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How to Get Dishes Cleaner by
Hand and in the Dishwasher

May 1, 2019

No one likes to eat off of “questionably clean” dinnerware or drink out of dingy glassware. For shinier plates and crystal clear glasses, most of us are always looking for ways to get dishes cleaner, whether it’s by hand-washing or in the dishwasher. Use these handy tips to keep your dishwasher turning out sparkling clean dishes and get dishes cleaner the old-fashioned way, too.

Get Dishes Cleaner with Your Dishwasher

Dishwashers are one of the best inventions ever for saving time in the kitchen. Who doesn’t love an appliance that does most of the dirty work and produces clean, shiny dishes and glasses day after day? But after weeks and months of daily rinses and runs, a dishwasher can begin to miss a smudge here or some baked-on food there. Help your dishwasher get dishes cleaner by giving it a cleaning of its own

Here’s how to clean your dishwasher so that it can get back to work turning out sparkling clean dishes:

Drain Filter: A clogged filter is one of the main reasons dishes come out dirty after a wash cycle. That’s because the dirty water from the last cycle didn’t drain completely, so you’re washing the next load with water that still has all grease and grime mixed in. Remove the filter and wash it in the sink with some dish soap and a sponge. Rinse off the soap with hot water and put the filter back in place.

Spray Arms: A clogged spray arm means less cleaning and rinsing power in a dishwasher because it restricts the amount of clean water getting to your dishes. Remove the spray arms and rinse them in the sink using hot water to clear out all sprayer holes. If you still see clogs, use a piece of flexible wire to clean out the debris. Then let the spray arms soak in distilled white vinegar to loosen up any gunk you can’t see. Rinse with hot water until it runs clear out of all the sprayer openings and reinstall the spray arms.  

Door Seals: Over time, gunk can build up in the folds of door seals causing odors and bacteria. Clean the door seals with a clean, damp cloth all the way around and do the same for the soap door inside the dishwasher. Let the dishwasher finish the job on the next load with rinsing and sanitizing.

Dishwasher Interior: Now that you’ve cleaned the major parts responsible for getting dishes cleaner, give the whole inside a good cleaning. Dump a cup of distilled white vinegar in the bottom of the machine, run a regular cycle and let the dishwasher wash itself. Your fresh, clean dishwasher is now ready to get dishes cleaner again.

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Prepping, Loading and Washing: Help Your Dishwasher Get Dishes Cleaner

Preparing Dishes: How you prep your dishes and how you load them can make a big difference in helping your dishwasher get dishes cleaner. Start by scraping off excess food and don’t bother soaking dirty dishes unless you have baked-on food or the dishes are very greasy. Many dishwasher detergents are designed to stick to dirty spots for better cleaning, so you don’t need to be wasting your time. If you rinse dishes before loading, only use water. Regular dish soap may leave a soapy film behind in the dishwasher.

Loading Dishes: When you overload a dishwasher, it can’t wash dishes effectively. Space dishes out to allow water to pass up and down in between items. For example, angle bowls at 45-degrees to create more room. For utensils, load forks and knives business end down for safety but load spoons with their handles down for more space.

Load glassware, cups, bowls, and other deep dishes in the top rack to avoid blocking water from spray arms if loaded on the bottom. Load the bottom rack with flat dishes like plates, storage lids and baking sheets and face the dirty sides toward the middle of the dishwasher.

Washing Dishes: To get dishes cleaner, a dishwasher needs water heated to at least 120 degrees. Check your water heater and make sure it’s set between 120 and 125 degrees for best results. Before you run a cycle, run the hot water tap at the sink until the water gets nice and hot. This warm-up lets your dishwasher run with hot water from the start of the cycle for better cleaning power.

More detergent doesn’t mean more clean. Only use the amount of detergent recommended for your dishwasher. Add a rinse agent to prevent spots if your detergent doesn’t contain it. The heat from the dishwasher will help much of the rinse water evaporate from the dishes, so they will usually air-dry on their own. Avoid drying dishes with a towel to prevent the spread of germs.

How to Get Dishes Cleaner by Hand-Washing

If you don’t have a dishwasher or you just choose to hand-wash dishes, you need to know not only how to get dishes cleaner but how to sanitize them, too. From what dishes you wash first to how you dry your dishes after rinsing, there’s a right way and a wrong way. Here’s the right way to get dishes cleaner and get rid of germs and bacteria when you’re hand-washing.

Start with the right tools. First, get rid of your sponge. A plastic or silicone brush cleans just as well and won’t be full of germs. Next, make sure you are hand-washing dishes with very hot water. Choose the best dish detergent for the job — look for antibacterial and grease-cutting ingredients like lauramine oxide and have some baking soda handy for tougher grease and grime. Set up a sanitizing rinse of 1 gallon of water with one teaspoon of bleach to mimic the dishwasher process for sanitizing. Set up an area for air-drying and draining your clean dishes, too.

For pots and pans with a lot of build-up or grease, let them soak in a plastic tub with hot, soapy water to loosen up grime. Baking soda can also help break up grease, so sprinkle some liberally on especially dirty cookware to create a scrubbing paste. Now, wash dishes in the right order to prevent greasy, filmy residues, saving your soaking cookware for last. Wash dishes in this order to get dishes cleaner and shinier:

  • Crystal and other glassware
  • Clear glass plates
  • Other plates, bowls and dishware
  • Flatware
  • Serving Ware
  • Pots and pans

Rinse each piece with hot water and let them sit in your sanitizing solution for at least one minute. Be sure to rinse all soap and residue off the dishes before sanitizing as soap can dilute the sanitizing power of bleach. Let your dishes air-dry to avoid contamination from drying towels. For silverware, use clean paper towels to dry them to prevent spotting. All dishes and utensils must be completely dry before you put them up.

Getting Kids’ Dishes Cleaner with Hand-Washing

Many parents prefer to hand-wash sippy cups, cups with plastic straws and baby bottles because dishwashers can often miss the gunk in the grooves that secure the lids and other areas.

Those notoriously hard-to-clean straws found with so much kids’ drinkware can be cleaned using a straw brush or pipe cleaner along with hot water and baking soda for stubborn gunk. For sippy cups and baby bottles, scrub the grooves where the tops go and the inside and outside of the bottle or cup with a brush. Repeat for the tops.

Rinse thoroughly with hot water to get off all soapy residue. You’re going to skip the bleach sanitizer for kids’ safety and use boiling water instead. After washing and rinsing everything thoroughly, let those cups, straws and bottles boil away for five minutes and then let them air dry. Your kids will now have the cleanest, most germ-free cups and bottles possible.

Whether you wash your dishes in the sink or the dishwasher, follow these tips to get dishes cleaner and germ-free every time. If you need more help around the kitchen, why not let The Maids® help out with our popular one-time cleaning service. We’ll even load the dishwasher for you!

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