Homeowner Helpers: Improving your dishwasher’s performance

Homeowner HelpersIt’s a humble appliance, so you likely never give a second thought to improving your dishwasher’s performance. Turns out, a few simple steps can enhance its operation as well as saving you money and even helping battle climate change by reducing energy consumption.

Bonus: Like a well-maintained car, a dishwasher that’s had some TLC will need fewer repairs and last longer.

Scrape, kids!

Your children might forget that the dishwasher has its limits. Remind them to scrape their dishes into the compost bucket before popping them in for a wash. Red sauces like tomato can stain other dishes, so rinse off the sauce first. Don’t rinse other dishes because the detergent actually needs something to grip if it’s going to work properly.

Cleaner cutlery

Place spoons and forks in the cutlery drawer so some have the handles up and others have them down. This increases the space for soap and water to swish around and can make for cleaner cutlery. For more tips on correctly loading your dishwasher, check your owner’s manual (you may have forgotten some of the instructions over the years).

Find the sprayer

Locate the sprayer inside your dishwasher and angle the most soiled dishes toward it. It will give you cleaner dishes without the need to pre-rinse. And don’t put bulky items in front of the sprayer where they’ll block other dishes from getting a good rinse.

Go off-peakHomeowner Helpers

In Ottawa, you’ll pay more than twice as much for electricity during peak hours (11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays) compared to off-peak hours (7 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays). With electricity rates about to jump again, it makes financial sense to do the dishes in off-peak hours.

Air dry

A clothes line reduces your energy consumption, cost and environmental footprint, so why not air dry your dishes as well? Instead of relying on the dishwasher’s electric heat or fan, leave the door open at night and let the air do the work.

Quick clean

Clean the dishwasher filter once a month to keep the appliance running properly, extend its life and prevent odours stemming from rotting food. Running the filter under the tap should do the trick.

Every few months, run a short cycle with just a cup of vinegar poured into the base. The vinegar helps remove food bits and keeps the inside smelling fresh.

Deep clean

Periodically — once a month is ideal, but hey, who has that much time? — give your dishwasher a thorough cleaning. That means everything from rubbing down the door gasket (make sure it’s not cracked or chipped, which can cause leaking) to removing racks for a good scrub. You also need to check the holes in the spray arm and drain, cleaning out them out if they are plugged. Learn more about deep cleaning your dishwasher.

Time for a replacementHomeowner Helpers

Go with an Energy Star model when you have to retire the old dishwasher. It may cost it bit more initially, but an Energy Star washer will use, on average, 12 per cent less energy and 30 per cent less water than a standard model, according to Natural Resources Canada. Over the lifetime of the dishwasher, that can add up to a lot of saved money for you and fewer carbon emissions for the planet.

Sources: apartment therapy.com, Consumer Reports, others.

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