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How to get the most out of your dishwasher

31st January 2013 Print

Although still seen by some as a bit of a luxury, dishwashers have become an increasingly common sight in the kitchens of UK houses. Despite having one of the lowest rates of dishwasher ownership in Europe, 40 per cent of adults in Britain do have one and with everyone keeping an eye on their energy efficiency these days, sales are predicted to rise.

Using a dishwasher can save pounds on energy bills, as they use around 25 per cent less energy and up to 36 litres less water than the equivalent wash when completed manually. However, if you want to ensure you keep your dishwasher running efficiently and get the most benefit from it, there are a few things you should consider when loading your dishes.

Colour coordination

Although your dishwasher and the detergent you choose are designed to rid your crockery of dirt and stains, it is a good idea to give everything a rinse before stacking it in. Tomato sauces in Bolognese and baked beans can give your plates and bowls an unpleasant - and permanent - red stain, so get rid of this before placing in the rack.

If you notice green stains on your items or inside your dishwasher, it’s probably your brand of detergent, so try switching to one free from dyes . Finally, if you notice brown stains either on the dishwasher interior or on washed items, this is usually iron and calcium build-up. To solve the problem, either use a detergent that contains citric acid or simply run a self-cleaning cycle with a cup of lemon juice in the detergent drawer.


For efficiency it is a good idea to load your dishwasher to the max. However, you don’t want your plates to touch, so try not to overfill it. Delicate items such as glasses and fine china will have a safer clean on the top rack, leaving the bottom rack free for more durable items such as pots, pans and plates.

Sterling silver cutlery or flatware should really be washed by hand, but if you do place them in the dishwasher, be sure to avoid putting any stainless steel in the same load, as this risks causing a chemical reaction that can damage your silverware. Stagger cutlery in the designated holder with some facing up and some down, as this will help the water get between items for a better clean.

Energy efficiency

Get to know the cycles on your dishwasher and choose the most appropriate one for the load you are doing. If you can’t find your handbook then many modern dishwashers will have instructions downloadable from the Internet or from their manufacturer. Washing at a cooler temperature can save pounds, and washing for a shorter time can also be beneficial. Of course you want the dishwasher to do a good job, but keeping it running unnecessarily hot or for too long is a false economy.

If your dishwasher offers a heat-drying setting, try doing some loads without this, as this guzzles energy. Often, just opening the door slightly at the end of the cycle will allow the contents to air dry, with just a few needing to be finished off with a tea towel.