ONE DAY LEFT: Win a Crock-Pot 6-Qt Express Pressure Cooker! →

The dishwasher just might be the favorite appliance of any given kitchen. It saves you a ton of time and does the dirty work for you. Literally. What’s not to love about that?

But for all the use that this washing workhorse gets, do you really know how to use it correctly? Here are the top 9 must-know dishwasher tips and tricks, so you can be sure you’re getting the most out of your favorite appliance.

Here’s our first tip:

1. Start with a clean dishwasher.

A dirty dishwasher means dirty dishes. Every few days make sure that there aren’t any debris hanging out in the bottom of the dishwasher. You can remove the screen and filter from the bottom and rinse them out; they’re easy to pop back in. It’s a good plan to place a cup of white vinegar in the top rack (facing up) and to run an otherwise empty dishwasher on a regular wash cycle every once in a while. This cleans out any gunk and deposits that might have built up with use.

2. Load it up right.

Loading your dishwasher correctly is the most important part of ensuring you get every dish nice and clean. Every dishwasher has a diagram in the manual that shows how to best load that particular dishwasher (and you should definitely take a look at yours), but there are a few rules that hold true for most dishwashers:

  • Cups go in the top rack and should always be placed between the tines, never on top of them.
  • Plates and bowls should go on the bottom rack, and the dirty side should be facing the water spray. This means that your dishes don’t always all point in the same direction!
  • Pots, pans, and baking dishes should be placed angled down so the water spray and can reach the inside.
  • Make sure larger items like pans and baking sheets are placed on the sides of the dishwasher. This way they don’t block the spray arm OR the detergent coming from the door.
  • Stagger your utensils so some are up, and some are down. This way the utensils don’t get nested together and every square inch gets clean.

    3. Soften up your water.

    Hard water can be, well, really hard on your dishwasher. Not only can it leave hard to clean deposits in the dishwasher, it can also make it nearly impossible to get sparkling clean dishes. It tends to leave a white residue on glasses and silverware. If you clean your dishwasher every once in a while with vinegar, that goes a long way to keeping deposits from forming, and you can also use a special water softening rinse aid like Lemi-Shine or Cascade.

    4. Start at the bottom.

    With dishwashers, you don’t want to start at the top. Always unload your bottom rack first. If you start with the top rack, bowls and cups can spill collected water onto the stuff below. Start with the bottom and keep everything clean!

    5. You don’t need to rinse.

    If you have a newer, modern dishwasher, there’s no reason to rinse those plates. Just scrape off food debris into the disposal or trash. Dishwasher technology is meant to get off tough food residue, after all. (Just don’t let dirty plates hang out in the dishwasher longer than 24 hours before washing.)

    6. Don’t be a hoarder.

    A detergent hoarder, that is. It’s easy to stock up when it’s on sale, but it might not be in your dishes’ best interest. Detergent has to be fresh to do its job! So buy only what you can use in the next two months.

    7. It’s not just for dishes.

    Seriously, dishes are just the beginning of what this thing can clean. You can load it up with bath toys, plastic toys, shoes, vacuum attachments, dog toys, golf balls… the list goes on and on. Get it all clean!

    Only two tips left, and you’ll be a dishwasher expert. The last one ensures that your dishes are always sparkling clean!

    8. Run the sink first.

    Yup. Run hot water in your kitchen sink before you press the start button on your dishwasher. This ensures that when the cycle starts, the water is already hot, so your dishes get cleaner!

    9. White vinegar to the rescue.

    You don’t really need that fancy rinse aid. Use white vinegar instead! Just load it into the ‘rinse aid’ dispenser and your dishes will be sparkling clean and spot free.

    Subscribe to 12 Tomatoes