How to look after your dishwasher
On average, a dishwasher should last 10 years. But if you want to ensure a decade of trouble-free use, you’ll have to wait it out. Here are our top tips for caring for your dishwasher.
1. Read the manual
The best way to extend the life of your dishwasher is to base all your actions on the information in the manual. While navigating manuals is sometimes a nightmare and the advice of manuals that aren’t perfectly translated is often cryptic, it’s worth trying to read through. You will be amazed by the features and functions of your dishwasher.
When you get a new device, it’s tempting to treat it the same way you treated your last device. But technologies change and what got you the best performance from your old dishwasher may not work for your new one.
Even if you’ve had your dishwasher for a while, we recommend dusting off and flipping through the manual. If it made its way to the Narnia of the individual socks and household scissors, go online and search for your machine’s make and model number and you should find the product instructions.
2. Run the cleaning cycle
You may find that your machine has a self-cleaning cycle. If so, run it! Those who used to have older dishwashers without this feature often shy away from using them, believing that they are just wasting electricity. But programs like this are built in by engineers for a reason, and they extend the life of your dishwasher.
3. Use your dishwasher
Your dishwasher is made to be used. Running it regularly will help you keep it clean.
And while it sounds unlikely, it’s best for everyone to do so. Modern dishwashers actually save water. They are much more efficient than washing by hand: between three and five times more efficient. You also use less detergent. And although they obviously use electricity, they also heat the water for washing hands.
Dishwashers are also more hygienic. Although few get hot enough to fully sanitize dishes, the fact that they’re much more efficient at removing food debris means there are fewer places for bacteria to live.
Finally, using your dishwasher means no more puddles of food-stained water around your sink and less reliance on your tea towel, which is nothing more than a damp, smelly vacation home for bacteria.
4. Add dishwasher salt
Dishwasher salt softens hard water and ensures that your dishes are washed perfectly and the inside of the dishwasher stays clean. It also protects your dishwasher from limescale deposits, which contributes to efficient operation. Only use dishwasher salt for this. You cannot substitute any other salt as it could damage your dishwasher.
Once a month, or when you see the salt light come on, you should top up your dishwashing salt.
Multi-tab detergents usually contain dishwasher salt, and their packaging will encourage you not to worry about adding salt separately, but the best advice is to use it no matter what type of detergent you buy. This will improve the life of your dishwasher, especially if you are in a hard water area.
If you want to know how to add dishwasher salt, read our guide.
5. Clean your dishwasher
Keeping your dishwasher clean will ensure that it runs efficiently and does not accumulate products that impair its operation.
For a step-by-step guide and some tips on which detergents to use and avoid, take a look at our dishwasher cleaning guide.
Frequently asked questions about dishwashers
Should You Use Rinse Aid?
Rinse aid is a surfactant: it reduces the surface tension of the water, preventing water from forming in drops but allowing it to run off in streams, preventing stains on glasses and cutlery.
These water stains are more likely in hard water areas. Water droplets evaporate and leave behind lime and magnesium deposits.
Rinse aid isn’t as important to the health of your dishwasher as salt, but if your glasses don’t come out of the dishwasher shiny but streaked or stained, then it’s a good idea to use it.
Some people have concerns about the environmental impact of rinse aid. If you’re concerned about pumping more detergent into the environment, go with an eco-friendly brand like Ecover.
Rinse aid is usually placed in a small container in the dishwasher door – right next to the tablet compartment. It only holds a small amount of liquid, so be careful not to overfill it. If you spill something in the dishwasher, wipe it up.
Powder, gel or tablets?
Powder is generally the cheapest option. It is also more effective than liquid. An advantage of powder is that it can contain both bleach and enzymes. Liquid detergents cannot do this because bleach in liquid form kills enzymes.
The main downside to powder is that it’s messy and takes a little more effort to measure out the right amount. Using it too much or too little can affect the functioning of your dishwasher.
Powder has fallen out of favor lately, with the note that it never fully dissolves and can therefore build up inside your dishwasher. However, a regular cleaning program will remove all deposits.
Powder has also gained a reputation for being less effective. There’s a good chance this is because it starts working when it comes into contact with water. If it’s kept in a box under the sink, it’s likely to get damp. This means it will begin to react when stored, making it far less effective when it goes into the dishwasher. If you buy powder, store it in a sealed tub and keep it dry.
Flushing gel is generally considered the least effective option. It’s more expensive than powder, less easy to use than tablets, and less efficient than both. It’s your last resort.
Most of the new cleaning advances have gone into tablets and they regularly top product test charts. Although they’re the most expensive option, they’re easy to use and contain just the right amount of each ingredient. Our advice would be to find a well rated tablet (ideally ones that aren’t individually boxed to minimize their environmental impact) and go for it.
And that’s it. If you love your dishwasher, it will – well, not love you back, just wash your dishes so you can curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea. It’s the perfect relationship.
If your dishwasher is nearing the end of its life and you’re considering replacing it, we’ve reviewed both a full-size integrated dishwasher, the Hisense HV651D60DEand a slim model that Neff N50 Slimline S875HKX20G – which has intelligent functions.
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