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How to Run a Dishwasher Properly


Before you even begin using your dishwasher, you should read the owner’s manual to become familiar with all the specialty features that come with newer models that will save water, energy, and money.

How Hot Should Dishwasher Water Be?

Just right. To get the optimal cleaning power from your machine, the water temperature inside the unit should be 140°F.  That doesn’t mean that you need to set the home’s water heater to that temperature.  Most of today’s energy efficient models come equipped with booster heaters that will raise the temperature of the incoming water.  For example, many machines can heat water that is 120°F to 140°F.  Check your owner’s manual to see how many degrees its booster heat raises internal water temperature and set your water heater accordingly.

Too cold.  Running cold water in a dishwasher creates several issues.  First, cold water may not dissolve dish detergent.  Cold water can also leave spots and film on your dishes.  Hot water and detergent are necessary to kill microorganisms that may be lurking in your kitchen.

Too hot.  Many people believe the hotter the better when it comes to washing dishes.  It is true that hot water is necessary to dissolve many detergents and to kill pathogens, but water that is too hot can actually damage dishes.  One instance is etched glassware.  There is a chemical reaction that occurs between the compounds in water, the polyphosphates in detergent, and the metal ions present in glass.  The chemical reaction causes the metal ions to be pulled from glassware causing etching and pitting.  This process is accelerated by extreme heat.  Another instance is protein denaturation.    In this case, extreme hot water can actually bake proteins onto dishes causing permanent filming.  This is often seen in milk glasses.

Hot Water Availability

It is important to check how quickly hot water is available to your dishwasher.  If it takes a few gallons of water to run prior to getting hot water, then your load is essentially running on cold.  Run the sink faucet in the kitchen and measure how much water is expelled prior to getting hot water.  If it’s a gallon or more, you should run your faucet to call hot water prior to running the dishwasher.

Dish Preparation

Pre-rinsing. Dishes do not need to be pre-rinsed prior to loading them in the dishwasher.  Scraping is usually all that is necessary.  Rinsing can waste up to 20 gallons of water.  Most newer dishwashers tested do just fine without rinsing first.

Proper Loading

Dish Placement.  When loading make sure that each dish has access to the washing sprayers and that nothing large is blocking the stream of water from reaching other dishes or the movement of water.

Silverware.  Silverware should be loaded in a staggered manner, one up, one down.  This will prevent spoons and forks from nesting.  Sharp knives should always be loaded face down to avoid injury.


The amount of detergent that you need to use depends on the soil level of the dishes, the type of detergent used, and the hardness of your water. Soft water requires less detergent while hard water requires more.  Using too much detergent with soft water can etch your glasses.

For example, according to Maytag, those with soft water and normal soil conditions can should be safe using 8 teaspoons of detergent, 6 for the main wash, 2 for the prewash.  Those with hard water and normal soil conditions would require 16 teaspoons of detergent, 9 for the main wash, 7 for the prewash.

If you have hard water, the phosphorous level of your dishwasher detergent is also a factor.  You will need more detergent in hard water if the phosphorous level is below 8.7%.

Choosing Dishwasher Settings

It is important to choose the right dishwasher setting for optimal cleaning as well as to save energy and money.  For example, lightly soiled dishes do not need to be run on the sanitized or heavy wash setting.


“Hard Water Conditions.” Maytag Product Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014. <¤tPage=1&categoryId=8&langId=->

“How Much Detergent Should I Use In My Dishwasher?.” Maytag Product Support. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Dishwasher – Poor Wash Performance.” GE Appliances. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Savings Project: Lower Water Heating Temperature.” US Department of Energy, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <>.

“Dishwashers Push the Right Buttons and Save.” Iowa Energy Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2011.

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