7 Secret Dishwasher Maintenance Tips

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You know what they say: Once you've used a dishwasher, you'll never grab that sponge again. Dishwashers are extremely valuable kitchen appliances, saving you time and effort. Sadly, the appliance's average lifespan is only 15 years. But, with some great unknown maintenance tips, you'll be on your way to keeping your dishwasher for life.

  1. Temperature Control: Keep your hot water set to the temperature recommended by your dishwasher's manufacturer. This will help prevent your paint from peeling off the inside of the dishwasher, saving you time and money on future repairs. The recommended temperature can be found in your appliance's user manual. If you cannot find your user manual, then look up your model dishwasher on the Internet. Many manufacturers now post their product manuals online for convenience.
  2. Don't Drink the Kool-Aid: For a quick, simple and cheap solution to your dirty dishwasher problems, buy some Kool-Aid. Don't worry, this won't be for energizing your kids. By pouring a packet of lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid into your dishwasher's detergent cup and running the dishwasher while it's empty, you can wipe out stains, avoid dishwasher lime deposits and prevent iron patches. The citric acid in the lemonade flavor does the trick. Just don't use the red stuff - it will leave a bigger mess than when you started.
  3. Vinegar Victorious: Every month, run your dishwasher with just two cups of vinegar. It will get rid of mineral and soap buildup from all those loads. It also disinfects to prevent mold that is caused by too much moisture buildup.
  4. Filter Me This: Filters are an extremely important part of your dishwasher, so they should be handled with care. They are located in the interior of a dishwasher's floor and are designed to trap or catch food scraps that fall off your dirty dishes. Be sure to check that the filters are clean after every load. This will prevent unnecessary buildup and strain on the appliance. To clean it, use a paper towel or sponge to remove any residue or debris that have accumulated on the outside of it. Some models have detachable filters, which you can remove and wash out using soapy water.
  5. Tines for a New Approach: Whenever you're dealing with metal and water, there's always a risk of rust. The biggest risk lies with your tines - the spokes that hold your plates, bowls and cups in place in the dishwasher. Broken tines can leave rust stains on dishes, and their broken pieces can fall off and risk damage to the dishwasher's pump and filter. If you notice a tine that is damaged, then repair it with a rack repair kit, which you can find in most hardware and appliance stores. The sooner you repair the tine, the better.
  6. Spray Arm Residue: Possibly the most neglected parts of your dishwasher are the spray arms, found on the floor and ceiling of your dishwasher. They are the source of all that water in your machine, spraying and cycling it all to effectively clean your dishes. However, food and detergent can often get inside those spray arms, clogging the holes and building up water and residue. This buildup can block even distribution of the water during your clean cycle, making your dishes less spiffy and your washer more likely to go kaput. To remove any blockage, use tweezers. Be gentle and make sure you don't make the hole in your spray harm any bigger than it currently is. For a deeper cleaning, remove the bottom spray arm and check for items in the water delivery hole. Clean them out carefully and gently replace the spray arm.
  7. Excel in Efficiency: The most common overuses of dishwashers happen in two places: the warm-up cycle and the dry cycle. The warm-up cycle overuses water, and both the warm-up and dry cycles use excess energy. During your warm-up cycle, the dishwasher is continuing to run water until its temperature is warm enough to start a new wash cycle. To shorten this period, give your dishwasher a head start. Before running the appliance, run hot water from the sink faucet closest to your dishwasher for 10 to 15 seconds. This will heat the water in the pipes ahead of time, shortening that warm-up cycle. For the dry cycle, consider eliminating it altogether. Most people don't unload their dishwashers immediately, anyway, so rather than using all that energy to blow hot air on your dishes, skip the dry cycle, open your dishwasher and let the dishes air dry. This is less likely to cause water spots, and you're more likely to get a complete dry.

At the end of the day, it's all about care and consideration for your appliance. So take the time and effort to save yourself that extra time and effort. Your dishwasher is definitely worth it.

Last Updated: July 22, 2011
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com

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