Thursday, January 10, 2013

Surprising Dishwasher Tips That Will Save Time and Money

I dreaded cleaning the filter, or rather, taking the dishwasher apart to get to the filter. Yuck! I have been putting this off for awhile, but when I had to rewash more dishes than I put away, I knew it was time to get it done. Hubby always did this with the last dishwasher, and I've tried to scrape the dishes really well before putting them in this one, but the little crud that was left did what crud does best, it accumulated. Then it redistributed every time I turned on the dishwasher.

I would have consulted my manual before starting, but I have no idea what box it is packed in. So I did the next best thing, I consulted the internet. While I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, I did find a lot of interesting information about cleaning dishwashers. I thought I'd share that with you before you get bored and quit reading, although I'm sure cleaning my filter will be stimulating reading.

How to Make Your Dishwasher Work Best, Saving YOU Time and Money

1. Don't use gel dishwasher detergent.

I know! Why wasn't I ever told about this? I always used gel before this dishwasher. More about why I don't with this one later.

Most gels don't rinse off completely, coating both the inside of the dishwasher and dishes. Most gels contain bleach which can ruin rubber seals, and being a gel, they can stop up your plumbing. They also don't work as well in hot water.

2. Make sure your hot water heater is set to at least 130F or use the heat setting on your dishwasher.

If the water isn't hot enough, it can result in a greasy film and/or soap residue on dishes and dishwasher. If your water heater is a distance from your dishwasher, turn on the sink faucet until the water is hot so the dishwasher will start with hot water instead of cold.

3. Make sure the water level is over the heating element.

Makes sense, doesn't it? If the water doesn't cover the element, the element isn't heating water, just wasting electricity. The pump also needs it to be at that level to work right. A double waste of money if the level isn't right.

To check, let the dishwasher fill and then open the door just wide enough to check.

4. Use more detergent with hard water, less with soft water.
Most dishwashers have two dispensers. I always wondered why. If you have hard water (I do) and your dishes aren't clean, add some extra powder to the second dispenser. If you have soft water and you have a white film on your clear dishes, try using less powder. I use tablets, so I'm not sure how to adjust that.

You can do an easy test if your clear dishes are cloudy. Soak one in vinegar for five minutes. If it comes out clear, the cause is hard water. If it is still cloudy, the cause is etching, and I'm sorry to say that is permanent. But you can use a rinse aid to keep it from happening to your other dishes.

5. Don't prewash dishes.

That's right, don't presoak in the sink or dishwasher, and don't wipe your dishes completely clean. It's just a waste of time and water. Rake all the loose stuff into the trash, or disposer if you have one, and peel off stuff that will clog your filter. That's stuff like the layer of scrambled eggs that is left behind in the frying pan, the burned bits of food after frying. What? You don't burn things? Um hm.

Detergent needs a little food left on dishes to work on, otherwise they just work on the dishes and cause etching.

6. Don't use a rinse aid if you have soft water.

Use a solid rinse aid if you have hard water. The solid works throughout the cycle and the liquid type only dispenses a little at the end of the cycle. That is for most dishwashers at least, and that is the reason I use Finish tablets instead of gels or powders. I think the liquid rinse aid dispenser on mine was broken when I got it. But by the time I figured out that it was using a full bottle in a week's time, it was installed and Hubby wouldn't take it out. I tried the solid rinse aid but found that the Finish tablet with built in rinse aid was easier to deal with.

7. Run a cup of vinegar through a normal cycle on the hot water setting.

Either pour a cup of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher, or place it in a glass container in the top rack. Run without any dishes. It rinses the grease deposits off the sides of the dishwasher, especially those with plastic tubs; it keeps the drain clean; dissolves hard water build-up; and it eliminates musty smells. Some people do this monthly, and others quarterly. Or like me, whenever I remember. I think I've done it twice in the last three years.

Some people swear by running a few teaspoons of citric acid through a cycle, the kind used in canning tomatoes. Like a rinse aid, it loosens and suspends debris and keeps it from sticking to the dishes, or the side of the dishwasher. Since phosphates have been phased out of home use detergents, some people use citric acid every time along with their detergent, .

There is an excellent article by Jill Cataldo on her website. She noticed a difference in her dishes after phosphates were removed, and researched phosphate additives and then did a comparison of commercial dishwashing detergents to see what worked best. You might be interested in her results. I was.

8. Don't stock up on powdered dishwasher detergent.

That's right, it could be a waste of money. They have expiration dates for a couple of reasons. Enzymes and other ingredients break down over time, so detergents are less effective as they age.

