How dirty is dirty?: How to dishwasher in 2017
September 25, 2017 9:43 AM   Subscribe

After years of using old/cheap dishwashers, we finally have a new one. I keep reading that modern dishwashers/dishwasher detergent like to have a bit of "dirt" left on the dishes to work efficiently. I'd like to move away from rinsing all the dishes in the sink before loading the dishwasher, but how dirty can I leave the dishes?

Of course, I can test this by trying out differing levels of "dirt" on the dishes and see how the dishwasher performs, but how dirty are your dishes when you load the dishwasher?

We generally cook and eat dinner later at night and tend to leave the dishes in the sink to deal with the next morning. We do know to scrape the big chunks off the dishes, but I'm struggling with how dried-on the food can be... Example: last night, we had BBQ ribs and potato salad. I purposely did not rinse the dishes before putting them into the new dishwasher, but the load wasn't full, so I didn't run the wash cycle. I had trouble with the thought of the BBQ sauce and potato salad remains drying on the dishes, since the load wasn't full, so I ran a short rinse cycle.

Can I leave the dishes with dried on food in the dishwasher for 2-3 days before running the dishwasher? Or do I just run a rinse cycle each time I add things to the dishwasher, if I'm not running the wash cycle?
posted by sarajane to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We had a brand new Frigidaire (nice, but pretty basic and not like a top brand) dishwasher in our last apartment, and yes, it could handle dried on food that sat for a few days. So I'd recommend giving it a try. Running the rinse cycle daily sounds wasteful.
posted by Kriesa at 9:48 AM on September 25, 2017

Best answer: I scrape the plate into the trash/compost, and do nothing else. We run the dishwasher maybe a 1-2 times a week. Every so often a fork comes out that didn't quite get everything, and I usually just re-run it.

There has been some stuff that we've learned needs to be rinsed (one example is pulpy orange juice - that pulp apparently super dries on the glasses), but honestly, it's mostly no big deal - food like bbq sauce and potato salad wouldn't occur to me as a problem.
posted by brainmouse at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: We have a new Bosch dishwasher and very seldom rinse anything (I might soak a pan or casserole dish first if it has a lot of burnt-on stuff but otherwise no rinsing). Most averagely-soiled stuff (plates from dinner, a pan we used to fry something that didn't make a huge mess) comes out clean even on the quick cycle. More heavily soiled stuff we tend to run on the cycle that's meant for dirtier items.

If something didn't come out clean (rare) and it wasn't an essential thing I needed to cook with again right away I would leave it in during the next cycle.
posted by terretu at 9:52 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sometimes I rinse, sometimes I don't, I don't really pay attention and my dishes are not ever crusty or weird (aside from the occasional fork, like brainmouse mentioned - is this the "missing sock" of dishwashers?) I live alone, wash dishes 1-2 times a week, and everything is always fine. I tend to rinse off super chunky or prone to crust things, but am pretty easygoing about the whole process and it does not seem to matter. I have a pretty run of the mill standard apartment dishwasher, nothing special.
posted by sockermom at 9:53 AM on September 25, 2017

Best answer: I live alone and run the dishwasher a couple of times a week. I live in a buggy building so I don't leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher for days at a time as it would undermine my fanatical roach defense perimeter. If it's just like, one plate that's dirty I'll wash it by hand, but I regularly leave serving pans and used Tupperware and big stuff like that in the fridge until it's time to run a dishwasher load. It's almost always totally fine even after sitting and drying out for a day or two in there - and I assume the fridge environment is going to be even more drying than the one you're talking about.

I have a bog-standard Frigidaire, a couple of years old.
posted by superfluousm at 10:01 AM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a medium-age dishwasher (modern design but it wasn't new when I moved into my apartment a few years ago). I often only eat breakfast and snacks at home, so I run my dishwasher like 1-2x a week, with crusted oatmeal and chocolate sauce on my dishes for days. I've never had anything come out less than sparkling clean.

