The dishwasher in the lunchroom at my 9-5 job is so useless we might as well bypass it altogether and just put our dirty dishes back in the cupboard. It leaves a lovely coating of food shrapnel on everything, with some cups and mugs coming out dirtier than when they went in. If this sounds familiar, then you feel my pain. What if you don’t have the budget to buy a new dishwasher when it fails its performance review? Not everyone has that kind of extra dough lying around.

We’ve already covered how to use your oven like a pro … and now it’s your dishwasher’s time to shine (literally)!

Try these tips and tricks for making sure your dishwasher does its job and doesn’t quit before its time:

Use your dishwasher like a pro with these tips

The pre-rinse

For the longest time I thought I could get away with putting dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher. Don’t be lazy like me. Those extra food bits can clog the filters and reduce your dishwasher’s ability to clean your dishes properly. Give everything a quick rinse before you put it in the dishwasher. It doesn’t hurt to start soaking the heavy duty messes as soon as you’re done cooking either.

Load ‘em up!

Put big bowls on the top level… on the bottom level they just stop the water from reaching and thoroughly cleaning stuff on the top level. If you must put larger items on the bottom rack, make sure they are along the back and sides of the rack so the water can flow freely.

The best dish detergent 

With so many different dishwasher products to choose from, how do you know which one works the best? There’s regular old powder detergent, gels, tablets, and those fancy, multi-colored pods that look like they teleported from outer space. One dishwasher repair guy told me powder is best. Another said the tablets do the trick.

Who am I supposed to believe?!

According to Consumer Reports, no particular type of detergent is superior, so it depends on whichever you prefer and how much you want to spend. Name brand dish detergents will usually be more expensive than the no-name store brands but they contain similar ingredients so keep that in mind.

Then we have the supporting cast of separate products like rinsing aids. You should use a rinsing aid if you know you have hard water, because it can help prevent spotty residue. Additives like bleach can also help your dishes come out of the dishwasher as sparkly as possible.

Cleaning the cleaner

Believe it or not, cleaning machines need to be cleaned too! Proper maintenance can help keep your old dishwasher working well, and it’s easy! Just put a cup of white vinegar on the top rack and run the hot cycle. Next, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom and run a short wash. So fresh and so clean!

Dishwasher Hacks

Dishwashers are not only useful for keeping your dishes, pots, pans glassware and utensils clean… they’re also great for washing unexpected items like baseball caps, rubber flip flops, shoes and boots, toothbrush holders, rubber and plastic pet toys, sponges, and even knee and shin pads. The pros recommend washing these items in a separate load than your dishes, and skipping the dry cycle.

Do you have any dishwasher hacks to share? Share your best  tips in the comments section

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