via Dare the dishwasher to do its job, clarionledger.com
Ever since my family got its first dishwasher in 1970 something, I have been advised often to rinse every particle of food off the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. This little piece of advice has been ingrained into dishwasher owners — and made reluctant husbands mutter to themselves — since people installed their first avocado-green Kitchenaids and Kenmores. But recently — in what’s certain to cause a monsoon of controversy — the venerable Consumer Reports has recommended we stop doing it.
I admit to having grumbled at having to do this little task. I’m well aware the dishwasher we bought a couple of years ago doesn’t need me to. “After all,” I said to my wife once while feeling especially bold, “that’s the dishwasher’s job.” All I got in response was an icy stare (husbands, you know that stare, don’t you…). It turns out that, as dishwashers have gotten better, quieter and more energy-efficient, they have also been fitted with sensors to determine just how dirty the dishes are, and adjust the cleaning process accordingly. (Of course, for older models, you may still need to pre-rinse.)
And, if the famously unbiased Consumer Reports says it, there’s a good likelihood it’s true. “The easiest way to save time, water and money in the kitchen is to stop pre-rinsing your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher,” noted Consumer Reports blogger Mary H.J. Farrell. “It may cause a kerfuffle in the family so to settle any disputes just try it. You’ll discover that the dishwasher doesn’t need your help and that, in fact, you could be making matters worse by causing the built-in soil sensor to misread the amount of dirt in the water.”
Farrell goes on to write that dishwashers sold in the past five years are fitted with sophisticated technology designed to save water and energy. By sensing whether there’s heavy or light debris on the dishes, the computer can adjust the amount of water. If all the dishes are free of debris, the dishwasher will likely underperform and leave little morsels of food stuck to dishes. What’s more, today’s dishwashers have grinders that pulverize food and wash it down the drain.
And, as Farrell continues her assault on conventional wisdom, there is the matter of the water we waste by pre-rinsing. It takes anywhere from 1.7 to 6 gallons of water every minute to pre-rinse (the average pre-rinse uses 25 gallons), costing more energy and effort. “The costs are starting to add up and all for something that you could stop doing while getting cleaner dishes,” she notes. “It’s a win-win.”
If you are interested in getting the best performance from your little built-in kitchen wonder, here are a few tips:
- First off, follow the directions in the dishwasher’s manual for loading. Although many of us don’t read the manuals, they are written to help us get the best performance, and since rack designs vary, learn how yours is designed to work best.
- Secondly, Consumer Reports recommends running a bit of hot water in the sink before you start the machine. It takes less energy if the dishwasher can start with warm water.
- Finally, use a rinse aid, which helps dishes rinse more evenly, and choose the right detergent.
Now, I know some habits are pretty hard to break, and no matter what Consumer Reports says, many dishwasher owners will stubbornly continue to pre-rinse. Judging from some of the reader comments on the article, some folks aren’t buying it. For example, one reader suggested you need to pre-rinse if you only run the dishwasher once every few days, to avoid a smelly, pest-attracting mess in the dishwasher. Another pointed out not all dishwashers have grinders and food sensors.
But regardless of where you stand on this surprisingly controversial issue, at least now you know there’s an option.