Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Appliance Series -- How to Care for and Maintain a Dishwasher

Most everyone has a dishwasher located right next to the sink and we love our little water pumping, sanitizing boxes! A dishwasher is one of the most effective appliances for ensuring health as it uses far hotter water than we would use hand washing to ensure removal of food and possible bacteria that can accumulate on our eating implements and storage containers. It is vital to keep this machine in good working order so it continues to provide these functions and there are super simple steps to take as it is one of the lesser maintenance appliances to care for.

☼ Make sure the gasket is not cracked or dried out. Rubberized pieces are some of the first to go as they wear quicker. A broken gasket will mean water on the floor or under the machine and this can cause mold if left over time. Each model is a bit different but all owner’s manuals will provide info for how to remove and replace (as well as clean) the gasket.

☼ Keep food from collecting in the holes. It might seem counterproductive to rinse dishes before putting in the machine (as well as a waste of water!) but all those particles have to go somewhere and most often they get trapped in the drain or filter at the bottom of the washer. Again the manual will guide through removal and cleaning of filters. This will ensure particles are kept away from the motor as well. In addition, a soft toothbrush is a fabulous tool for gently cleaning the holes in the spray arm.

☼ Give the dish racks a once over. When removing the racks to clean the interior, inspect them for cracks or rust spots. It is not healthy for the residue to remain on dishes and the chipped bits can also become lodged in drain holes. Appliance shops or the manufacturer can replace the rack for a nominal fee if any; if there was a warranty be sure to check it when replacing any of the parts.

☼ Clean the outside of the machine. Many of the newer models steam clean the dishes so to ensure the proper closure and avoid gaps that can release too much steam, potentially causing accidents, make sure to wipe any food or grime off the inside lip and outside of the door.

☼ Do not overload the machine. Pay special attention to the ability of the spray arm to spin and evenly distribute water so all dishes are cleaned and sanitized.

☼ Double the work is not necessary. To avoid film or residue be sure to read the manual and use a detergent type** that best suits the machine to avoid having to hand wash just cleaned dishes.
**As a side note, I was over at our fearless contributor Melissa’s house one afternoon and she was explaining the non-awesomeness of a couple eco friendly detergents she has tried of late. I have asked when she has some time to get us a full report but the short version is -- just because it is marked as environmentally friendly does not mean it is if the residue left behind either will not come off (causing a need to toss & repurchase perfectly good items) or must be hand washed to be removed (using extra water unnecessarily).

☼ Get the cleaner even cleaner! Toss about a cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher and let it sit for a while (half hour to an hour) then run the machine through a cycle on the hottest temperature possible. In an effort to not waste the water, this is a perfect time to run through smaller items that are undesirable to be in with food containers such as small trash barrels, toothbrush holders, flower vases, ashtrays, mop buckets, etc. Doing this every 3-4 months is good on average, but for larger families, or those who run more than one load per day (restaurants), more often is recommended. If there are strong odors to eliminate from the drain, a few teaspoons of baking soda or lemon juice should do the trick.

Keeping up with the dishwasher will keep it in proper working order for years to come and will help everyone in the family stay healthy too.

Up next in the continuing appliance series -- Care and Maintenance of the Microwave


Karen said...

These are very good tips. I never thought to clean the inside of the dishwasher, so now I'm going to put some vinegar in there a let it run a cycle! That might be a good way to get the deposits from glassware, too!

savvybrown said...

I found this post through ecokaren's blog, and I have to say THANK YOU! I've been trying to figure out the best way to take care of my dishwasher!