Getting the Most Out of Your Dishwasher

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Zach Pagano discovers that routine maintenance and care can help deliver spotless dishes and prolong the life of your dishwasher.

Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews, consulted with highly-rated appliance repair pros who offer these tips:

• Hard water is hard on your dishwasher. More than 85 percent of homes have hard water and hard water is hard on your dishwasher. Regularly clean the inside of your dishwasher so it will clean your dishes and work well for a long time.
• Remove and inspect the spray arms. To locate the spray arms, consult your owner's manual. Make sure that the holes are free of any food particles and buildup from soap. Tip: Carefully use a nail, paperclip or similar "tool" to clean the holes.
• Don’t overload your dishwasher. Arrange items so that nothing is touching and everything has a clear path to the sprayer arm.
• Clean the filter basket. This should be located at the bottom of your dishwasher. You'll be amazed at how much stuff is in there (especially the first time you clean it)! Check your owner's manual for how to open the filter basket.
• Clean the interior of your dishwasher. Pour one cup of distilled white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher and run a complete cycle on the hottest temperature setting. This will get rid of the mineral deposits and scaling that dishwasher detergent can't remove.
• Inspect the rubber gasket that waterproofs the dishwasher. Check your owner's manual to help you locate this part. Make sure the rubber is not cracked or broken. A worn gasket can lead to water leaks!
• Many appliance repair companies we talked to lean more on the side of rinsing first. They say the more food particles and sauces removed from the dishes, the better chance you’ll avoid a future repair. Too much food can clog the pump assembly, drain lines or spray arms - which can cause bacteria to breed. A buildup in the pump assembly can prevent the dishes from getting properly cleaned.
• Powder dishwasher detergent or gel? If you have hard water, consider using powder detergent. The tablets and packets can be too much soap. When using the powder, use as little as possible. If you have a water softener, try the tablets or packets. If you are unsure what is best for your dishwasher, consult with an appliance repair person.