of the load.

Homes with particular washing requirements may opt for a dishwasher gel rather than powder as there is more control in measuring adequate amounts of detergent using slow-pouring gels for a specific load or for each cycle of washing.

Dishwasher gel is also more suitable for delicate tableware since its water-based formula makes it less abrasive.

Dishwasher gel is also available in tablet form.

Rinse Aid

Want to save energy and skip the heat cycle? Or having trouble with wet dishes? Rinse aid can help by ensuring your dishes dry better.

Rinse aid can be purchased from the supermarket and added to a separate dispenser in the dishwasher.

Alternatively, vinegar is a good rinse aid substitute and is ideal if you are using hard water. It combats hard water staining, removing spots on your dishes and clearing cloudy glasses. Just add a cup full to the dishwasher.

3. How much detergent do you need?

Some people overdo the amount of dishwasher detergent they use which can damage the dishwasher itself.

Using too much detergent can cause excessive foaming, which in turn can cause leaks and reduce the life of your machine. Apart from that, it can also make glasses cloudy or abrade your dishes.

Therefore, it is recommended you use a third or half of the suggested amount.

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4. How often should your dishwasher be cleaned?

At least once a month with a proper, pull-apart-the-filter-deep-clean.

Here’s how to do this once a month to your dishwasher:

Start by removing any debris that may have built-up on the hole of the spinning arm/disc. You will need to use a toothpick, needle nose pliers or any small tool with a sharp tip to do this. If your dishwasher has more than one arm, check each of the arms and each of its holes.

Then, remove all detachable pieces and clean them properly with soapy warm water.

Next, clean the filter screen using a soft toothbrush with warm, soapy water or, for harder more baked scum, use a baking soda paste.

Debris can accumulate at the bottom of the dishwasher door because the water can’t reach this area so make sure you use a cloth to wipe it off.

While there, also wipe the door seal thoroughly with the corner of a cloth soaked in vinegar. For tighter areas, a toothbrush or a cotton tip soaked in vinegar can get in these tough to reach places.

Also wipe the bottom, sides and the door inside the dishwasher with a damp sponge.

Using a dish brush, toothbrush or a sponge then clean the utensil rack and remove any food that may be stuck in the basket weave.

Check the top and bottom dish racks for any spots of dirt or food and wipe them.

Finally, using vinegar, run an empty cycle with all the pieces of the dishwasher placed back inside (check the manual first though! If the manufacturer has labelled a caution or warning with using vinegar, do not do this).

Then add two cups of vinegar at the bottom area of the dishwasher and run a full cycle without any dishes and detergents. This will remove any hard water deposits in your dishwasher.

5. Common dishwasher mistakes and handy hacks

Any items made of wood may fade and break in hot water. Stemware that is too delicate can also receive scratches or even break. Avoid putting wood or precious items through the dishwasher.

When loading up the racks, everything should be spaced properly. That means no items clanging together (do a little shake test to make sure).

Never overload your dishwasher. Washing too many dishes at once may block the flow of water.

Mesh laundry bags that are designed to protect your delicate garments can also be used for the same reason in your dishwasher. Put items that could be blown around by the spray in a mesh laundry bag and place it on the top rack of your dishwasher.

You can even use your dishwasher to clean makeup brushes or kids’ toys.