October 1, 2014

Appliance Myths – Dishwashers

Although we use our dishwashers often, sometimes daily, their inner workings remain a mystery to many of us. Here are some common myths busted for you.

Myth – My dishwasher is broken because there is some water in the bottom after the cycle is finished.
Truth – There should usually be some water left in the bottom sump of the dishwasher at the end of a wash. This water keeps the seals moist to avoid them drying out and leaking. When the dishwasher starts, it will first drain for several seconds to remove standing water, then it will fill with fresh water and begin the wash cycle.

Myth – A dishwasher pumps in water to fill it up.
Truth – When needed, a water fill valve simply opens to allow the household water pressure fill the machine. The pump is only involved in draining the appliance and washing.

Myth – A dishwasher stops filling when the float inside the tub rises high enough to represent a proper fill level.
Truth – Most modern dishwashers fill using a timing method, filling for a set amount of time. The float is usually for over-fill protection only, stopping a fill before it gets to the point of flooding. Under normal operation the float and float switch should never come into play.

Myth – If your dishwasher fails to function, you should call a plumber.
Truth – In most cases, no. Major appliances are considerably different from most other plumbing fixtures. Most plumbers are not familiar with the intricacies of the appliance itself and should only be called if the problem lies in the connection to the household plumbing.

Dishwasher Buying Guide – Special Features You May – Or May Not Need

Dishwashers come with many options to help you get sparkling clean dishes. Some come standard on a basic machine and some will add considerably to the price of your new dishwasher. Read on to see what Consumer Reports had to say about these features.

Adjustable racks and loading aids
Racks that adjust up or down, adjustable tines, and silverware and stemware holders let you reconfigure the interior and organize the contents. Those devices increase flexibility, especially when you cook for a crowd, and they can help accommodate large and oddly shaped items.

Dirt sensor
It adjusts water use and cycle length to soil level. A dirt sensor can improve efficiency, but not all work well.

Rinse/hold cycle
It lets you rinse dirty dishes before you’re ready to start a full cycle. This cycle can reduce odors and prevents soil from setting while you accumulate enough dirty dishes for a full load.

Filters
These keep wash water free of food that could be redeposited on clean dishes. There are two types: self-cleaning and manual.
Most filters are self-cleaning; a grinder pulverizes the debris and flushes it down the drain. That’s convenient but noisy. Some models have a filter without a grinder. It’s quieter, but it needs periodic cleaning, a job that takes a few minutes. It’s your choice.

Special wash cycles
Most dishwashers come with at least three cycles: light, normal, and heavy (pots and pans). Some offer pot-scrubber, soak/scrub, steam clean, china/crystal, or sanitizing cycles as well. The three basic cycles should be enough for most chores–even for baked-on food. A sanitizing option that raises water temperature above the typical 140° F doesn’t necessarily clean better.

Stainless-steel tub
Steel is more durable than plastic, but models with a plastic tub tend to cost far less. While light-colored plastic might become discolored, gray-speckled plastic should resist staining. Even a plastic tub should last longer than most people keep a dishwasher.

Hidden touchpad controls
Controls mounted along the top edge of the door are strictly a styling touch. They’re hidden when the door is closed. You can’t see cycle progress at a glance. (Partially hidden controls are a good compromise. They show that the machine is running and often display remaining cycle time.)

Getting Dry Dishes

One of the simplest ways to save a little money and energy is to let your dishes air dry after they are washed in the dishwasher. Simply use the wash only cycle and open the dishwasher door as soon as the cycle finishes. The dishes will be very hot and will dry quickly.

If you are still using the dry setting on your dishwasher and find that the dishes are wet when the cycle is complete, first check that you really programmed the washer for the heat dry setting, then check to see if the rinse aid dispenser needs filling, evaluate how well the dishes are loaded, and make sure a large item doesn’t block smaller items.

Here are some additional problems to check:

Did you use the proper amount of detergent? Too little or too much detergent can have an affect on how well dishes dry.

The next things to check are the filters, drain valve, drying fan, heating element, and the thermostat. Sometimes a clogged filter will prevent all the water from being able to exit the unit. Clean or replace clogged filters. A faulty drain valve that leaves too much water in the cabinet can be to blame. Is there too much standing water left in the unit after the dry cycle is complete? Check for blockages at this valve.

Some dishwashers have a fan that circulates the cabinet air to help dry the dishes. If the fan is not working properly, you need to replace it. At the bottom of the dishwasher is a heating element that warms the air in the dishwasher. The increased temperature speeds up the evaporation process and decreases the drying time. Visually inspect the element and look for any burned or broken areas on it, and if it’s burned out or if you can’t measure continuity with it removed, it will need to be replaced.

There is also a thermostat that measures the water temperature and drying temperature. If the thermostat is faulty, the cycles may not complete properly. If it’s faulty, you need to replace it. You may want to unload the dishes in the bottom rack first so that any water left pooled on dishes in the top rack won’t spill onto the bottom rack’s dishes.

Get Cleaner Dishes Out of Your Dishwasher

We’re always scouring the web for the best appliance tips. Recently The New York Times offered this advice:

    Simply scrape your dishes, don’t pre-wash. The detergent goes after the food.

    Use just enough detergent. This is determined by how dirty they are, not how many dishes are in the load.

    Powdered detergent works better than liquid or tablets.

    Load properly, glasses on top, pots and pans on the bottom and don’t let items nest together. You can check your manual for the best way to load your particular dishwasher. Also, don’t impede the free movement of the sprayer arm.

    Streaks and spots are caused by water droplets and are not permanent. A rinse aid will help prevent them.

My favorite tip: Open the dishwasher immediately after the cycle ends. The dishes are at their hottest and will dry very quickly, leaving shiny dishes with no spots.

Quick Dishwasher Loading Tips

Today’s dishwashers really will do most of the work for you.  No more scrubbing before loading.  If you are the type of person who cleans the house before the housekeeper comes, this might be a hard habit to kick, but hey – think of all the other tasks you can do with the time you’ll save.  You can alphabetize your spices!

The tips:

* Soiled surfaces should always face the interior of the machine, where the spray is most likely to reach them. 

* Don’t put glasses over the prongs, because that impedes the water’s flow. Use the prongs to prop them up from the outside.

* Never overlap pans. Let the whole cooking surface lie face-down on the rack.

* Knife edges should point downward, forks should point upward, and spoons can go either way. (Just check that they aren’t nesting)

I have found that not rinsing the dishes works best if the dishwasher is being run right away, but your results may vary.