How To Use A Dishwasher | Helpful Dishwasher Instructions & Directions

How to Use a Dishwasher

Using a dishwasher involves the following steps – Loading the dishwasher with dirty dishes and cookware, filling the soap tray with dishwasher soap, choosing your preferred cycle setting, selecting the on button, and waiting for the cycle to end. Now you know how to use a dishwasher.

Unlike other kitchen appliances, dishwashers are very limited in what they can be used for, and are built for the sole purpose of washing dishes and cookware. That said, dishwashers can also be used for cleaning toys, baseball hats, garden tools, and more. If you are out of dishwasher capsules, you can try these best dishwasher detergent substitutes to get your dishes and other tools squeaky clean.

If you’re looking for a more detailed overview on how to work a dishwasher, refer to our in-depth dishwasher manual below. Our manual outlines easy-to-follow instructions for dishwasher.

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1. Load Dishwasher With Dirty Plates and Cookware

Before a dishwasher can be used, it must be loaded with dirty plates and cookware. How heavily you can load a dishwasher depends upon its make, model, and age. While some dishwashers may function well with a heavy load, others won’t.

When loading the dishwasher, there are three important factors to take into consideration. First, all plates, dishware, and cutlery should be rinsed before being placed in the dishwasher. If dishes are placed into the dishwasher with food on them, this food can collect inside cups, on plates, and in the cutlery rack where it will harden. Moreover, large bits of food can clog up the dishwasher filter, causing issues in the future.

Secondly, when plates are placed in the dishwasher, they shouldn’t be in direct contact with other plates/cookware. When plates are in direct contact with one another, it limits the amount of water that can access the surface, resulting in a poor quality clean.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that not all types of cookware are dishwasher friendly. For example, cast iron and some carbon steel pans should not be placed in the dishwasher. Wooden cooking spoons and bowls are also poor candidates for a dishwasher as the heat produced during the drying process can cause them to warp.

2. Load Dishwasher With Soap/Detergent

Dishwashers must be loaded with a special kind of soap that is strong enough to break down grease, oil, and food material. Standard dish soap is not strong enough.

When choosing the right soap, there are a few items to keep in mind. For starters, it’s recommended that you buy a soap that comes with a rinse additive. This rinse additive gets rid of the white marks often seen on glass cookware and utensils after washing.

Another important factor is whether or not you want a detergent that contains phosphates. Phosphate is an inorganic chemical that is an effective cleaning agent. However, the compound is known to be harmful to the environment, leading many individuals to purchase non-phosphate containing soaps.

Lastly, you will want to consider whether you prefer bar or liquid soaps. Both options are highly effective although there are a few important differences you should be aware of. Because liquid soap mixes better with water, it’s able to cover more area in your dishwasher. Conversely, some bar soaps fail to break up entirely, which can leave dust like soap particles on your kitchenware.

3. Choose the Cycle

Like most kitchen appliances, dishwashers come with different setting options. How many cycle options a dishwasher comes equipped with depends on its make and model. While some dishwashers will come with as few as 5 cycles, other models will come with as many as 8. That said, there are 4 standard cycle settings that all dishwashers come equipped with: Normal, Quick, Rinse, and anti-bacterial.

  • Normal: The normal cycle is the most commonly used cycle and is best for washing an average load of dishes. Between the washing, rinsing, and drying portions, an entire normal cycle can take up to 3 hours to complete.
  • Quick: Sometimes called an eco-cycle, quick cycles usually run about an hour in length and are good for saving energy. If you have a smaller than average load, or the dishware has been thoroughly rinsed before being placed in the dishwasher, a quick cycle is a good option.
  • Rinse: If your cookware is heavily caked with leftover food, running a rinse cycle before a normal cycle can help ensure your dishes come out clean.

Anti-bacterial: The antibacterial cycle heats dishes to 150 degrees, killing 99.9% of bacteria and germs in the process.

4. Wait For Cycle To Finish

A standard dishwasher cycle can last anywhere from 40 minutes to 3 hours depending upon what setting is chosen. If, for one reason or another, you need to stop the dishwasher mid-cycle, locate and select the pause button on the control panel. Avoid opening the dishwasher door mid-cycle without selecting pause.

Almost all cycles involve three portions, a cleaning, rinsing, and drying portion. Some models come with the option to forgo the drying portion of the cycle. While this may reduce energy costs, it can leave plates and other cookware with water spots, especially if they aren’t hand dried as soon as the wash cycle ends.

5. Unload The Dishwasher

The final step in using a dishwasher is underloading the clean dishes. If some dishware is still wet, take a moment to hand dry as failing to do so can result in water spots. Alternatively, they can be placed in a drying rack.

