Why use a dishwasher?
In 1994, just 18% of UK households owned a dishwasher. In 2014, that had risen to 44% (source: www.statista.com), with many people now considering them as a necessity rather than a luxury. Given that the relative cost of dishwashers has fallen, then they are becoming more affordable to the masses. It has been estimated that using a dishwasher can save up to 3 weeks time over a year; they also use less water than washing by hand and rinsing, so can also save energy. But perhaps the biggest benefit is cleaner and more hygienic dishes - because the washing is done at high temperatures, using highly efficient cleaning agents. However, dishwashers do have a number of moving components and appliance repair professionals seem to becoming harder to find, so it's essential to look after your machine.
One of the issues that your dishwasher has to tackle each wash, is water hardness. Mineral deposits can not only leave water spots on glasses, they can reduce the efficiency of the heating element and may ultimately cause breakdown. Your dishwasher has an integrated water softening unit, but it needs to be maintained. Find out how to protect your machine from hard water.
Hard water also causes cloudy glasses and the problem is likely to be compounded from 2017 as new EU regulations limiting the use of phosphates in dishwasher detergents means that powders and tablets will have a tougher job preventing limescale deposits.
How a dishwasher works
Your dishwasher takes in cold water and heats it to a temperature far higher than possible for hand washing - usually above 130ºF. The dishwasher does not use a great deal of water, as it does not actually fill up. The water enters through a resin-based water softener, usually in the base of the machine. The water softener uses granular salt to maintain its efficiency and will require topping up regularly. Pumps force the water at high temperature into rotating arms containing spray jets. It is the force of the water that rotates the arms and enables the water and detergent to reach all parts of the load. After the programmed cycle of washing and rinsing is complete, heating elements dry the dishes, or they are left to drain dry, dependent on the programme you've chosen.
- Scrape food and debris off plates but they don't need to be spotless. The detergents need something to work on
- Place plastic items on the top shelf, where the lower temperatures are less likely to cause warping
- Do not wash wooden items as they will warp and crack
- Try not to mix cutlery of different metals as one can discolour the other
- Place bowls and cups upside down so that water isn't trapped
- Put knives, forks and spoons facing downwards in the cutlery basket as they are closer to the spray jet arms
- Put sharp knives on the dedicated guides on the top shelf or at least put them facing down in the cutlery basket
- Clean the filter at least weekly. Most debris will be trapped by the filter but look out for small solid items that may work their way through and can jam the impeller
- If you have hard water, clean the dishwasher periodically with a dedicated cleaner or mild acid such as white vinegar or citric acid
- Manually clean areas such as the seal and hinges that aren't reached by cleaning products within the main wash chamber.