6 Biggest Dishwasher Mysteries Solved Once & For All (VIDEO)

inside of a dishwasher
You have a mystery box in your kitchen. A place where dirty dishes go in -- and clean dishes come out. Is it magic? Of course not. It is just your dishwasher. If it were magic, those dishes would come out perfectly clean every time. But alas, we know they do not. Sometimes they come out with soap residue, or with food crusted on. So we're looking inside a dishwashing machine at work. Literally! Watch the washing in action while we attempt to solve some of the Great Perplexing Mysteries of the Dishwasher.


1. What is that white residue left on my dishes?

This could be excess soap -- make sure you're using the recommended amount. But more likely it's mineral deposit, which is common especially for homes with hard water. Try washing your dishes with white vinegar. Make sure your water is very hot (you could try running the water in your sink until it's hot, and then turn on your dishwasher, or check your water heater settings). And turn off the dry setting on your washer. The blog The Quick & The Hungry has a helpful dishwasher tuneup tutorial.

Here's another freaky bit of advice: Don't pre-clean your dishes, just scrape them. Your dishwashing detergent actually needs some "dirt" in order to clean -- otherwise, your glasses come out cloudy.

2. Why do some of my dishes come out clean while others do not?

This happens to me all the time. I'll pull out my dishes and most of them will be clean, but there will be three random glasses with milk residue inside them. This most likely means that a spray arm is broken, blocked, or clogged. It can also happen if the drain is clogged or if your dishes are loaded unevenly or overlapping. Check for all of these.

According to Chow, all plates should go on the bottom of the dishwasher, facing the center. Stagger large and small plates. Load oversized items on the outer edges. Load cups and glasses on the upper rack, between the tines (not over them). Make sure they're not touching. Load bowls face down at an angle, also on the top rack. Long utensils and dishwasher-safe plastics go on the top rack as well. Avoid crowding your dishwasher.

3. Should the utensils go tines/blades/scoops up or down?

So much debate over this question! GE recommends putting your silverware and flatware handles-up to protect your own hands. Spoons can go handles down. (They must have a lot of faith in the power of their dishwashers.) Forks can go up, too, if you're not worried about poking your hand. The important thing is to make sure everything is evenly spaced and not nesting closely together.

By the way, contrary to myth, you can put sterling silver in the dishwasher. HOWEVER, if you do, make sure there's nothing with stainless steel in there. Knives with silver handles often have steel blades, so hand wash those.

dishes in a dishwasher

4. What should never go in a dishwasher?

Here's Martha Stewart's NO-DISHWASHER list:

Anything the manufacturer indicates is not dishwasher safe

Aluminum takeout or cooking containers

Gold-plated items

Pewter, brass, or bronze -- hot water can cause pitting or discoloration

Any wood or wooden-handled items -- they will lose their finish and the handles will loosen

Cast-iron or tin pots or pans -- they will lose their seasoning

Teflon or nonstick pots and pans

Metal utensils -- whisks, spatulas, etc.

Painted dishes, including old Pyrex -- their finish will fade over time

Cake pans -- they will lose the patina that keeps the cake from sticking

Rubber scrapers

Kitchen knives -- the joinery will loosen over time

Wooden cutting boards

Dishes made before 1960 -- they were not made to withstand the heat of the dishwasher

I would also add that dishwashers can dull good kitchen knives. You can put china, crystal, and milk glass in the dishwasher, but they do better hand-washed. And silicone scrapers are fine, especially if they're all silicone.

5. What does "not dishwasher safe" really mean?

It means "don't blame us if you put this in the dishwasher and it becomes damaged -- we warned you."

6. What's really going on in that dishwasher when it runs through a cycle?

And related: On a scale of 1 to 10, how wicked is it to run a dishwasher when it's only half loaded with dishes? See the video.

Do you have any other dishwasher-related questions?


Image ©iStock.com/trekandshoot

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