Preparation Step: Be An Adult
Alright, guys, here's the rub - you have to want to load the dishwasher, or at least feel obligated to do so. DO NOT leave a dish in the sink unless the dishwasher is currently running, and even then, consider handwashing it. There is not much nastier than a sink full of dishes. You'll have crusty unidentifiable food on plates, mold on tupperware, milk crust in the bottom of glasses (my biggest gross-out item), and, in one case of one of my former roommates, a SILVERFISH in the sink - it was like that scene from The Matrix with Keanu's belly button. YUCK YUCK YUCK! Moving on...
This is bad!Step 1: Pre-Washing
Y'all, I don't care what your fancy new dishwasher can do, or what the Cascade commercials tell you, you need to pre-wash. This doesn't mean the dishes should be spotless before going into the dishwasher. Sometimes I let Henry pre-wash the dishes (he likes the "fravor"), and I know Homegirl lets her demon beagles clean her plates. The point is to get the crud off of them. This is especially important for dishes made with cheese, really anything that contained dairy, or plates that had runny egg on them. Blech! Clean 'em up!
Step 2: The Bottom Rack
This rack is for plates, some bowls, silverware, cutting boards, and dishwasher-safe pots and pans. Some glasses and cups can go down here if they are too tall to fit in the top rack. Silverware, it should be noted, should be put in EATING SURFACE DOWN. It is nasty to put it in fork tines up, etc., because the dishwasher cleans the silverware, then you will put your nasty fingers on the eating surface. NO NO NO! Additionally, for ease of unloading, go ahead and sort the silverware as you put it in.
That pot is older than me, so I dishwash it.
Sorted and not stuffed.
This rack is for your glasses, tupperware, more delicate pots and pans, small bowls, measuring cups, and large cooking utensils. I like to do the cups along the edges, the cooking spoons and spatulas down the middle, then fit everything else around it. Make sure lightweight plastic cups are secure - these have a tendency to flip over during the cycle, then you have a cup full of rinse water. GROSS.
Full, but not packed.
Step 4: Loading Density
Guys, I like to play dishwasher Tetris as much as the next Tech grad, but the dishes will NOT get clean unless there is enough space for the soap and water to move in between and around them. Don't cram 15 forks into one 2x2 cubby hole because you want to get them all in. Ideally, since we are NOT leaving dishes in the sink, you should never face this issue, but still - don't overload it. If you do, instead of a few dishes to handwash and a dishwasher full of clean dishes, you will have a stuffed dishwasher full of still-dirty dishes. NASTY.
Don't sacrifice your whole load of dishes for this - handwash.
Step 5: The Detergent
Y'all, I don't care what detergent you use, but I like the Cascade packets. They tend to work for me. If you like liquid, powder, or whatever, do your thing. Add some rinse aid if you like. Just make sure you use it correctly. The compartments are there for a reason, ya know...
Step 6: The Cycle
Most of the time, your basic dishes will require "normal wash." Heavy wash, short wash, pots and pans, etc., all basically do what they say. The biggest no-no is clicking off the "heated dry." Guys, I think of this as the dry and sanitize step. If you've ever tried to unload a dishwasher immediately after heat dry, you'll know how hot those puppies get. This kills bacteria, kids! Let it dry - forget about the $0.50 you'll save on energy for not using it.
My dishwasher is OLD.
Step 7: Unloading
Alright, now that we've washed our dishes, you HAVE to unload them. Do this ideally within a few hours of the cycle finishing, but don't wait longer than a day, or you'll be piling up in the sink ('cause we all know your nasty behind won't handwash like I told you to do). Make sure anything with grooves or cubbies (tupperware, tops of mugs, etc.) is totally dry before you put it up. Aren't you glad you pre-sorted your silverware? I know I am.
Hopefully this quick little guide will help keep your sink and dishes clean, or at the very least, keep you in harmony with your roommates. In that vein, a few quick items about roommates and dishes:
1. You all live there - respect that.
2. You are all adults - if it needs cleaning, just do it.
3. Don't fight over cleaning unless one person becomes a CLEAR issue, and it still shouldn't be a fight.
4. When you look back on your roommates, most of them will stir up fond memories. Don't forget this when Tom leaves a cup in the sink with milk crust - just wash it and think positively that he'll get yours next time.
That's all I've got for today. Tomorrow, I'll be bringing you a little trick to get the most out of your yummy scented candles!