(Note: I wash all of my pots and pans by hand, because I use nonstick, so I can't advise to that. But it looks like from other answers that crusted pots also do fine.)
posted by serelliya at 10:01 AM on September 25, 2017

i always rinse because i only run the dw once a week and i really cannot cope with the thought of a hot damp box full of rotting food in my home. i did initially have some trouble with the detergent pods not getting fully used up/not rinsing properly but then i changed the dw settings to "auto-detect" instead of "normal (sized load, presumably? who knows)" and it's been fine ever since.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:04 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Newer bosch model here.

Pretty goddamn dirty. All but the biggest chunks of food. Broiled on grease and bits can sometimes stick around through a wash, but this rarely happens.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:13 AM on September 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Consumer Reports says don't bother pre-rinsing with a modern dishwasher.
posted by k5.user at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2017

All I do is give the plates a quick scrape into the bin so the big chunks don't get stuck in the filter. We're a family of 2 so only run the dishwasher maybe once every 3 days. They clean fine. The main problem is making sure there is enough room so that the water circulates. If plates are too close or touching because they're different shapes say that's when you hit problems.
posted by wwax at 10:17 AM on September 25, 2017

We scrape and don't generally rinse with a few exceptions. In my dishwasher avocado does NOT come off once it is dried, so I always rinse or wipe avocado off of plates or utensils. Tiny bits of delicate herbs (I guess we eat a lot of herby salads) can get kind of dried and glued down if left for too long, so I'll also wipe or rinse things like dill and cilantro. Oh and orange juice bits as mentioned above. Otherwise everything else is pretty much fine.
posted by Swisstine at 10:19 AM on September 25, 2017

Powdered detergent actually works better than pods, and is quite a lot cheaper, so you can try that if you want to further boost efficiency.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:20 AM on September 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh my, this is something I know too much about.

We run 2-4 loads of dishes PER DAY.

Here's what I have learned and has been recommended to me, from the sales people and from reading the appliance manuals:

- If you pre-wash your dishes (then why do you even use a dishwasher?) your appliance will provide to you the cleanest dishes and it will last the longest
- If you rinse your dishes, this is also recommended and good
- If you scrape your dishes, this is recommended and good but your appliance will not last as long or perform as well as if you wash your dishes beforehand
- If you barely get the extra food into containers and into the fridge before you load the dishes, your appliance will perform most poorly and will wear out soonest

Since I am usually doing 3 loads each weekday (several adults and kids cooking each meal for themselves), and 4 on each weekend day (because we host more kids and adults for evening meals), I barely get them scraped off and they usually sit in the sink soaking haphazardly, or sit out on the counter crumbs and all, and sometimes wait overnight before they are washed.

What I have learned is that most new dishwashers use a horrible, horrible contraption. It is a FILTER THAT MUST BE MANUALLY CLEANED REGULARLY.

I had a Miele dishwasher with this contraption, and I had no idea that dishwashers now used this technology and I was disgusted, appalled, and disturbed that technology no longer allowed food to be mechanically taken out of the dishwasher and I would need to do it manually. The dishwasher did not even have a food grinder, like they all used to, for the stray chunks to be removed or made smaller. So every other week or so I was emptying this 2-cup or so capacity wire mesh filter that was OMG SO DISGUSTING AHHHHHHHH
And all of those chunks were continually floating around in the dishwasher while it ran.

That Miele performed very, very poorly for me and I soon replaced it with a model with a filter-free food grinder. Keep in mind I had to search and search for this model, it was the ONLY one that the huge appliance warehouse carried that did not require manual cleaning of the filter.

So here's the bottom line of your question:

You can leave your dishes as dirty as you want. However, all of the food that you put in there will need to be removed manually by yourself off a stinky, slimy, wire mesh filter in a irritating process in which you need to dig into the lower pan of the dishwasher and fish it out. Even if your model has a food grinder, you still need to clean this filter. (Unless you have the exact model I have, then you are in the clear.)

Until you clean that filter, all of that ahhhh so gross weeks-old food will still be circulating with your dishes.