Once opened, a box of powdered detergent begins to absorb moisture, especially if it is kept near the dishwasher or washing machine. And don't most of us keep it nearby for convenience? After a few weeks, moisture will cause it to become clumpy, and you will find a sodden lump in the dispenser when the cycle is done.

Since I use the tabs which are individually wrapped, I think they might last longer after the main package has been opened. You can extend the life of an opened package of powdered detergent by placing it in a plastic container with a tight seal.

9. Run the dishwasher regularly.

This was a tip given to us years ago by a repairman and it is still true today. I thought I was being so frugal by only running my dishwasher once a week but the repairman told us that rubber seals will dry out and crack if it isn't run more often. He recommended daily or at least every other day.

10. Clean the traps, filter, and seals.

Some people need to do this every quarter, others once a year, and others can get by with every two or three years. It all depends on your water hardness, how much you scrape, and even what detergent you use.

If you don't do this cleaning on a regular basis, your dishwasher will remind you just like mine did me, with little clumps of grit in every cup and glass, and streaks of grit across the plates.

How I Cleaned My Filter, Traps, and Seals

My dishwasher is a Whirlpool Model # GU2475XTVY1. I found a manual online, but it didn't have instructions on cleaning the filter or even how to get to the filter. There were plenty of questions on fix it forums regarding this model, but no information on cleaning the filter.

There were several links to eHow articles on cleaning the filter. I don't know why I even bother to click on eHow links. The instructions there are usually too simplified to do any good or impossible to understand without pictures.

Then I searched youtube. People make videos to repair just about every piece of equipment ever made and post them to youtube. Every piece of equipment that is, except my dishwasher model. But I found two other videos of other Whirlpool models, and one of them had almost everything I needed to know.

I'm posting the link to the video here, both to help others who are searching for the same model but mainly so I can find it the next time I have to do this because I'm sure I will forget.

The only differences in his dishwasher and mine are the clips holding the top rack on (mine are easier), and mine has a big blue thing on the supply tube to the upper arm, which made it much harder to remove the tube. In fact, it was so cemented together with hard water deposits that I needed three hands to do it. And since I don't have three hands, I had to wait until Hubby got home. When putting it back together, I had to take it apart again, and it was much easier after cleaning.

Mine looks like this.
The little plastic nut on the top of my lower arm did not twist easily, probably because it's never been taken out before and it was also cemented together with hard water deposits. I had to use a pair of pliers to turn it. After that, I did everything like the video. I did place a towel over the bottom of the dishwasher when I removed all the screws. Even with a magnetic screwdriver, I didn't want to risk dropping a screw down the drain.

The other thing I did differently was to remove the screen from the filter unit. There was junk trapped between the two pieces that couldn't be removed without separating them. The screen pried off easily and then snapped back once cleaned.
There was really very little gunk in the traps or filter in my dishwasher. Much less than the one in the video which was kind of surprising considering I've never cleaned it. However, there was a lot in the crevices along the seals, especially at the door bottom. I scrubbed all the seals, and after putting everything back together, I ran a normal cycle with plenty of cups and glasses. That was my acid test. All clean! Yay!

p.s. My next dishwasher is going to have a filter that can be easily checked and cleaned. Photobucket


  1. There is a filter to clean? I had no idea. Thanks for all the tips. I will make sure My Guy sees this since the dish washer is his job.

  2. I didn't know there was a filter I was supposed to clean. I didn't know that the reason there are two places for the soap had to do with hard/soft water. I just assumed ... I think I'll look into cleaning my filter this weekend or next. and I'll do the vinegar test -- though since using the tablets everything has been much cleaner.

  3. I know! I don't know why I click ehow either. My daughter told me she came across an ehow on "how to smile"!!

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. I'm definitely going to try the vinegar trick - what a good idea. I've also read your lovely recent posts. They really made Tom (my cat) and I smile. Jx

    1. Thank you. My neighbors called our cat Tom before he came to live with us. In fact, they still do. They think he looks like the cat from Tom & Jerry cartoons.

  5. Thanks for the tips - there were several that I didn't know. The only one that bothers me is the one about running the machine daily. The one at the SSB gets run once a month!! But I hate that machine! It did a lousy job even new. But our water is so hard that I think I could practically fill it with detergent and it wouldn't clean so well!

    1. That is a problem, but as long as it's not leaking your seals must be holding up. Maybe try putting some phosphates in it, or citric acid for the hard water? But what do I know. You see how often I take care of my dishwasher.


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