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What Should I Know Before Using a Dishwasher?

What is a dishwasher? Dishwashers are one of the most common kitchen appliances with over 70% of American households owning a dishwasher. These appliances use hot water, soap, and electronics to automate the process of cleaning dishes.

The appliance is made out of a combination of metal, plastic, and rubber and the average dishwasher measures 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 35 inches high.

The main advantages of using a dishwasher include:

  • Very convenient, no hand washing is required
  • Can be more water efficient than hand washing and rinsing
  • Can be left to run while you’re out of the house
  • Is great for cleaning pots and pans with lots of caked on food

Although all dishwashers functions to same, there are several different types of dishwashers worth mentioning, including:

  • Front Control Dishwasher: Most common type of dishwasher, controls are displayed on the front of the dishwasher door.
  • Top Control Dishwasher: Top control dishwashers have the control panel on the very top of the dishwasher door, meaning the door has to be opened for the control panel to be accessed. Top control models provide a sleek look
  • Countertop Dishwashers: Countertop dishwashers are smaller than average and are bad to fit on the countertop next to the sink or fridge. These types of dishwasher are best for those who don’t have enough space to install a full sized dishwasher
  • Portable Dishwasher: Some dishwashers are designed with wheels on the bottom allowing them to be moved around.

Regardless of the type of dishwasher, they are all evenly equipped to clean cookware and the design differences listed above don’t have any affect on how well a dishwasher cleans.

The only caveat to this statement would be a commercial dishwasher which is designed to handle over three times the amount of dishes as a regular home dishwasher and operates at higher temperatures.

What Are The Stages of Using A Dishwasher?

Using a dishwasher can be broken down into 3 main steps:

  1. Loading the dishwasher with dirty dishes
  2. Choosing the cycle type and pressing start
  3. Waiting for the cycle to stop and unloading the dishwasher

Does The Dishwasher Type Affect The Usage Stages?

No. Regardless of what type of dishwasher is chosen, the usage stages remain the same. As stated in a previous section, there are no differences in function between the different types of dishwashers.

Is Using A Dishwasher For Cleaning Dishes Better Than Hand Washing?

Yes. Not only are dishwashers more convenient, but they are also more water-efficient. Many of the best dishwashers are Energy Star certified and, according to the National Resources Defense Council, can save up to 5,000 gallons of water per year.

Dishwashers also have a drying function, meaning you don’t have to spend time hand drying recently washed dishes. When it comes to the question of dishwasher vs. hand washing, the dishwasher clearly wins. 

Is Using A Dishwasher For Rags Better Than Using A Washing Machine?

No. When a rag is placed in the dishwasher it doesn’t get moved around the way it does in a washing machine. Furthermore, placing rags in the dishwasher is not recommended as threads can come loose and become caught in the filter or propeller.

Is A Built-in Dishwasher Better Than a Countertop Dishwasher For Pots and Pans?

Yes. Built in dishwashers are larger than countertop dishwashers, meaning there is more space to fit pots and pans. Depending on the size of a countertop dishwasher, the unit may be unequipped to fit large pots and pans.

Of all types of dishwashers, the countertop variety is by far the least versatile, although they are great when only limited space is available.

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How To Use A Dishwasher For Other Uses Besides Cleaning Cookware and Bakeware

The different uses of dishwashers are limited as the appliance is designed specifically for washing dishes and other cookware. That said, some people have had success using their dishwasher to clean other objects, including toys, some tools, and even baseball hats.

How To Use A Dishwasher As A Drying Rack

Using a dishwasher as a drying rack is simple and can be done by letting wet dishes sit in the two dishwasher racks until they dry. 

However, all dishwashers come equipped with a drying function that turns on after the wash and rinse portion of a cycle have finished. On most models, a dry cycle can be run independently of  the wash or rinse functions, meaning it can also be used to dry dishes.

How To Use A Dishwasher As A Storage Unit

Dishwasher can be used to store dishes and other cookware. That said, doing this means you can use the appliance to wash dishes, defeating its purpose.

How To Use A Dishwasher To Clean Toys

Solid plastic or metal toys can be placed in the dishwasher for cleaning. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind. For starters, only solid toys without electronics should be put in the dishwasher. Toys with plush or cotton parts will likely be ruined.

Secondly, when placing toys in the dishwasher, there is always the chance that some of the paint or coloration comes off during the washing or drying process.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to remove toys before the drying process kicks in as some plastics may melt or warp during the drying process.

We have also covered how to unhook dishwasher for you!


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