8 dishwasher mistakes to avoid: are YOU making these common crockery cock-ups?

From pre-rinsing to loading INCORRECT ITEMS, here are the worst dishwasher habits… And how to avoid them

Dishwasher mistakes to avoid
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Stop getting dishwasher usage wrong! Probably none of you reading this have got dishwasher usage quite as wrong as the woman in the picture above, who appears to have been knocked over while opening the door of hers. That really is a rookie error. However there are plenty of dishwasher mistakes we all make without even realising, and that is where this guide comes in.

Dishwashers are the godsend of many households, saving us time and effort by handling our washing-up chores. Like most kitchen appliances, the best dishwashers need to be used and maintained properly, and given much TLC to get the most out of it in the long-term. 

However, our bad cleaning habits and improper use can often affect the overall performance and how the dishwasher works. From using the wrong detergent, and pre-rinsing dishes, to not filling your dishwasher the right way, we are all guilty of making these surprising errors. Perhaps the most fundamental error is to fill your dishwasher wrongly – just as well we have a guide to how to load your dishwasher correctly, then.

So if you were wondering why your plates or cutlery are not coming out spotless or glasses have unsightly streaks, these could be the reasons why. Here are some of the most common dishwasher mistakes we make, and how to avoid them! 

1. Adding extra detergent

8 dishwasher mistakes to avoid

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While it may seem logical for heavily-soiled dishes, adding more detergent will not get your plates any cleaner. In fact, all it will do is leave a soapy residue on the entire dishwasher load which will then need another wash cycle. Your dishwasher is designed to handle a specific amount of detergent, so any excess won’t dissolve properly in the water and create a sea of suds. The same applies to using the wrong type of detergent, such as washing-up liquid, which you should never use in your dishwasher. 

2. Pre-rinsing dirty dishes 


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Another misconception is that rinsing items in the sink before loading the dishwasher will make them cleaner. However, experts say that this is the opposite. Dishes actually need to be dirty for the detergent to clean more efficiently. This is because the enzymes in our detergent work by attaching to food particles, and without anything to pick up, it won’t give a thorough clean. So the grimier the dishes, the better! In addition, most dishwashers nowadays have sensors to determine how dirty the load is and will adjust the temperature and cycle accordingly.

3. Overfilling the dishwasher

8 dishwasher mistakes to avoid

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Even though we want to save ourselves time and energy, cramming everything into the dishwasher all at once is not effective. If we overcrowd our dishes, they will nestle, preventing the soap and water to reach/cover every surface properly. Space out your dishes and items to ensure a thorough clean.

4. …or not filling the dishwasher

If you only have a handful of items to wash, there is no point putting on a full wash cycle. Not only is this a waste of water and energy consumption, a partial load also makes dishes bang against each other, risking breakage. It’s always more convenient to wait until you have a full load or better still, good old hand-washing in the sink!

5. Filling the dishwasher all wrong

It may seem a straightforward task but filling the dishwasher incorrectly can affect the overall cleaning performance. Make sure you know what items should go on the top rack (glasses, mugs, smaller items) and bottom rack (plates, pots, pans, larger items, silverware basket). Position dinner plates facing the centre, and don’t let items nestle together or else the soapy and water spray jets will not reach stubborn dirt or grease.

6. Forget to clean the filter 

Most of us neglect cleaning the filter but it’s quite a straightforward task. If you don’t clean it at least once a month,  you’ll end up with stuck-on food on your dishes and cloudy glasses. Simply unlock the filter usually found under the bottom spray arm, and give it a quick rinse under hot water. Soak the filter in warm soapy water for a few minutes to loosen food particles and with a small bristle brush, scrub away particles or grease stuck in the mesh screen and plastic frame. Rinse thoroughly and secure back in place. 

If you can’t locate your dishwasher filter, check your user manual to know where everything is. 

7. Putting non-dishwasher safe items in the dishwasher

It seems safe to assume that everything can be washed in the dishwasher but some items should never be put in. Fragile items such as ceramic, china or any gold-trimmed dishware are prone to breakage. Aluminium, copper or non-stick pots should never be put in the dishwasher to prevent rusting or damage. And all wooden utentils, chopping boards and even certain kitchen knives should be hand-washed in the sink. It’s vital to always check whether the item is ‘dishwasher safe’ before putting it in.

8. Blocking the sprayer

The sprayer and water jets are essential parts in order to reach every corner inside the dishwasher. If you have a full load where mixing bowls or larger items are blocking the spray direction, this will greatly affect cleaning performance. Before you start a cycle, ensure that nothing is blocking the sprayer arm. It may be worthwhile hand-washing larger items if this is the case. 

TOP TIP: Always unload the bottom rack first rather than the top rack. This is because the top rack that contains the light items often get flipped over by the powerful water jets. Sometimes they pool water which will annoyingly splash down into the bottom rack once pulled out. So to save you time on hand drying wet dishes, bottom rack first!

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence is a freelance lifestyle journalist and digital editor for national publications. She also has a rather unhealthy obsession for Homes & Interiors, and loves a good bargain.