Rinse the plate, pop it in the dishwasher, press start … repeat forever.
But as it turns out, the way we’ve been carrying out said routine is totally wrong. As pointed out in an article in The Wall Street Journal, you aren’t supposed to pre-rinse your dishes before putting them in the machine. Like, at all.
"Believe it or not, it’s actually more beneficial to not rinse your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher,” Morgan Brashear, Cascade scientist with Procter & Gamble, told TODAY Home. She explained that most modern dishwashers have sensors inside of them to figure out how long to run a cycle, and even if you press “normal” on the panel, the length and temperature of the cycle can vary depending on how dirty the sensor detects the dishes to be.
How dishwashers work
"The water in the pre-wash will remove any loose soils the same way they would be removed with water alone by rinsing in the sink — think things like ketchup or loose crumbs,” said Brashear. "The machine will then recognize that there is food present and will run a more thorough cleaning cycle. If you pull a helicopter cleaner and you rinse all of your dishes except for one casserole dish with some baked on cheese or one morning bowl of stuck-on oatmeal, nothing will come off in the pre-wash, telling your dishwasher that there’s no food present, and it will run a shorter cycle, leading to a less thorough clean and potentially some cheese or oatmeal left on the dish.”
Welp, that’s gross.
Some dishwashers get rid of the gunk with an internal garbage disposal or a filter. If your dishwasher is a newer model, it likely has a filter (if it runs quietly, it's a filter system), which needs to be cleaned regularly in order to function properly.
"Believe it or not, it’s actually more beneficial to not rinse your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher."
Morgan Brashear, Cascade scientist with Procter & Gamble
"Remember, though, the dishwasher isn’t a garbage disposal," said cleaning expert Maeve Richmond of the home organization blog, Maeve's Method. "Too much solid food residue during a wash can slow things down. So keep up the habit of scraping off leftover food, but feel free to leave behind plate residue for your dishwasher to tackle."
How to use a dishwasher
Instead of giving your plates a full rinse, your best bet is to scrape any large food particles into the trash can or garbage disposal before loading and letting the dishwasher do the work. Consumer Report confirms that any dishwasher sold in the last five years for more than $500 is up to the task. Brashear also points to using the right detergent, ideally one that's designed to break down food, to help the process run smoothly and cleanly.
And the best part of skipping out on helicopter cleaning? “You can not only save time and money, but you can save up to 20 gallons of water per each load of dishes.”
This story was originally published May 22, 2018.