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Do You REALLY Need To Rinse Dishes Before Dishwasher?

There is one thing most people don’t like doing, and that is the dishes. The trusty dishwasher is probably my favorite invention of all time. Recently I have seen hacks going around about rinsing your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher.  It made me curious, do you really need to rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?

Experts suggest that it’s not necessary to pre-rinse your dishes before you pop them into the dishwasher. Dishwashers made in the last ten years are designed with dirt sensing technology. It decreases or increases the water temperature and pressure according to how much dirt it detects.

With all the cleaning hacks and inventive ways people come up with to clean their homes these days, I knew the dishwasher hacks would follow suit. I wanted to find out the truth about whether you should or shouldn’t rinse your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher.

Do You Need To Pre-Rinse Your Dishes?

Ever since I was old enough to load a dishwasher, I have been taught to pre-rinse my dishes, dirty pots, and cutlery before putting them in the dishwasher. Now it looks like there are two camps in this matter, those who do pre-rinse their dishes and those who don’t pre-rinse their dishes. 

According to dishwasher manufacturers, it’s unnecessary to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. They state that it could be a bad idea that might harm your family and eventually cause your dishwasher to underperform.

Here are the top reasons that you shouldn’t rinse your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher.

Improved Dishwasher Design 

The design of the dishwasher has changed since it first became popular in the 1950s. The older dishwashers needed you to pre-rinse your dishes to get all the food particles off and stop the pipes from clogging.

The newer dishwashers and those released in the last 10-15 years have dirt sensing technology. Dishwashers now have a sensor that “reads” how much dirt your dishes have and automatically sets the water temperature and pressure to the correct levels to clean your dishes properly. 

It won’t clean and disinfect your dishes properly if it doesn’t sense dirt, meaning your dishes will only get a light wash and might still be dirty afterward.

Advanced Dishwasher Detergents

Dishwasher detergents have advanced in the last few years. To combat hardened food particles, most dishwasher detergents cling to the dishes for longer and are stronger to keep up with the toughest wash cycles.

If you rinse your dishes beforehand and the sensor only lets a mild wash cycle go through, the detergent will cling to your dishes, and you will have some residue left to contend with that might leave streaks on your dishes. 

Here’s my guide to eco-friendly dishwasher detergent.

Pre-Rinsing Is A Waste Of Water

If you have dishes that need washing, pre-rinsing them is a waste of water. Experts in the dishwashing business have done extensive studies and found that you waste up to 6 gallons of water in just one load of dishes. 

Considering that it’s once or twice now and then is not too bad, doing this every time can waste up to 3400 gallons of water per year. That is not only bad for the environment but a hefty amount of money you are wasting.

To Scrape Or Not To Scrape Dishes Before Dishwashing?

As one of the experts put it, you need to learn the art of scraping. While rinsing your dishes is not a good idea, you can scrape all the excess food off. 

Your dishwasher can’t handle huge chunks of food, but if you scrape excess food off your dishes without rinsing them, it makes for the perfect balance to get your dishes sparkling again.

Learn if it’s OK to Pause the Dishwasher here.

Are There Exceptions For Rinsing Dishes Before Dishwashing?

While it’s usually bad for your dishwasher to rinse your dishes before loading them into your dishwasher, there are exceptions to this rule. 

Older Model Dishwashers

If you have an older model predating the “dirt-sensing technology,” then it might be a good idea to continue pre-rinsing your dishes. 

Older dishwasher models didn’t have the same dirt fighting technology that the newer dishwashers have and might still need some help to get the caked-on or dried food off of dishes.  

Not Using Your Dishwasher Often

If you don’t use your dishwasher often and the dishes stay in the dishwasher until you have enough for a full load, it is a good idea to pre-soak the hardened dishes in warm water for about 40 minutes before running them through a dishwasher cycle.

Caked on dirt needs to be softened up if it has been sitting for long periods; otherwise, you will have to run two cycles.

You Notice Food Left Behind On Your Dishes

If you have noticed that you still have food particles or streaks on your dishes after running a dishwashing cycle, then your dishwasher might not be working correctly. Pre-rinse your dishes until you can get a professional to come and look at your dishwasher.

So in case you have any of the issues mentioned above, make sure you leave enough food on the dishes so the dishwasher can still clean it properly but not enough to clog up the pipes. 

Can You Leave Filthy Dishes In The Dishwasher Overnight?

While a lot of people might think it’s a resounding no, the truth is that you can safely leave most dishes overnight and then run a dishwashing cycle the following day. You only need to wash things like cutting boards and utensils right away to keep bacteria from building up. 

Bacteria will build up on the dishes overnight, but if you run a dishwashing cycle the following day, the temperature and dishwashing detergent will take care of the bacteria that has spread.

Can You Run a Dishwasher at Night? (Does it save money?)

Should I Pre-Rinse Pots Before Dishwashing?

If you have pots that have just been used and you know you won’t run the dishwasher immediately, filling the pots with water is a way to keep the food from becoming crusty and really stuck to the surface of the pots. 

If you have burnt-on food, you need to scrape the burned food off and use a pot scrubber to loosen the burnt food before adding the pots to the dishwasher. Dishwashers might have the technology to clean dishes, but they are not human hands and aren’t infallible. 

