My mom is the best!

Last year when Jeff and I went away for a few days she came and watched my 2 kids and 2 new kittens who may or may not have been totally litter-trained at that point. This is not why she’s the best, though. (I mean who doesn’t love grandkids and kittens!?) She’s the best because she cleaned my dishwasher while she stayed at my house.

It was smelly–like the smelly that you can’t air out. It was gunky around the edges. You needed a face-mask to load the thing if any dishes were left in too long. It was a sad, sad state of affairs.

Cleaning the dishwasher

Then came Nana and her magic sauce that changed my relationship to this, the 2nd most helpful of household appliances. After she used dishwasher cleaner I could open the thing all day long without holding my breath even! I never thought I’d need to clean a cleaning appliance. But it sure made a difference. Since then I’ve started using a dishwasher cleaner myself every couple of months. The brand of cleaner doesn’t seem to matter. And no, I don’t know why they work.

I recently read on Lifehacker about using citric acid to clean the dishwasher. I haven’t tried citric acid yet, though. Have you? Tell me in the comments, please!

Getting cleaner dishes

Besides keeping the dishwasher clean, if you are looking to get cleaner dishes, you gotta clean the trap. Put on some gloves and take the trap out to unclog any particles that have gotten stuck. This isn’t quite as icky as it sounds because you are right by the sink to rinse it all off.

Scrape. Don’t rinse your dishes.

Scraping food and sauce off your dishes is as far as you need to go with your pre-dishwasher ritual. Letting dishes soak is (usually) not helping. Scrape them before they get hard and crusty in the first place. Not only will you save yourself elbow grease. You’ll save water and you won’t have to look at a pile of soaking, dirty mess.
In general, you need a lot less detergent in the dishwasher than you think you do. Most people use pods these days. But if you still use a powder or liquid, try using less to minimize cloudy residue on your dishes.

Run your dishwasher on the shortest cycle

Speaking of using less, another way to save money/energy/water is to run your machine on the lowest and shortest setting every time. Try it a few times and you will find out if it works for you. All of the dishwashers I’ve used clean just as well in half the time as they do on full-cycle.
I discovered this for myself when I was hosting a party and wanted the prep dishes to be cleaned before the dinner dishes started piling in. What do you know? The short cycle cleaned my pots and pans like a champ! So, it certainly works for everyday dishes that have already been scraped clean.

Water spots?

Vinegar is the bomb. Put 1/2 c or so of straight vinegar in a small bowl in the bottom rack each time you run a load. You can also put it straight into the rinse compartment if your water isn’t as hard as mine.

If you have tried these tips and your dishwasher just doesn’t cut it and is still making you bonkers, please just buy yourself a new one! The money you save by not pre-washing the dishes can pay for most of it. Not to mention the money you may have to spend on therapy if you keep fighting with your housemates about the dishwasher!

More ideas for keeping dirty dish pile-up at bay are in this awesome dishwasher tips video.

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