So, clean your dishes as much or as little as you want, and they will still come out looking clean. However, the inside of your dishwasher will not be clean, and at some point, it will stop working well if that filter gets blocked by too much old gross food. And your filter might just break like my Miele one did.

If you have the manual, look at how often it is recommended you clean the filter based on how frequently you use the appliance. You may also want to invest in some dishwasher cleaning packs if you don't pre-wash your dishes, as that filter just seems to never get fully clean after a while, but those strong dishwasher cleaning packs seem to help. Oh, and ALWAYS use rinse aid. That is 90% of the path to clean dishes.

Good luck with a gross problem.
posted by littlewater at 10:36 AM on September 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

Anecdotally, I will make sure there aren't huge food chunks on dishes and bowls before loading the dishwasher. But other than that sauces, particles, remains of beverages go along for the ride. I have a kid so we use a lot of dishes regularly, and just do a timed auto cycle on my dishwasher every night. Only occasionally do I run into a problem.

The Sweethome's review of dishwashers includes a helpful section that explains why leaving some food on is beneficial.
posted by hijinx at 10:41 AM on September 25, 2017

I try to make sure the peanut butter knife soaks in a glass of water if it's not getting washed right away, but other than that we are putting pretty dirty dishes in.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:32 AM on September 25, 2017

I've noticed that some dishwashing soap does more poorly than others. I've also noticed that eggs in particular need to be cleaned off (especially on the spatula). Otherwise, I scrape and don't rinse.
posted by vunder at 11:41 AM on September 25, 2017

Best answer: I agree that scraping things off is enough, because otherwise you do have to get them out of the filter. But if you run the dishwasher rarely enough that the dishes have time to dry, it's worth it to soak stuff like bowls used for oatmeal or sticky sauces.

With one exception: any and all watermelon seeds need to be religiously picked out and dumped. Those little buggers can get in the spray arms and plug their holes from the inside, leaving you swearing and poking at a dishwasher that suddenly doesn't wash half of any of the load, until you call in a repairman who laughs at you over the phone and tells you to remove the spray arms and pour water into them from the outside. Took hours to get every little seed out...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:19 PM on September 25, 2017

I have a 20-something yo Miele. Sometimes I am alone and I run it twice a week, sometimes my family are visiting and it runs 3-4 times a day. I scrape, nothing else, regardless, except when a lot of parsley is involved, I rinse that off because they said I should when I bought it. All is fine. I had service once, after renovating my kitchen because some little part had been shaken loose by all the moving around and stuff. It took 10 minutes for the guy to find and fix the problem.
posted by mumimor at 12:21 PM on September 25, 2017

Response by poster: Wow! Thank you to everyone who's chimed in. I've been rinsing for years, needlessly. Thank you, littlewater for that dire warning.
posted by sarajane at 1:59 PM on September 25, 2017

Seconding what littlewater said. The dishwasher will either have a built-in grinder (like a garbage disposal) or a filter that must be cleaned. See if you can determine which you have from the manual.

If it's the filter kind, beware coffee grounds.
posted by ethical_caligula at 2:15 PM on September 25, 2017

I have basic modern dishwasher.

Rinse aid is not a gimmick it seems to help with cleaning.

I have soft water and use very little powdered detergent never more than half full. I have read the amount of detergent is all about the hardness/softness of your water and not about the soil on the dishes.

I wonder if softness of water is the secret to success or failure in automatic dishwashing but have lived all my life in areas with soft municipal water so I can't tell.

The surface of the dish has a big effect on my scraping/rinsing routine. Smooth glazed ceramic or glass gets minimal scraping. Metal and plastic gets a rinse and thorough brush especially for dried on, oily, or sticky foods.

+1 to clean the food filter regularly. I hate cleaning the filter but I imagine the multiple detergent baths have rendered all food residue down to a harmless sterile goo.
posted by sol at 9:28 AM on September 26, 2017

Oh yuck, I just looked at my filter.
posted by Duffington at 9:32 AM on September 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Two HDs in one laptop?   |   Is there a material that oxidizes in air but not... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.