Tips For Correctly Loading and Unloading Your Dishwasher

Having a dishwasher makes out lives so much easier; it saves time and water if done correctly, but it is still a machine and needs to be loaded and unloaded properly. 

Here are some tips on how to load your dishwasher correctly:

Leaving Enough Space Between Items

When you load your dishwasher, ensure that there is enough space between all the items so that they can get a good wash in-between. 

Overfilling your dishwasher will only cause you to have to run yet another cycle for the dishes that the dishwasher couldn’t correctly wash the first time around.

Remember To Scrape

Remember scraping is your friend. If you don’t scrape off the big chunks of leftover food, your dishwasher water will get gunky, and nothing will be clean. It also clogs the pipes and drains if there is too much excess food to get rid of.

Dishwasher Safe Items Only In A Dishwasher

Don’t make the mistake of putting items that are not dishwasher safe into your dishwasher. It might be a disaster. Avoid placing things like certain plastics, wooden items, cast iron pots and pans, very delicate glassware in your dishwasher.

These items can break or break your other dishes and can even damage your dishwasher itself. At the bottom or back of most kitchen items, you will find the markings to state if an item is dishwasher safe or not. Don’t put things in the dishwasher that are not kitchen-related (Like shoes, for example).

Use The Correct Dishwashing Detergent

Use the correct dishwashing detergent and always follow the guidelines in your dishwasher manual on the amount of detergent to use. 

Dishwashing detergent is made explicitly for dishwashers and is very strong because they can’t use sponges and pot scrubbers like we do, only the pressure and heat of the water with the detergent.  

They make dishwashing detergent stronger than the dishwashing liquid you use in the sink to break down tough caked-on food and grease. 

Using too much might leave a film of the detergent stuck to your dishes and eventually cause detergent build-up in your dishwasher, and using too little will not clean your dishes properly.

Don’t Block The Sprayers

When you load your dirty dishes into the dishwasher, make sure not to pack the items in a way that blocks the sprayers. These sprayers spin fast to circulate and distribute the detergent and water to your dishes, and if some things block them, your dishes won’t get a thorough clean, or the sprayer might get damaged.

I found some helpful tips on how to properly unload your dishes:

  • When your dishwasher is done running a cycle, don’t open the door too soon, the steam and items might still be scorching.
  • Always unload the bottom tray before the top tray; this way, if you have water left in some places, it won’t splash all over the other dishes or your floor.
  • Never open your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle; the water can run between 130F – 180F, even the slightest water splash will hurt you at these temperatures.

You will need to clean your dishwasher now and then also, so check your dishwasher manual for specific instructions before you clean your dishwasher.  

You will need to clean your dishwasher trap at least once a week. The dishwasher trap is where old food ends up, it’s gross, but it needs to be cleaned to keep your dishwasher working at its best.

How To Clean A Dishwasher Filter Properly: Step-by-step

Frequently Asked Questions About Dishwashers

When you are using your dishwasher, there are always hick-ups here and there. Down here are some frequently asked questions and their answers you might find helpful.

What Can I Do With Loose Items That Get Stuck In The Dishwasher?

A great tip I found while researching is to use a mesh laundry bag for your small items. Put them into the bag, pull up the zipper, and place the mesh bag on the top rack of the dishwasher. It cleans all the small items without having them get stuck or fly all over.

Why Are My Utensils Still Dirty After Dishwashing Them?

Every dishwasher comes with a small rack just for utensils, but if you don’t load them correctly, they will cling together and not get clean. It would be best if you put the utensils back to back and not clumped together.

Can I Run My Dishwasher If I Don’t Have A Full Load?

You should rather wait until you have a full load, or it will waste water and your detergent. You can keep dishes overnight in the dishwasher, give them a light soak, and you can run a dishwashing cycle when you have a full load.

Why Do Some Plastic Wares Get Warped After Dishwashing?

Even though many plastic bowls, dishes, cups, and utensils have the icon that says it’s dishwasher safe, there are limits to the temperatures these plastic items can handle before they warp or melt. Use a lower setting when washing plastic wares and put them on the top rack of the dishwasher to avoid warping.

Do I Really Have To Use A Rinsing Aid?

Many homemakers agree that you don’t need to go out and buy fancy and expensive rinse aids. If you have an issue with a cloudy residue on your glasses, putting some vinegar in a bowl will help loosen the cloudy white streaks on your glasses and other dishes. 

You can do this every time you run your dishwasher through a cycle or once a week. Most people use vinegar as a rinse aid instead of the store-bought versions as it’s more affordable, and vinegar leaves your glasses clean and sparking if you have hard water issues.

I dive deeper into the topic in this article: Are Dishwasher Cleaners Necessary? Here’s The Truth!

Conclusion

Having a dishwasher is one of the great perks of living in this century. You still need to use it properly if you want to get the best results. Rinsing is a good idea with hardened stains and burned pots and pans but should never be done on ordinary dishes.

Keeping your dishwasher in top condition is the best way to keep yourself and the rest of your family from hours of unnecessary cleanup duty in the kitchen. So clean the dishwasher at least once a week, and remember to clean the rubbers too.

Next, you can learn about dishwasher safety, or if you’re adventurous I have a guide on cleaning your coffeemaker with vinegar too!

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