We had a major appliance repair service come out today to look at our dishwasher. The experience left me feeling embarrassed, humbled, but also empowered and ready to help others not make this costly mistake. Our dishwasher is only 2 years old and we just had some major repair work done in our kitchen due to its sneaky leaking over a long period of time (which caused mold). So when my husband realized it was leaking again, we decided to go with the cheaper option and contact the repair service to come out. Since neither of us know anything about dishwashers (other than me knowing the proper way to load and unload), we thought this was cheaper than purchasing a new dishwasher or paying the insurance deductible for more repair work. To my surprise, the entire service call and charge could have been avoided if we would have just followed these 7 simple rules:
- HARD WATER vs. SOFT WATER It is very important to know what kind of water you have in your home. For the purpose of the dishwasher, you need to know how soft your water is so that you can use the right amount of detergent. I’m embarrassed to admit that we’ve been using 4-6x as much as we really needed to use. Just imagine how much money we could have been saving in dishwasher detergent! When you use too much detergent you risk etching your dishes and glasses. More on the etching later.
- TEMPERATURE Did you know that the temperature of the water entering the dishwasher makes a difference? I learned that the water temperature should be between 120° and 140°F PRIOR to entering the dishwasher. This helps to break up the food particles that are left on the dishes. You can help your dishwasher to do its job by running the hot water at your sink for a short period of time prior to starting the dishwasher cycle.
- LOADING THE DISHWASHER I thought that I did this part perfectly, that was until the repairman corrected me. My husband does not like to run the dishwasher more often than needed so he tends to stack the dishes one ON TOP OF the other. When the repairman began instruction on that error, I quickly redirected him and made sure he knew that was my husband’s doing. I had to fess up when he showed me the correct way to load the silverware. Who knew the little grid on the top of the silverware basket was to hold the silverware in place! This is so the silverware has enough space for the water and suds to move freely between, making sure everything gets squeaky clean.
- SOAP/DETERGENT In addition to finding out how much money we could be saving on the detergent (because we’ve been using too much), I also found out we may not be using the best kind. My husband and I try our best to be smart financially, but we also would like to be good stewards for the environment and our health. Because of this, we made a compromise and I started using a biodegradable, eco-friendly, non-toxic brand. There was no difference between our old brand that we purchased at a large warehouse store and the new healthier option. Or so I thought. Our new healthier detergent is being blamed as the culprit for the greasy deposits inside of the dishwasher. I can deal with this, as I am the one that always cleans it out and wipes it down. If you are not that type of person, I would suggest sticking with your regular powder or gel-pack detergent. Just beware of how much you use! This was actually the reason our dishwasher was leaking (this time)! The amount of detergent we used created too many soap suds, which then caused an overflow of condensation and water. The water had nowhere else to go except for out the front door of the dishwasher and onto our kitchen floor. Also, a note here about the etching. Apparently there is a water/chemical reaction with certain type of glassware. If you use too much detergent this can speed up the process of etching which is a cloudy film on your glassware and is impossible to remove. Another way we could be saving money rather than having to buy new glasses! We may just hand wash the new ones.
- RINSE AID I used to think purchasing a rinsing agent was a waste of money. I have since changed my ways because it seems that all new dishwashers are made specifically to be used with a rinse aid. Maybe the dishwasher companies also own the rinse aid companies? Our dishwasher works best when a rinsing agent is used with it. The rinse aid is designed to prevent streaking and spotting and also to make sure there is no excessive moisture left over inside of the dishwasher. We have also purchased an eco-friendly, biodegradable, healthier option of the rinsing agent and it seems that we actually use less of it compared to the commercial brand.
- CLEANING THE DISHWASHER My husband likes to say, “Happy wife, happy life”. While this may be true for him, as the wife I prefer “Happy dishwasher, happy wife”. So let’s keep those dishwashers clean, inside and out! If you choose to use a healthier version of dishwasher detergent (the kind that may leave behind greasy residue on the walls of the dishwasher), you can do two things. First, use a little elbow grease to clean off the greasy residue. Second, pour in a cup of vegetable oil or olive oil into the bottom of the dishwasher and run a normal cycle with air dry (without dishes and detergent). According to the repairman, “This will give the detergent something to work on.” Regardless of what type of detergent you’re using, it is also important to keep the spray jets clean, remove white spots and film and to keep your dishwasher smelling fresh. You can do this by pouring a cup of white distilled vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher and running the normal cycle with air drying (without dishes and without detergent). In our dishwasher user instructions manual it says to put 2 cups of the white vinegar in a glass or dishwasher safe measuring cup on the bottom rack and to run the dishwasher through complete washing cycle using the air dry or energy-saving drying option. This brings me to the last tip…read your OWNER’S MANUAL!!
- OWNER’S MANUAL After purchasing a new dishwasher, please read the owner’s manual! You may even want to write down a few of the quirks that stand out onto 3 x 5 note cards and tape them to the outside of your dishwasher for at least the first month. This will serve as a great reminder until you get into the hang of it. If you start to have problems with your dishwasher, consults the owner’s manual and call the manufacturer. This can save you time and money (as well as embarrassment) in the long run.
I am excited to see how our dishwasher works after making these changes! What are your tips for avoiding costly major appliance service visits?